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Leafs Look To The Future With Nine Player Trade

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs sent shock waves through the NHL Tuesday when they announced a multi-player deal with the Senators that sent defenceman Dion Phaneuf, blueliner Cody Donaghey, and forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert to Ottawa in exchange for forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Tobias Lindberg, d-man Jared Cowen and a second-round draft pick in 2017. For Toronto, the deal gives the organization more salary cap flexibility with which to manoeuvre in the seasons to come, and for their now-former captain, the move represents a fresh start in a passionate hockey market.

“The length of Dion’s contract, and the amount of cap space that is there, where that would put us at a given time…this gives us the opportunity to do things,” said Lamoriello, referring to the five years and $35 million remaining on Phaneuf’s contract after this season. “But it also gives us the opportunity, when some of our younger players are coming at the end of their entry level contracts who we have expectations for, to sign them. So this was a transaction that certainly wasn’t for today. And Dion is going to leave a hole in our lineup, there’s no question.”

In some respects, it was difficult for the Leafs to part ways with Phaneuf, who was acquired from Calgary Jan. 31, 2010 and quickly became one of the team’s go-to leaders on the ice and in the dressing room. But the opportunity to continue Toronto’s rebuild meant saying goodbye to the 30-year-old, who handled the news with his trademark professionalism.

“I spoke to Dion as soon as the trade call was finished…and explained to him what transpired,” Lamoriello said. “He was as classy as anyone could possibly be. At a time like that, you put yourself in that person’s position and you know that they’re listening and you question what they’re hearing, but he responded in an extremely positive way. He understands what we’re doing here, he’s been a part of that throughout the year, and I just expressed to him how much I appreciate what he’s brought to the things we’ve tried to change and how supportive he’s been. I just can’t say enough about him.”

Phaneuf is the lone member of the current Leafs roster to move to the Sens in this transaction, but in return, the Buds receive two players (Michalek and Cowen) who can step into the lineup when healthy, and a prospect in the 20-year-old Lindberg whom Toronto targeted early in trade talks with Ottawa GM Bryan Murray. Combined with the second-round draft pick, the Leafs’ haul in the trade – and the fact the team isn’t assuming any portion of Phaneuf’s contract – is one that’s impressed fans, media and everyone with the organization.

Lindberg, drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2013, has five goals and 22 points in 34 American Hockey League games with Binghamton this year. And the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder – who will join the AHL’s Marlies and add to a group of prospects that is the envy of many NHL teams – was rated by Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter to be a prospect very much worth acquiring.

“We have an outstanding scouting staff with Mark Hunter and his group, and Mark had him very high on his list,” Lamoriello said. “We felt very comfortable that, when we had to select players (to) put this type of a transaction together, that he was the one individual prospect that we targeted. And he became part of the deal. He’s a size-and-strength forward, and he’ll be given every opportunity.”

In the 31-year-old Michalek and the 25-year-old Cowen, the Leafs now respectively have a top-six forward and a rugged blueliner who both are under contract through next season. And while the work now continues to retool the team under head coach Mike Babcock, Phaneuf’s level-headedness, work ethic and service to the city’s community and charities don’t go unappreciated by those who know him best.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with Dion from Day One,” Lamoriello said. “He’s been a great leader, he’s handled every situation that’s been asked of him, and he’s going to be missed.”

Source: Leafs Look To The Future With Nine Player Trade

Leafs pull off the impossible, send Dion Phaneuf and his contract to Senators

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

When rumours swirled early Tuesday morning that the Toronto Maple Leafs were working to trade captain Dion Phaneuf, executives from other NHL teams were skeptical.

Phaneuf had been offered around the league going back nearly a year. Working against the Maple Leafs were his age (31 in April), his level of play and his contract, which has more than five years remaining at $7-million a season (all figures U.S.).

Dion Phaneuf traded to Sens: A look at his hockey career in numbers (CP Video)

He also has a no-trade clause, which stipulated only 12 teams to which he could be traded.

One of those was the Ottawa Senators.

Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello pulled off what many in hockey believed impossible later Tuesday morning. He traded Phaneuf to Ottawa without having to retain any of his salary, meaning Toronto will be free and clear of the burden of his deal in the near future.

Lamoriello also received something of value for Phaneuf: 20-year-old Swedish prospect Tobias Lindberg, along with a second-round draft pick in 2017.

It was, like all things with the rebuilding Maple Leafs, a deal made with an eye on success two or three years down the line.

