Mike Augello: The Benefits Of Moving Early; Kings Balked At “Hockey Deal”

233

Most observers are expecting the Toronto Maple Leafs to be active in the trade market prior to the March 2nd trade deadline, but the injury to team captain Dion Phaneuf and the club’s dramatic downturn over the last month has all but eliminated the Leafs playoff chances and may put the club into a proactive selling mode well in advance of the March 2nd trade deadline.

Pending unrestricted free agent Cody Franson is the most sought after of Toronto’s potential rent-a-players, which likely means that they will hold off moving the right-hand shooting defenseman till just before the deadline in order to get a bidding war going to maximize their return.

UFA’s Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik would be valuable adds to playoff bound clubs for their versatility and experience, but the price for veteran depth forwards may not escalate much between now and March 2nd, which could result in the Leafs moving them sooner rather than later.

Preemptive deals would allow Toronto to set the market on rent-a-player deals rather than having it set for them by other teams, it would give young AHL prospects such as Josh Leivo, Sam Carrick, Brandon Kozun and Carter Ashton a lengthy opportunity in the NHL for evaluation purposes while at the same time, it could potentially improve the chances of a higher draft position in the prospect rich 2015 NHL Draft.

Phaneuf’s upper body injury is serious enough to earn the “week-to-week” designation from Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek, which was used previously to describe Peter Holland’s shoulder injury in Boston on New Year’s Eve. Holland is expected to return to the lineup after nearly a month in New Jersey on Wednesday.

A lengthy recuperation for Phaneuf coupled with the absence of veteran Stephane Robidas has the Leafs blueline short on experience and will shift the burden of ice time more to the top-four group Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Morgan Rielly and Roman Polak and expect a contribution from rookie Petter Granberg and Korbinian Holzer.

*******

More news about the Leafs interest in Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards, who did not get claimed off of waivers with five years remaining on his 12-year, $66 Million contract.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts column on Tuesday, the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs were reportedly the two teams involved in trade talks regarding the two-time Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist.

Friedman believes that the deal between Toronto and Los Angeles involved Dion Phaneuf in exchange for Richards, but that other pieces were involved and things fell apart when Kings GM Dean Lombardi balked at including either Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli in the deal.

This is indicative that the Leafs and Kings were not talking the same language in this deal, since the whole purpose of moving Richards was to create cap room for pending RFA’s Toffoli and Pearson, as well as creating room down the road for star center Anzi Kopitar, while the Leafs want to move a core piece of their roster, but want significant pieces in return.

*******

The Dallas Stars are expected to be among the most fervent seekers of blueline help before the deadline and according to Morning News columnist Mike Heika, current Leafs Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson are near the top of their trade target list.

Dallas is four points out of a Western Conference wild card spot and have been looking to upgrade their defensive corps since dispatching veteran Sergei Gonchar to Montreal. They have added Jason Demers in a trade from San Jose and claimed David Schlemko on waivers from Arizona, but need a minutes-eating defender like Phaneuf or a right-handed shooter like Franson to have a realistic shot at the post-season. *******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******

For Those on Twitter: Follow @mikeinbuffalo

KINDLE USERS: Please sign up for Maple Leafs Buzz, which includes a free-of-charge 14-day trial and is just 99 cents per month afterwards. For more information