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Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

From Pension Puppets

What the market will pay for the Leafs’ expiring free agents is tough to gauge, but they’re a win for the Leafs regardless.

For many years, we here at PPP called for the Leafs to identify undervalued UFAs and sign them to cheap, short-term deals. We reasoned that if the player rebounded, he would either be re-signed as a useful player or dealt for assets at the trade deadline. If the player failed to produce the results desired, the team wouldn’t have wasted much in the way of money or long-term cap space, and in the meantime, would have sheltered prospects.

Instead, because the Leafs fixated for so many years on more expensive “blue-collar” players such as Mike Komisarek, David Clarkson and Dave Bolland, the team wound up spending extra money on an area of market inefficiency. While the Leafs slowly figured out that they could pay 3rd and 4th line players peanuts every year, other teams noticed as well, and started to pay less and less for their own bottom-six and bottom-pairing talent.

With the market bottoming out for short-term UFA help, there has been some consternation that the Leafs’ “pump’n dump” contracts won’t yield much of anything at the deadline, which is to say that most teams have a bunch of cheap, short-term contracts they can use to plug holes in their lineup already. The fact that a number of well-known NHL veterans have hit the waiver wire recently and gone unclaimed seems to add further credence to the idea that what the Leafs currently have on offer isn’t worth beans on the trade block.

Here’s the thing though: that’s fine. The Leafs’ cheap, short-term UFA deals are already paying dividends.

Even if the team gets nothing for any of the players signed/acquired this summer, they will have already had the benefit of three advantages: 1) the team got to take a chance on their bouncing back at next to no cost, 2) they didn’t plug up their cap situation with bad, long-term deals that will impede the Leafs’ ability to re-sign the likes of Mitch Marner or William Nylander, and 3) they got to keep prospects in their farm system for longer, instead of leaning heavily on young players in a hopeless losing season.

But what about their trade value, though?

Within the context that these pump’n dump deals are already a success, it doesn’t make too much sense to worry about the returns that these players yield for the Leafs – anything, absolutely anything they get in return is gravy. Having said that, it’s all but guaranteed that the Leafs will be able to get a pick or two out of the mix.

Certain contracts, like those of Roman Polak or Tyler Bozak each stand a realistic chance of netting the Leafs a tidy return before the trade deadline, so it’s not as though the Leafs are unable to acquire more assets without their pump’n dump deals, but let’s look at the list of players signed/acquired in this past off-season who are on the trading block:

Player Cap hit
Michael Grabner $3,000,000
Shawn Matthias $2,300,000
Daniel Winnik $2,250,000
Nick Spaling $2,200,000
P.A. Parenteau $1,500,000
Mark Arcobello $1,100,000
Brad Boyes $700,000
Rich Clune $575,000
Matt Hunwick $1,200,000
Martin Marincin $700,000
Frank Corrado $632,500

There are a few players on the above list that don’t strictly meet the pump’n dump criteria, but I thought I would include them for the sake of discussion. Grabner, for instance, cost the Leafs 5 middling prospects to acquire (don’t trade young goaltenders!), Spaling came over in the Kessel deal, Marcin cost Brad Ross and the 107th pick (not to mention the fact that Marincin is still young), and while Corrado was a waiver wire pickup, he is still young enough to have some limited upside. Nevertheless, the Leafs would probably love to flip and and all of them (with the possible exceptions of Marincin and Corrado) for other assets, particularly draft picks.

The most likely to go are Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, and to a lesser extent Matthias, since all of their contracts are quite reasonable given their production. Hunwick also stands a decent chance of being moved, since his usage has quite outstripped his income, even if it has also exceeded his abilities. For any of these players, the Leafs might expect in return draft picks in the later rounds or maybe even just a body back in exchange that has a lower cap hit – the Leafs are going to have to manage their cap carefully so as not to go over and be penalized for next season.