“This was a transaction we had no choice with,” Lamoriello said, alluding to Phaneuf’s albatross-like contract, the sixth-highest for a defenceman in the NHL this season. “This was in the best interest of what we’re trying to do here.”

“The problem for us with Dion is Dion is ready now to win, and we’re not ready to win,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock added. “It’s a good decision for our club, following the plan that we’ve had in place since [the season] started.”

The Leafs’ plan is substantially different from the Senators’ plan, which was what facilitated the deal. Ottawa was only four points out of a playoff spot when the trade was made, and had a glaring need for an experienced defenceman.

Toronto, meanwhile, is in the NHL’s basement and has been working the past 12 months to clear out the many terrible contracts signed by the former management regime.

To date, the Leafs have shuffled out three key veterans – David Clarkson, Phil Kessel and Phaneuf – to create eventual salary-cap savings of more than $19-million a season.

The savings are “eventual” because of what Toronto took back from the Senators on Tuesday. In addition to Lindberg and the draft pick, the Leafs received Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen and Colin Greening, three struggling players who collectively earn $8.8-million a season.

Their deals, however, all expire after next season – four years before Phaneuf’s.

What that means is that for 2017-18, when the Maple Leafs ought to be a young team on the upswing, they have only $23-million in salaries committed, giving them significant freedom to add talent via free agency or trades.

Perhaps even enough to sign a player such as Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay captain who is headed for free agency in the summer if he’s unable to sign a new deal with the Lightning.

The Leafs, fittingly, have vacancy both at the No. 1 centre spot and, after Tuesday, the captain’s role.

“This gives us the opportunity to do things,” Lamoriello said, cryptic as ever. “But it also gives us an opportunity when some of our younger players [such as Morgan Rielly and William Nylander] are coming [up for their next contracts] to be able to sign them.”

The trade is a good example of the complex economic and strategic concerns that now go into every transaction in the NHL these days. Teams have realized that salary-cap flexibility is as big a weapon as any when in a negotiation, and with Clarkson, Kessel and Phaneuf on the books, the Leafs would have had almost none for the foreseeable future.

While the league was getting younger and faster, the Leafs were anchored to aging, declining players, which was the biggest challenge facing president Brendan Shanahan when he was hired nearly two years ago to clean up the Leafs’ mess.

Getting out of onerous commitments and focusing on the franchise’s pool of draft picks and prospects were the organization’s top priorities this season, and this deal managed to accomplish both. (Ottawa also acquired depth players Matt Frattin, Cody Donaghey, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert in the trade, but none are expected to contribute at the NHL level.)

In the near term, moving Phaneuf leaves a hole in the Leafs lineup and in the leadership department, and Lamoriello said the team will not name a new captain in the final two months of the season. Phaneuf was popular with teammates, coaches and managers in Toronto – several of them lamented his abrupt exit on Tuesday as he headed for the airport – but his mobility was diminishing and his contract didn’t fit with what is coming next.

The Leafs’ attention will now turn to the trade deadline on Feb. 29, and exchanging more veterans for picks and prospects is part of the rebuild. They still have several bad contracts (such as Joffrey Lupul’s $5.25-million a year through 2017-18) to unload; it will take considerable magic to convince another team to absorb that money.

But this trade was the big one, given the term and the role Phaneuf had. It’s not only turning the page – it’s giving Lamoriello and company a blank one to work with.

“Dion is our leader and a real, real good man,” Babcock said. “Someone has to step up now. Someone has to step up in the room and provide the leadership he provided.”

“It certainly wasn’t easy,” Lamoriello said. “Unfortunately, this is part of business.”

Follow us on Twitter: @eduhatschek, @mirtle

Source: Leafs pull off the impossible, send Dion Phaneuf and his contract to Senators

Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

From Pension Puppets

The Marlies went off to St. John’s to face the strange IceCaps, the team that has a very good record against them: 3-1-2 going into this weekend’s games.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The way Montréal has been bouncing guys up and down to the IceCaps lately, it’s good the team is so conveniently close. They’ve done a lot more than just make the trade which got everyone’s dander up since the last time the Marlies played them.

First they got forward Max Friberg in a deal for their surplus goalie Dustin Tokarski. They sent Jacob de la Rose up to the Habs, and got Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto back. Stefan Fournier was traded to Arizona, and they sent one guy down to their ECHL team and released Eric Neilson from a PTO–Neilson was a big penalty minute, non-scoring guy.

