Leafs Officially in Full-Rebuild Mode
Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan has received approval from the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board to initiate a complete and full rebuild.
Reports from Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail -
New Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was hired with a mandate to remake the team. From very early on, he’d realized that if the club aspired to be a Stanley Cup contender, it required a major overhaul.
But he needed the evidence of the season to persuade his employers fully. After the Leafs’ recent slide out of contention, the club’s given him that.
Then he needed the board to endorse his vision of a barren short term in the interests of a competitive future. In that meeting, he got that as well.
It looks as though Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel will be the first to go. In return the Leafs will be looking to acquire strong prospects or draft picks. The Leafs are prepared to rebuild through the draft, and the rebuild is likely to take at least three years. Now the question is what are these players worth, and will any teams be willing to take on their large and lengthy contracts?
Phil Kessel is a dynamic forward that has posted two 80 point seasons. As of late his play has come into serious question. His defensive play has come into questions as well as his work ethic. Kessel has seven years left on his contract. His contract will pay out $28 million of the $54 million in the next 3 years. Next year he will be paid a steep price of $10 million. This is a heavy contract, but Kessel can and has produced in the right situation.
What are some potential destinations for Kessel?
Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes are in full rebuild mode too, and have some quality assets for Kessel. Kessel would be a good piece for them to build around. In return the Leafs could be offered Keith Yandle or Mikkel Boedker. Both would be assets for the Leafs. The problem will be that the Coyotes may not want to part with any draft picks.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have been in search of a front end sniper since Rick Nash left. The one point that may be a positive is that the Blue Jackets have some great young prospects that they just may be willing to part with. Sonny Milano, Ryan Murray, Kerby Rychel, Boone Jenner, and Oliver Bjorkstrand may all be in play.
Nashville Predators: General Manager David Poile has always been a fan of Kessel, and this goes back to his USA Hockey days. Poile has also publically defended the play, and situation that Kessel is currently in. This would also be a better media market for Kessel, much less pressure.
Dion Phaneuf has had his struggles since arriving in Toronto from Calgary. His play and interactions with the media have been heavily criticized. I believe that he has been miss used in Toronto. Based on his play, he cannot be a top defenseman and handle the minutes required to do this. He needs to be a big, strong defenseman that does not get overworked. Yes, I know that he is being paid the same as a top defenseman, but his play has not been up to the standard of a top defenseman. He is currently in year one of a 7 year $49 million dollar contract. This may be a difficult contract to move, because most teams are not willing to pay that level of money for a defenseman that has proven to not be a top end defenseman.
What are some potential destinations for Phaneuf?
Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche are in need of a big strong defenseman, and Phaneuf would fill that roll. Elliotte Freidman of Sportsnet reported that a Ryan O’Reilly for Dion Phaneuf trade would work financially for both teams, and may just help both teams also. Phaneuf would also not have to play top end minutes in Colorado.
Los Angeles Kings: With Los Angeles in need of a defenseman to fill the void left by Slava Voynov and his legal issues. Phaneuf just may be the guy. It would also take some ice time issues off of Drew Doughty. A Mike Richards for Dion Phaneuf would make sense on paper, but I just think that the Leafs will want draft picks, and I am not sure the Kings will give that up.
Edmonton Oilers: It is well known that the Oilers need veteran defenseman, and they have young stars to give up to get a man like Phaneuf. Jordan Eberle, and Nail Yakupov would be likely trade candidates. The Oilers also may have the draft picks the Leafs are seeking. Lets not forget that Phaneuf is from Edmonton and would be a fan favorite.
It is very hard to predict how things will turn out in Toronto, but it is looking like major moves will be happening and very soon. The sad part of this whole story is that it will be a long three to five years for Leafs fans. Prepare yourself for a major shake-up Toronto.
* Photo by Getty Images