Several of the other players look less likely to be traded, though the reasons vary. Corrado and Marincin, for example, are still young and have looked good in their limited showing with the Leafs so far, and so one would think that the Leafs would hang on to them for next season. Meanwhile, Grabner, Winnik, and Matthias all have box score numbers that make their cap hits more difficult to rationalize, especially given that they’ve played on a weak offensive team all year and have been handed plenty of opportunity to score. Clune and Spaling, on the other hand, cost virtually nothing but also add very little in the way of scoring help that most teams will be looking for at the deadline.

As for concerns about the NHL’s waiver wire setting the tone of the market, it’s true that it does, but not in the way you would think. Yes, there have been veterans let go, and it is true that they have gone unclaimed. But rather than indicate that teams don’t need help, it instead signals that teams are looking for greater cap efficiency from their bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defencemen, and several of the Leafs’ players mentioned above have that in spades.

Brandon Prust and Mason Raymond? They both cost too much for playoff teams to bother claiming them. Same for Sam Gagner. Scott Gomez doesn’t cost much, but then, he’s old as dust anyway. None of Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, or Hunwick are prohibitively expensive or old, and so it is possible that a market exists for their services. These waiver wire snubs don’t mean that playoff teams aren’t looking for rental help, it’s just that the help has to be cheaper.

With the sudden “injuries” to Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak and the trading of Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs have the perfect opportunity to showcase their inexpensive wares, and other teams have undoubtedly taken notice. It’s a matter of time before the Leafs begin converting them into later-round picks that will only help the rebuild.

Source: Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks: Monday game preview

From The Star

UNITED CENTER

Puck drop: 8:30 p.m.

TV: TSN 4

Radio: TSN 1050

Key matchup: Leo Komarov vs. Patrick Kane.

A game after irritating the Sedin twins into frustration, Komarov and the rest of Toronto’s makeshift first line — which, for the past two games with Nazem Kadri on the shelf, has been centred by Peter Holland and rounded out by Michael Grabner — will take a step up in class and do its best to slow down Kane. The league’s leading scorer, Kane has 33 goals and 78 points, 15 points clear of his nearest challengers heading into Sunday’s action.

Need to know: The Leafs finish a four-game Western Conference road trip that has seen them travel without veteran forwards Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Shawn Matthias . . . Former Leaf Richard Panik joined Jonathan Toews and Andrew Sharp on the Blackhawks’ top line when Chicago lost Marian Hossa to a lower-body injury on Saturday . . . The Hawks have scored just four goals over the last 10 periods . . . The last time the Maple Leafs met the reigning Stanley Cup holders, they had won nine straight games before a 4-1 victory at the Air Canada Centre made it 10. That hot streak ended a few weeks ago after 12 consecutive victories. Since that high point, the Blackhawks are 4-5-1.

Up next: Thursday vs. New York Rangers, 7:30 p.m.

Source: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks: Monday game preview

Retro-loving Komarov looks for offence of first half: Feschuk

From The Star

For aficionados of hockey gear, there’s always something fresh coming through the pipeline. Manufacturers design it. Marketers hype it. Star players endorse it.

It can be magnetic stuff for the type of person who craves the latest and greatest. Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov is not that type of person.

For the past handful of years, for instance, he was famous for wearing an old model of skates. How old?

“Really old,” Komarov said. The skates were made by Graf, trimmed in white leather, released around 2006. Komarov liked them so much that, as the company launched new model after new model, he stockpiled a collection of his preferred ones. How many pairs?

“Many,” Komarov said. “The skate was really good. Nothing wrong with it. But it’s a business. They switch it up every year, trying to sell more. So that’s what happened. I stayed with those. And I kind of loved them.”

This is one of the many reasons hockey people love Komarov. Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs coach, calls Komarov “a zero maintenance” player. While ex-captain Dion Phaneuf burned through new skates at an amazing rate — Phaneuf said a while back that he broke in a new pair “every 10 days to two weeks” — Komarov usually kept his scratched-up, floppy-tongued pairs for most of two months. It only enhanced his reputation as a no-muss grinder that his skates were likely the cheapest in the NHL, clearance-rack specials in a league where footwear worth around $1,000 is now the norm.