The plus/minus on all of that adds up to -1 goalie, -1 forward, and then you add in John Scott and it’s all back to how it was. Neilson barely played, so Scott is very fit for that role. If he ever reports to the team. He did not for Saturday, so instead the IceCaps welcomed Nikita Sherbak, a top draft pick from 2014 who’s been out with an injury. I know who’d I rather have in my lineup.

Meanwhile, Rich Clune is with the Leafs on their road trip, so the Marlies recalled good Orlando Solar Bear’s forward Eric Faille. He had one game with the Marlies so far this year, where his goal led the comeback against the Utica Comets who were up 3-1. The Marlies took that one to OT and ultimately lost.

The rest of the Marlies changes happened before this set of games, but to refresh memories, Connor Brown is still out with and injury, Scott Harrington has been scratched lately and may be injured, Kasperi Kapanen is back, and checking the status of the Marco Yo-Yo: currently with the Marlies.

Toronto Marlies at St. John’s Ice Caps

Saturday, January 16

This game was about one thing: Goals, goals, goals.

Some were gorgeous.

Some were frustrating, like when IceCap’s Charles Hudon, who has a way with the Marlies, ripped the puck right off of Jeremy Morin’s stick while he was fiddling around trying to decide what to do with it, and roared off and tied the game.

Brandon Leipsic’s second goal of the night chased Eddie Pasquale, a goalie the Marlies have a way with, and Zach Fucale took over. Trouble is, the Marlies have a way with him too.

The wheels came off completely for the IceCaps in the second. They started taking penalties by the tonne, and the ref wasn’t interested in playing any even up games. The ref in question is Terry Koharski who the IceCaps play-by-play man Brian Rogers does not care for at all.

The Marlies are not a team that sits quietly on a lead, however. They ended up with a 5-on-3, and just as the IceCaps killed the first penalty and it switched to a 5-on-4, they had a serious short-handed attempt. Antoine Bibeau was up to it, but he wasn’t a brick wall, since he’d already been done for 2 goals.

Leipsic quieted everyone down with the only goal in the second period, it gave him the hat trick, the team a 5-2 lead, and the crowd, evenly split as always between Marlies and IceCap fans, had nothing left to cheer for on either side.

The IceCaps continued to press hard in the third as they had all game, and the final score was 6-3.

At the end of the third, Hudon took a boarding penalty plus an unsportsmanlike like misconduct, and he was frustrated at the game, the officiating, and likely just being on the team when he’d like a chance at the NHL. I think we can all relate to that. He’s 5’10” and around 200 pounds. And I couldn’t help thinking what would have happened if John Scott were out there. He’s the biggest guy in the AHL right now at 260 pounds, and is never on the ice to handle the puck.

Rogers was also frustrated, and he went off a rant about how the IceCaps couldn’t by a frigging thing out there, and that was virtually a Canadian Heritage Moment and a reason why AHL games are so much fun.

T.J. Brennan’s three assists put him ahead of William Nylander for the team scoring lead and within one point of the league lead. Maybe he’s more than just the best defenceman in the AHL?

See Maple Leafs Hot Stove for a more indepth recap.

Toronto Marlies as St. John’s Ice Caps

Sunday, January 17

The day dawned with the news that the meme had landed.

There were rumours he was on the roster or in the lineup, and it was a big buzz or anticipation, but in the end, the IceCaps iced a hockey team. No John Scott today.

More, importantly, Garret Sparks was back in net! It started out as a tight game, with no goals coming in the first period, and the Marlies just barely outshooting the IceCaps. (In the AHL, that always means shots on goal, as that’s all that’s tracked.)

In the second, the troubling trend from Saturday continued with the IceCaps outshooting the Marlies. They had better control of the puck today and the Marlies didn’t.

But the IceCaps have some real defensive failures from time to time, and early in the second they left Soshnikov totally alone in the slot, and you can’t do that. 1-0 Marlies.

The Marlies took a penalty shortly after and chased their tails for most of the PK and paid for it. Tie game.

Less than a minute later and an easy tic-tac-toe goal for Casey Bailey from Brett Findlay who made the play with Faille in the right spot to be the tac. 2-1 Marlies.

The IceCaps got another power play goal, the Marlies PK unable to do anything to prevent it. Tie game again.

The third period was where the heroes got separated from the goats. Problem is, sometimes they’re the same guy!

Lucas Lessio took a penalty for the IceCaps, which is bad, but then Markus Eisenschmid outplayed T.J. Brennan to get his first pro goal. And it was a shorty.

