Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leafs Trade Analysis: Two Loonies for a Twonie

On Sunday, Leafs GM Brian Burke pulled off two trades:

Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake to Anaheim for J.S. Giguere.

Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White for Dion Phaneuf, Frederik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie.

At this point, I've got way more questions than answers...


Giguere for Blake and Toskala is like a twonie for two loonies.

I’m glad Toskala and Blake are gone, but I’m not expecting anything from Giguere. He’s had below average numbers for two-seasons running and is unlikely to improve next year when there’s a further crackdown on the size of goaltending gear.

With little to no goaltending options on the UFA market this summer, Burke has ostensibly bought one more year of slightly below-average goaltending.

Dion Phaneuf

Dion Phaneuf hasn’t progressed as projected or in keeping with his (massive) paycheque.

His goal scoring production has declined every season he’s been in the NHL and he’s struggled the past two seasons.

Many in the game have noted that his play away from the puck is poor and has been resistant to changing his game.

Among NHL d-men, he’s currently 9th in goals scored, 69th in assists and 42nd in points. To put that in perspective, his 22 points put him in a tie with Francois Beauchemin.

On the D-side of the puck, his GA60 is a respectable 2.4, which puts him in the top third of NHL defencmen (73rd among the 212 D-men that have played a minimum 20+ games this year). On the Leafs that would place him behind both Beauchemin (2.13) and Komisarek (1.88).

And the Leafs get all of this for the incredible cap hit of $6.5M through 2014.


That can’t be right.

Phaneuf is 73rd in GAON/60. 42nd in Points and he has the 8th highest cap hit among d-men in the league?!?


Was Glen Sather a consultant to Sutter on that contract?

Cap Space Moving Forward: 2010-11

At $25M+ the Leafs have a whole lot of dollars tied up on six blue liners next season.

In net, the Leafs have $6M allotted for Giguere while Jonas Gustavsson is an RFA.

Up-front the Leafs have just four guys under contract guys (Kessel, Gustavsson, Sjostrom and Orr) and they’ll cost the club $10.1M in salary with a passel of RFAs and UFAs still to sort out.

Fold in the Darcy Tucker buy-out and the Leafs have $42M+ in committed salaries for 2010-11.

If the cap stays neutral, the Leafs have about $14M to sign 9 forwards and a back-up goalie, which averages out to about $1.4M per signing.

Clearly, something’s got to give here.

The big question, just like every year since the lock-out, is who gets moved from the Leafs blue-line to provide some help up front?

Player Development

Draft and develop has become a bit of a mantra in the NHL. The Leafs don’t really do the former and the latter - development - is where the fall-out from today’s deals could really hit this club.

In an effort to in-fill the forward lines and find some offence, the development curve for all of the Leafs youngsters just got a whole lot steeper.

Hanson, Bozak and Stalberg won’t have the luxury of a year in the “A” with spot duty on the Leafs to develop. They’ll be eating real minutes over the next 30 games.

Given all the holes to fill up front, and the limited resources to do so, there’s also a real chance Nazem Kadri gets a shot a next season right out of the OHL. No AHL development time for the London Knight (and a year of his entry level deal cashed in too).

Of course, the Leafs could run with veteran UFAs on one-year contracts to buy their kids more development time – while that's something I hope the Burke-Nonis brain trust explores, I don't see it happening (I got no proof, just what my guy gut says).

2012: AKA The fine print

Here comes the giant caveat: with the CBA set to expire in 2011, this whole issue of contract hits and cap room could quickly become moot. Phaneuf’s contract, and the Leafs’ salary cap situation, becomes eminently more manageable if there’s any type of luxury tax or an NBA-like luxury tax amnesty provision.

Until then, I'm treating the rest of this season as a 30 game exhibition schedule: the games don't count, it's all about evaluating talent.


  1. Two thoughts:

    1 - Acquiring Giugere allows the Leafs primary goaltending prospect to develop for another year behind a pending, veteran UFA.

    2 - If something's got to give it's got to be either Beauchemin or Kaberle and Finger. I tend to think it'll be Kaberle, and Finger really doesn't have a role on this team at $3.5 million in cap space. But a top four of Komisarek, Phaneuf, Schenn and Beauchemin looks like a Burkian defense to me.

  2. Gooner4ever3:37 am

    The biggest problem we have is that our defence is truly awful. That has been addressed and a change of scenery could lead to Phaneuf turning into the player a lot of people thought he would be.

    The goalie situation looks a lot better this morning as well. Giggy may not have v. Good numbers, but man it feels good that we no longer have to worry about Toskala being in goal or Blake's shit shooting.