But this season Komarov faced at least a couple of gear-related problems. For one, Lou Lamoriello, the incoming GM known for team rules that prioritize uniformity, frowns upon outliers who wear skates with white trim. No big deal. Komarov simply asked the equipment staff to paint the white parts of his skates black. Problem solved, mostly.

“The only thing — you hit the boards and (the black) comes off,” Komarov said one day this season, examining the paint peeling and flaking away to reveal white leather.

Another issue: By last month, Komarov was down to the final pair of size 8 1/2s in his collection of circa-2006 skates. So this month he began breaking in a new pair — late-model Grafs wrapped with all-black leather. As the Maple Leafs wound their way through a four-game Western Conference road trip that concludes Monday in Chicago, Komarov said he was still getting accustomed to the new boots.

“It’s probably never going to be the same,” he said the other day, a little forlornly.

Other things have changed in Komarov’s world of late. The quadrilingual Finn opened the season on an offensive tear. Through his opening 32 games he scored 15 goals, an unsustainable pace that saw him nearly double the eight goals he scored in 62 games the season before, a total that was then his career high for an NHL season. But in Komarov’s 22 most recent games — a stretch that has included his first trip to the all-star game — he has managed just three goals, the third coming on an empty net in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

“I need to do something out there. I’m not doing anything,” Komarov said last week. “I don’t know what happened. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Sometimes it’s bouncing in, sometimes it’s not.”

Saturday’s game, which saw the Leafs snap a three-game losing streak, saw Komarov doing plenty beyond producing points, most notably playing key minutes on a penalty kill that held the Canucks to two shots on goal in six minutes with the manpower edge. Komarov, playing on the first line alongside Peter Holland and Michael Grabner, also antagonized the normally stoic Henrik Sedin into targeting him with a gloves-on punch that drew a roughing penalty. And along with tapping in that empty-netter, Komarov also zinged a wrist shot that beat Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, only to hit the post.

“No luck, you know?” Komarov said after the game. “But it’s okay. Just need to keep working.”

Komarov’s relentlessness certainly sets an important standard for the procession of fresh-from-the-AHL prospects that have begun to populate the Toronto lineup. And it could also make him an attractive acquisition for a playoff-bound team between now and the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

“Anything can happen,” Komarov said.

If a player’s presence in any situation is ultimately fleeting, perhaps that’s why Komarov values the relative permanency of another piece of vintage gear in his locker. His jock strap, a Jofa model with a tattered waistband, is decidedly retro.

How old?

“It’s really, really old,” Komarov said.

He’s had it, he figures, since he was 15 or 16. At age 29, this particular plastic cup has been preserving his wellness for nearly half his life.

“Why wouldn’t I keep it?” he said. “It’s not broken yet, so it’s fine.”

Source: Retro-loving Komarov looks for offence of first half: Feschuk

Game Journal: Game 53 – Maple Leafs vs. Oilers

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

5:50 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Gord Dwyer and Brian Pochmara. Ryan Gibbons and Vaughan Rody will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to the game can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

5:45 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Oilers.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner – 24 Holland – 47 Komarov

38 Greening – 33 Arcobello – 15 Parenteau

26 Winnik – 16 Spaling – 32 Leivo

25 Clune – 56 Froese – 28 Boyes

Defence

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner – 46 Polak

52 Marincin – 20 Corrado

Goaltenders

45 Bernier

34 Reimer

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards

4 Hall – 29 Draisaitl – 16 Purcell

67 Pouliot – 97 McDavid – 14 Eberle

26 Pakarinen – 55 Letestu – 10 Yakupov

44 Kassian – 23 Hendricks – 28 Korpikoski

Defence

2 Sekera – 5 Fayne

25 Nurse – 19 Schultz

88 Davidson – 62 Gryba

Goaltenders

33 Talbot

1 Brossoit


5:40 PM: Peter Holland will skate between Michael Grabner and Leo Komarov tonight as Nazem Kadri is unavailable due to injury. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…

Leafs TV
[embedded content]

What are your thoughts on going up against Connor McDavid?

I better be ready to skate tonight, some of the highlights I’ve seen he just flies. He makes some great moves at full speed, some great passes and he sees the ice well. I’ve got to get my feet moving and make sure I’m on the defensive side of him most of the time.