A bit later it was Morgan Ellis from out in the weeds, and it was 4-2 IceCaps and they seemed like they could roll home on that lead.

But the Marlies don’t quit. An excellent rush by Rinat Valiev who made the play possible, led to Arcobello and Morin combining to get it in the net by rushing in and winning the battle for the slot. 4-3 IceCaps.

The hero turned into the goat when Valiev, just trying to move the puck up in front of Sparks, got done by Lessio who snuck up and shoved it off of Valiev’s stick and right past a startled Sparks. 5-3 IceCaps.

The Marlies pulled the goalie really early, and there were two goals: one from T.J. Brennan from a shot from the blueline, and one a few seconds later where the IceCaps put the game away. 6-4 was the final score, and the Marlies got beat by the team that played better.

Too many penalties, too much defensive slack, too much lack of speed against a tough team that had found their cohesion, and the lazy Sunday game went against them.

T.J. Brennan is now tied with the AHL points leaders with 38 points, pending the results of later games.

The Marlies next game is Wednesday against Syracuse. Will Jonathan Drouin appear?

Nylander won’t, but it’s getting closer:

Source: Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

Is T.J. Brennan the best defenceman in the AHL?

From Pension Puppets

T.J. Brennan seeing some gloveless action with the Leafs in 2015. – Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlies beat the Moose 4-1, and AHL All-Star T.J. Brennan is now tied with William Nylander in points. Just how good is he?

Is T.J. Brennan the best defenceman in the AHL?

To have a defenceman in sniffing distance of the top of the points race in a league is very unusual. As of this morning there’s two guys at 36 points, and then there’s Brennan and Nylander at 34. He could end up leading more than just his own team.

I took a look at the top defencemen in the league in even-strength points per game to weed out power play specialists and to be fair to the guys who haven’t played as many games. I imposed a minimum of 12 games played to keep out the one-game wonders, and I also included goals and primary assists to see how each guy is getting his points.

A couple of things stand out: Brennan has a lot more goals than most guys, and he does have a high shooting percentage, but to get those goals, he has to be doing more than shooting from the point to get things started. Also, the guy in second place has played in the NHL this year and in the past, as have many others on the list.

If you put the forwards back in the mix, Brennan is 54th in the league right now. Which means he’s scoring at a rate better than most of the top six forwards.

So what if he is the best defenceman in the AHL? Without any shots against data, it’s really hard to say. He’s had a few goes at NHL time, none of it significant enough to mean anything, so it’s hard to guess how he’d fare with regular NHL minutes. But with so many bodies ahead of him on the depth chart, perhaps all he’s managed is to vault over Scott Harrington. And bring Andrew Campbell with him.

Much love to the people behind prospect-stats.com

Marlies: 4 Moose: 1

Saturday January 9, 2016

The Marlies, coming off their win the previous night over the Moose started the game as they meant to go on. They outshot the Moose 13-7 in the first, and Ray Emery, getting another start for the Marlies was solid in net.  Antoine Bibeau and a reportedly healthy Garret Sparks have been sent back down from the Leafs, so he might have to wait for another chance.

The teams kept on at that pace in the second period, trading goals and finishing tied. Toronto’s goal was scored by T.J. Brennan with an assist by Jeremy Morin, playing again on the top line, giving him a second point in his second game with the team.

In the third, it was as if the Marlies had solved the puzzle of good rookie Moose goaltender Eric Comrie, and the goals piled up like they often do when the Marlies have their full roster, which they definitely didn’t.

All-Star Josh Leivo got a power play goal as the game-winner from Brennan and Brett Findlay, Morin got his first as a Marlie, also on the power play, from Findlay and Nikita Soshnikov, and Soshnikov capped off a very good night with a goal from James Martin.

Leivo—star of the night to my eye, barely edging out Brennan—led the team with 7 shots on goal, while Casey Bailey, held off the score sheet had 6.

Emery had some work to do in the later stages, made some good saves, and may have had his best outing this year. Shots on goal were 45-22 when it was all done, so it wasn’t exactly hard work.

Brennan’s goal and an assist moved him into a tie for third place in AHL points with William Nylander. They each hove 14 goals and 20 assists, but Brennan managed it in 37 games to Nylander’s 27.

With Nylander expected to be out for some time as he recovers from what is believed to be a concussion, Brennan will have some time to take over the team lead. He’ll have some competition from Mark Arcobello, who was sent back to the farm on Monday.

Source: Is T.J. Brennan the best defenceman in the AHL?