  3. Slightly below-average goaltending is better than no goaltending at all.

    MF, you're all about buying low and selling high. The Leafs sold White high, and bought Phaneuf insanely low, regardless of his huge salary. The risk/reward is so heavily skewed in the Leafs' favour on this one, that you have to give it up to Burke.

    Phaneuf's 24 years old and a Calder finalist and Norris finalist. When's the last time you could say that about any Leaf, let alone one who clearly hasn't reached his potential?

  4. (I got no proof, just what my guy says)

    I'm hoping this is not a typo and you actually do have your very own Leafs insider. That would be awesome.

  5. Anonymous5:08 am

    Well eyebleaf, last time you can say something about at least a Calder winner to dot the Leafs line-up was Raycroft. Take that as you may. Not sure if Phaneuf has already reached his potential, actually, since his stats seem to be in decline. May be a good trade, but if Phaneuf plays a little turn-style defence at inopportune times, thereby over-exposing a work in progress goaltender, then the defence has effectively become worse. Calgary at least had Kiprusoff to bail them out, the Leafs really don't have that luxury. If Phaneuf has any glaring defensive flaws they will only be magnified by a spotty goaltender and a team that isn't very good on the forecheck to begin with. Having the worst goals against isn't/wasn't the product of Toskala alone.

    Basically, I have my doubts. For this season, these trades are akin to getting someone to airlift a bellows pump onto the Titanic just after it has hit the iceberg. It's still going to sink, sure, just at a slightly slower rate. The fact that the Leafs will now most likely rely on all three of Bozak, Hanson, and Stalberg for contributions on offence is even more alarming as they most likely aren't conditioned for such a long and compressed schedule.

  6. I think that's a fair assessment of the situation. I came to essentially the same conclusion, though (perhaps predictably) my review is tinged with optimism whereas yours is shaded slightly more cynical.

    I agree we should expect nothing from Giguere (except perhaps a modest upgrade) over Toskala. Whatever, it's clear that deal was made to simply be rid of VeTo and Blake (and the contractual obligations & cap hit that followed the Little Hamster around),

    As for the D, auditions are now open and when the ride stops moving sometime in the next 30 games, give or take a draft day, someone is getting off.

    Excellent point about possibly hurting the development of youngish fowards like Hanson, Bozak and Stalberg. I hadn't thought of that.

  7. Pamplemousse - That's a good point about Giguere allowing Gustavsson one more year of development time.

    Totally agree about the back-end. There's simply way too much money tied up on D.

    Even if they do move Kaberle and Finger, they have to sign 12 players at approx. $1.75M each. Still not an easy thing to do given the holes on this club.

  8. Gooner4ever - I'm not sure how adding Phaneuf solves any defensive woes on this team.

    He has worse defensive stats than Komi and Beauch (and that's playing in front of Kipper. Imagine how bad his numbers would be if he had to play in front of Vesa?)

    I too am glad Vesa is gone, but the Leafs would have been better off waiving him or letting his contract expire.

    Moving Blake and Toskala cost the Leafs $2M in cap room. It's great from a fan's perspective, but I'm not sure it's worth it as a hockey decision.

  9. Eyebleaf - Yes, you are absolutely right that for once the Leafs got the sequence right on the buy-sell high-low.

    I don't think people realize how limiting the incoming cap hits are for the Leafs. 30% of the cap is now Giguere, Phaneuf and Kessel - and all three are big question marks.

    I hope Phaneuf finds his game, I hope Giguere maintains a .900 sv% and I hope Kessel becomes a 40+ goal man. But if JFJ taught me anything, it's that hope is not a strategy.

    Also, I'd take the Norris and Calder nods with a huge grain of salt. McCabe finished fourth in Norris voting, Raycroft won the Calder...

  10. Bkblades - sadly, I have no insiders and I have no guy. It was a typo.

  11. Junior - I'm pessimistic, not cynical.

  12. Gooner4ever12:01 pm

    From a defensive point of view it's an automatic upgrade. Forget about his numbers for a second. He's a legitimate star who has now been removed from his comfort zone and has something to prove. This can olny be a good thing for us.

    Also he's only 24. He can turn into the next Kaberle (minus the cheap contract obviously)

    Additionally, we now do not have the worst goalie in the NHL in the net. I consider than an upgrade too.

    You are right about Blake and Toskala being great from a fan's perspective, however I also think it's great as a hockey decision too.

    Burke sent a big message yesterday. This is his team now. Like in Anaheim he is building from the net out and now has a goalie that he trusts instead of a sieve.

    It also stopped all talk of Wilson being canned and gave the fan's something to be excited about, talk about and get behind.

    again only a good thing. The optimistic half of me is buzzing today.

  13. Not sure if you saw, but William Houston liberally uses your article for his very own post (though, curiously no link back) -

  14. They just made another move and picked up Martin Skoula!

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