Is there a curiosity in playing him?

It’s going to be fun. Obviously he was hurt for a while there but he’s been on a torrid pace before and after. He’s a great player, he’s come in with a lot of confidence and so it’s a good challenge tonight.

What stands out to you as a big challenge playing centre?

Just play a 200 foot game, continue the momentum I’m building in the offensive zone but be solid defensively. That’s how you earn [Babcock’s] trust and take some important faceoffs for him. Play all 200 feet.

On the shuffling of roles between players:

When you have three or four injuries and people coming in and out of the lineup, obviously it creates different opportunities for guys. Obviously I find myself on the top line tonight but I just have to take it and play with the confidence I’ve developed here and do my best to help this team win.

Do you get more comfortable as a winger or are you anxious to get back to the middle?

I’ve flip-flopped so much this year that I’m comfortable playing both positions at this point. It seems like every couple of games I witch back and forth so I’m just trying to find my centre game as quick as I can tonight.

Are you worried about being on a highlight reel when you play a player like McDavid?

You know he has that skill. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where he can use his speed to burn you. You don’t play the puck, play the man against him. It goes back to the basics you learn in minor hockey. If you start watching the puck on a guy like that he’s going to make you look foolish. I’m just going to go out and play my game and hopefully I don’t end up on the wrong side of one of those.



5:30 PM:
Here’s what Matt Hunwick had to say following Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton…

Leafs TV
[embedded content]

What are the biggest challenges going up against a guy like Connor McDavid?

I haven’t really seen him play too much, obviously I’ve heard a lot of things. I think his speed is one of his biggest assets and obviously he can make plays at top speed. We’ll have to have a good gap tonight and he’s just a dynamic player that we haven’t had the chance to see this year. It’ll obviously be a great challenge for us.

Have you seen any of his highlights?

I don’t watch too much but I’ve seen the one, I think it was against Columbus. That’s the only one I’ve seen. Obviously he’s a special player and an unbelievable play there.

Is there a curiosity as a veteran to play a guy like him?

Yeah, I mean I always like to see the newest guys and he’s a generational type of player is what they’re touting him. I think he has lived up to that billing so far in the short time he has been in the League. It would be better watching him play other teams but tonight we’ll have a firsthand chance to see what he’s all about.



5:20 PM:
Jonathan Bernier is slated to get the start for the Maple Leafs in Edmonton tonight. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…

Leafs TV
[embedded content]

What do you know about McDavid?

Obviously he’s very skilled and I’ve seen some goals that he’s scored, he’s got very high skills and I think he makes everyone around him a lot better. We all know as a team we’ve got to be on top of him all night long. It doesn’t change when you play against a guy like Crosby or Ovechkin or all those top guys in the League. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of them all night.

When you see the highlights are you amazed he’s a teenager?

Yeah, I mean the League has changed. You see a lot more guys now 18, 19 and they come up and they’re more ready than 22, 23 when I started. It’s changed a lot but he’s amazing.

On stopping McDavid’s famous deke:

Well it depends. In a game it all depends on how much time he’s got, if he’s got a guy on his back. When he scored those goals it’s because he was alone with the goalie and I think he had a bit more time to stop and go the other way. I’ve seen that goal and obviously I’ll be expecting it I guess if he comes in on a 1-on-1.

How are you feeling about your game?

I feel good. Like I mentioned, I think since I came back from the [American League] and I’ve just got to — whenever I get the call to go in I’ve just got to make sure I go in and make sure I’m ready and give a good chance to my team to get a good W tonight and move on that long road trip. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready right from the start.

Do you feel you need to step up with a shorthanded lineup tonight?

I just think I’ve got to do my job. Once you start trying to do too much, that’s when you’re getting caught. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing your part and hopefully the guys in front of you are doing their part.



5:10 PM:
Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say following Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton…

Leafs TV
[embedded content]

On the lineup:

[Kadri is out] Everybody else that was in the game last game is going to play. Cowen is not going to play. When they did our scan of him or whatever our medical people do, they felt his hips were really tight. He’s not injured or nothing, he practiced today. We’re going to spend the next 10 days doing what we can to loosen his hips up so we can catch him being good when he starts.

What stands out about McDavid when you watch him on film?

He’s an elite player, he can really skate, great speed through the middle, good hockey sense. It looks like he’s going to develop into a real, real good player at the National Hockey League level. I’ve never seen him live so this will be my first chance. He’s a good kid, I met with him prior to the draft and he looks very exciting.

On injuries scrambling the lines:

I don’t think they’re scrambled, I think they’re beautiful, it’s just how you look at it. A new opportunity, an opportunity to get some momentum together. You do what you do. I never thought Holly would be our first line centre tonight but that’s just the way it goes. It’s an opportunity for everybody and the great thing about life is if you grab hold of something it’s amazing what you can do for yourself. Some guys that might not have thought they were playing yesterday are in. Play hard, play well and let’s find a way to get a win.

What would you like to see from Holland at centre?

I like him on the wing just because I think he’s more comfortable. The bottom line is when you play in the middle you’ve got to be real good down low or else you spend too much time down low in your own zone. If you’re good you spend a lot of time in the offensive zone. That’s going to be the challenge, the faceoff circle and playing well without the puck in your own zone so you can spend some time in offence.

How would you assess the team’s achievement in your system through 50 games?

I think a lot of guys are playing really well, it’s just their level of their capability. I think the big challenge for us as a group, and we knew that going in, is to keep improving our roster so that we can get to a spot that we can have a real good run. That’s our plan.

5:00 PM: The Leafs are continue their road trip on Thursday night when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.

The Leafs are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. Peter Holland, Josh Leivo and Jake Gardiner recorded goals for the Maple Leafs while James Reimer stopped 18 shots in the loss. Jonathan Bernier will get the start in Edmonton. It’s his first start since Jan. 27 in Tampa Bay and first appearance since Feb. 6 in Ottawa.

The Oilers last played on Tuesday night and lost 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Jordan Eberle had the lone Edmonton goal while Cam Talbot stopped 24 shots in the loss. He will return to the crease against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs, projected lineups and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 53 – Maple Leafs vs. Oilers

Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

Dion Phaneuf’s tenure with the Ottawa Senators began in Detroit on Wednesday night. On the second defence pair with youngster Cody Ceci, the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain had a different jersey, with a different number (2) and no letter on his chest.

After 423 games as a Leaf – the Senators’ most bitter rival – it was an odd visual.

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

And the Phaneuf trade is only the beginning. More Leafs are likely to follow him out the door, with the majority of roster spots up for grabs in the 18 days left before the NHL’s trade deadline.

It’s expected Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello will be one of the NHL’s busiest executives the rest of the way. He has nine pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) on the current roster, and it makes no sense to hold onto any of them if prospects and/or draft picks can be had in return.

The Leafs have also discussed moving winger Dan Winnik and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who both have one year on their deals beyond this season, in talks with other teams.

Add in the veterans left from the former management’s core – Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak – and the three hefty contracts the Leafs just added from Ottawa on Tuesday and that is 16 players off the current 27-man roster (including injured reserve) who are undeniably available.

That’s a lot of trade calls.

Realistically, how many will be traded? And what can Toronto expect to get?

The unrestricted free agents

There are two groups of rental players the Leafs have to offer teams. The first – namely P.A. Parenteau and goaltender James Reimer – are players that have had good seasons and will be easy to move for something of value.

Reimer is a special case in that he is the only pending UFA who the team is still trying to re-sign. But he could be a valuable short-term option for a team such as Nashville, which is on the postseason bubble and having issues in goal. At the very least, Parenteau and Reimer should be able to garner second-round picks or solid prospects if they’re moved.

The second group comprises players with more limited value. Defenceman Roman Polak could be an exception given how many teams want big, physical-depth defencemen, but even then it’s hard to imagine he’d fetch much more than a third-round pick.

The Leafs other pending UFAs – Michael Grabner, Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling, Mark Arcobello, Brad Boyes, Rich Clune – have had marginal production this year (or spent time in the minors) so they’ll be a tougher sell.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that the Leafs somehow found takers for players such as Olli Jokinen (sixth-round pick from St. Louis) and Korbinian Holzer (fifth-round pick from Anaheim) at last year’s deadline. Anything is possible. Especially if Toronto takes back bad money in a deal, as they did in accepting Eric Brewer in the Holzer trade.

The trade bait and vets with big contracts

After moving Phaneuf, the Leafs don’t have many “big” contracts left. Lupul is the team’s highest-paid player at $5.25-million a season, followed by James van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Bernier in the $4.2-million range. The only player on the team signed beyond 2017-18 is defenceman Jake Gardiner, who is 25 years old.

It’s difficult to imagine they could find a taker for Lupul, as he has only 14 points in 46 games and is again on injured reserve. Bozak and Bernier, however, should have some value and could possibly be moved for second- or third-round picks simply to shed more salary.

The Leafs moved Winnik to Pittsburgh before last year’s deadline for a second- and fourth-rounder, which isn’t going to happen again given the season he’s had. A mid-round pick would be a reasonable return this time. It’s also possible the Leafs move Ottawa transplants Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Jared Cowen, who all have one year left on their deals. Cowen, in particular, could be intriguing for a contending team, as he can be bought out at a low cost in the summer in a transaction that will grant extra cap space in 2016-17.

Who is safe?

It’s unlikely the Leafs trade van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly or Gardiner, who will form the nucleus of a roster that is going to get even younger with an influx of a half-dozen or so players from the AHL’s Marlies next season.

Everyone else is an option.

That said, someone has to play with the kids next season. The Leafs have to be careful not to go too scorched-earth by putting young players in over their heads – the way Edmonton did – and ending up mired in the NHL’s basement for several more years.

They’ll get a close-up view of that on Thursday against the Oilers, with something of note on the line: The losing team will claim last place in the NHL standings.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

Source: Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?

Michael Grabner pays back billets with ultimate gift

From Pension Puppets

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Michael Grabner got help adjusting to North America when he needed it the most, now he paid back his former billets with a once in a lifetime gift.

Last night the Denver Broncos won Superbowl 50 with a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. In the crowd were two very overjoyed Broncos fans, and they got there with help from Maple Leafs forward Michael Grabner.

The story was told to Fox Sports, and is too awesome to not share:

Michael Grabner moved to Spokane, Wash. from Austria to play with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs when he was 17 years old. His billets that year, and for his time in the Dub were Rachel and Rob McCann. Grabner grew attached to his new North American family, and fit right in, eventually joining the fun of giving Rachel McCann sass over her preference for the Denver Broncos over the local Seattle Seahawks.

This year, with the Broncos in the Super Bowl, Grabner decided to pay back the couple that helped him when he needed it the most as a teenager, with the ultimate gift: tickets to watch the Broncos play in the Super Bowl.

“My husband told me that [Grabner’s wife] Heather and Michael were going to FaceTime me,” Rachel McCann told The Spokesman-Review. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they are pregnant. They are telling me something big.’

“Then they told me they got tickets for the Super Bowl for myself and Rob. (Grabner) was so cute. He was really excited about giving this to me.

“It’s not just the Super Bowl. This is my team. It is really special that he even thought of this. He has been incredibly generous.”

Michael Grabner’s love and generosity allowed Rachel McCann the opportunity to do something very few sports fans get the chance to do: watch her team win a championship in person.

Source: Michael Grabner pays back billets with ultimate gift

Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

From The Star

Ever tight lipped, Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello at least acknowledges now is the time that he, the team’s pro scouting staff and the rest of the front office staff earn their keep.

The trade deadline is three weeks away — 3 p.m. on Feb. 29. By then, this particular group of Maple Leafs could be vastly different than the one that heads west this week for a four-game trip through Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Chicago.

The prices have been set. Calls are being made. The other shoe could drop at any time.

“You never know,” Lamoriello said. “In your mind you have something you’d like to see transpire. Then you just have to see where it goes from there. If there was anything imminent, it would be done. That’s the best way to approach it. It’s no different for anybody. It just depends on the guys somebody is looking for.”

The Leafs certainly hope they have what other teams are looking for. The roster seems designed to be dismantled, with seven pending unrestricted free agents.

Need a goalie? Try James Reimer. How about a hard-nosed, penalty-killing defenceman? Roman Polak. Some offensive help? P.A. Parenteau. Depth forwards? Shawn Matthias, Michael Grabner, Brad Boyes and Nick Spaling.

The Leafs have 48 professionals under contract — two under the limit — and enough salary-cap space to add contracts valued at an average of $10 million annually for the rest of the season. So Lamoriello is in prime position to take on a bad contract if there is something else — a prospect, a draft pick — in it for him.

“The whole key is how do you get better,” Lamoriello said. “How quick do you get better? Things evolve, and that usually makes decisions for you. It depends on what can or cannot happen. Then you have to make a judgment call whether that’s the right decision for what you have to do.”

The Leafs made six trades heading into the trade deadline last season. Only one was close to big: Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli for Olli Jokinen (later traded), a solid prospect in Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick (later traded).

The rest were depth players in trades designed for the Leafs to take on salary while being rewarded with mid-to-low level picks or cap relief

The players traded away: Jokinen, Korbinian Holzer, David Clarkson, Daniel Winnik and Spencer Abbott. Those coming in: T.J. Brennan, Zach Sill, Joakim Lindstrom, Eric Brewer, and Nathan Horton (with salary-cap relief because of his injury). Only Brennan remains, with the Marlies. Not exactly game changers.

But Toronto also acquired Anaheim’s fifth-round pick this summer, St. Louis’s sixth-rounder this summer, and Pittsburgh’s fourth-rounder last summer and second-rounder this summer. Again, not really game-changing. But volume matters. The Leafs could pick 11 times at the June draft.

The players whose names are sure to come up in trade speculation over the next few weeks are braced for it.

“I’ve been down that road before,” Parenteau said. “I know it’s part of the game. It’s tougher now, I have a family. You think about that. My little one is in school. I try to block it, and take it game by game and try to do my best.”

Parenteau signed with the Leafs over the summer in large part because of his relationship with Mike Babcock. He played for the Leafs head coach when they were in the AHL. He likes the direction he sees the Leafs going in and doesn’t want to leave.

“I have a great feeling,” Parenteau said. “I think it’s going to be a great team for a long time with what Mike’s building, and Lou. I think the guys appreciate me so far. It’s been a good fit. I’d like stay here.

“There are a lot of good kids coming up. They’re going to have a good team for a long time.”

Source: Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

Leafs Win In OT

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Tuesday, 02.2.2016 / 11:03 PM ET / News

The Canadian Press



BOSTON 
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored a power-play goal with 1:54 left in overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Tuesday night and end a four-game skid.

Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri erased a two-goal deficit with consecutive goals for Toronto midway through the third period. The Leafs won for the first time since Jan. 19.

Daniel Winnik also scored for Toronto and James Reimer had 39 saves. Reimer didn’t let anything in after Brad Marchand and David Krejci scored 26 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the third period.

Marchand also scored in the first period. David Pastrnak added two assists for the Bruins and Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots.

Toronto was scoreless on two power plays before getting another chance in overtime when Krejci was called for holding 1:48 in. The Leafs capitalized on the 4-on-3 advantage when Parenteau backhanded a rebound after Rask stopped a shot by Kadri.

Kadri tied the game at 3-all 11:31 into the third period, tipping in Matt Hunwick‘s slap shot from the blue line.

Komarov cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 on a goal 9:02 into the third after Rask lost the puck in his pads. There was no whistle before the puck trickled out to Toronto’s Michael Grabner, who sent it off the end boards as the Leafs worked it around to Komarov for a wrist shot from the point that beat Rask.

The Leafs regrouped after Boston broke open a 1-all tie early in the third period.

Marchand one-timed in a pass from Krejci 55 seconds into the third, then Krejci struck 1:21 into the period after Torey Krug’s shot bounced off the end boards to the front of the net.

Notes: Toronto was 0-2-1 against Boston entering the game. … Reimer played in his 200th career game. … Pastrnak spent the All-Star break playing for Providence of the AHL before being recalled to Boston on Monday. … Malcolm Subban was Boston’s backup goalie, with Jonas Gustavsson still on injured reserve after leaving a game the week before with an elevated heart rate.

Source: Leafs Win In OT

Struggling Michael Grabner, Leafs look to get some bite back in their game

From The Star

Most Maple Leafs had a relaxing time during the all-star break.

The welcome four-day break was spent either with family and friends, or off on a quick getaway to some warm weather, with some time in front of the TV watching the NHL all-star game.

Michael Grabner spent his break in a dentist’s chair.

“It’s alright. It’s how you feel when you get a puck to the face,” Grabner said Monday as the Leafs returned to practice before jetting off to Boston in advance of Tuesday’s game against the Bruins.

Grabner was referring to his face-meets-puck moment in last Tuesday’s game in Florida, where the vulcanized rubber came up near the Leafs blue line on a sharp angle and struck the personable Leafs winger directly in the mouth.

Grabner had zero time to react. He was in shock more than anything else at the moment and, after taking some freezing agents from the medical staff, he wanted to get back into the game.

When he got back to Toronto, though, his injury was much more severe than Grabner and the Leafs had hoped. Grabner let the rest of the world in on the damage, tweeting about “six root canals” that had to be performed to help repair the damage.

“Yup, six root canals . . . I broke five teeth and another one was loosened,” he said.

“I had some time there (during the break) so I got them done. When it happened, I wanted to go back into the game and play. I got some treatments, the doctors did a good job of freezing me up.”

Grabner, sporting a full face shield at practice Monday, will be back in the lineup Tuesday, playing on a line with Tyler Bozak and P.A. Parenteau.

Outside a swollen lip, a small but noticeable cut to his upper chin and some bruising around his nose, Grabner says he’s ready to go. He downplayed the incident, saying he had to rebound from the injury quickly so he could spend some of the break with family.

That followed the often-heard hockey player’s refrain — suffer in silence — but the pain was definitely there, and still is.

“It’s up there, definitely,” Grabner said when asked if the puck to the face was the most painful thing he’s experienced as a player.

“One of the more painful things I’ve had. I’m trying to get used to the (face shield) to tell you the truth, it fogs up. I haven’t had one on in a while.”

Playing on that second line with Bozak and Parenteau, Grabner will be called on to lift the Leafs out of a scoring slump that has seen the team win once in the last 10 games and score just 11 goals over that stretch.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock mentioned Monday that, in terms of scoring chances, Grabner and Morgan Rielly were the two highest-rated Leafs in the past two games.

But like many of his teammates, Grabner has cooled off offensively, especially during the team’s losing skid. After five goals and two assists in December — his best stretch as a Leaf so far — he posted just one goal and one assist in 12 games in January.

“Maybe some bad luck as a team, but not individually. You have to work through that (scoring slump),” Grabner said. “We’ve all been struggling a bit but you have to stick to it and a few of them (goals) will come.”

Babcock was equally introspective Monday. In speaking about his team’s lack of scoring, the coach didn’t shy from pointing a finger at his own coaching performance.

“If you want to motivate a team, get 23 motivated guys in the same room,” Babcock said. “We’re in a process where young guys are coming, so they’ll be in here in time, so every day is a tryout for everyone here. And you can evaluate the coach, too, and give him a pretty hard mark. We aren’t playing well.”

“The bottom line is we have to play harder,” Babcock added. “We’re a minus-8 on special teams the last bit, so there’s lots of room to improve.”

Source: Struggling Michael Grabner, Leafs look to get some bite back in their game

Six root canals: Ouch, Michael Grabner, ouch

From Pension Puppets

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Most guys go some place hot and beachy, not Michael Grabner, he goes to the dentist.

After taking a puck in the face in Florida last Friday, and then playing the next night in Tampa, Michael Grabner needed more than just the reported stitches.

Next time, try this for a holiday:

Source: Six root canals: Ouch, Michael Grabner, ouch