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Does Nonis have to sign Kessel this summer, or walk an uncomfortable path instead?

In truth, I rarely (almost never, really) seek out mainstream media articles on the Leafs any more.  On the one hand, I guess I never want to feel like I’m “stealing” ideas for columns here.  And, well, I don’t honestly feel that the everyday hockey/Leaf writers out there necessarily have more insight than any experienced, thoughtful hockey observer.  So….

Now, those writers may have more access to information, sure.  But most of the time, what they “get” from players is dull stuff, not worth printing or reporting.  And what they “get” from their inside sources is inevitably self-serving (on the part of the “source” from any particular team, that is.  Those sources tell the reporters exactly what they want to see “out there”…Brian Burke used to do that all the time here in Toronto.)

With that as the backdrop, let's just say that I prefer to do my own thinking.  Always have.

All that said, one could not help (if they spent any time on social media outlets the past few days, which I’ve actually been doing a lot less of recently, much to my enjoyment) but have been made aware of a recent column in one of the major Toronto dailies.  In that opinion piece by a prominent columnist, now is the time for the Leafs to trade Phil Kessel, while his value is at its peak. (I did not read the article, but I did see the headline.)

Now let me say that I don’t simply dismiss such thoughts out of hand, and I’m thinking a few of us have raised all kinds of Leaf-related trade possibilities here over the years.  It's natural for us as fans to do that.  Maybe some of those possibilities have even included the once (still?) enigmatic Leaf winger with a world of speed and talent.

For today, however, I’m on a different track.  I’ve been wondering of late exactly when Leaf GM Dave Nonis has to make his move to lock Kessel in before Phil hits free agency a year from  now. (I realize I did not include a reference to Kessel in one of the recent posts here at VLM, the Nonis 5-point off-season plan.  But signing Kessel is surely part of the plan- as will be finding a replacement for Dallas Eakins, who will officially be named the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers within the next day or so...)

We all understand the various scenarios in front of Nonis—a lower salary cap this coming season, but likely a higher cap after that.  Kessel seems to enjoy being a Leaf, but the chronically shy young man may prefer to find solace in the quiet of a less-frenzied hockey market, eh?  Do any of us really know what’s in a guy’s mind or heart?  I’m pretty sure not.

He and his agent will want to get max dollars a year from now, so any deal that he would be offered would likely have to look a lot like what both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf received from the Ducks to essentially finish their career (all things being equal) on the U.S. west coast.  (Those who visit Capgeek or whatever it’s called regularly will know better, but I seem to recall these guys signed for like 8 years for more than 8 million a year or something along those lines…)

I’m always (and I mean always) leery of giving any player silly money to play a game—especially when you start paying anything beyond four years. You can never, and I mean never, project how committed, healthy or good a player will be half a dozen years from now.  Too many teams (and the NHL is now getting to be like the NBA, where all you hear about is GM’s  desperately trying to dump the “bad contracts” they gave to players) see disastrous results from paying huge, long-term deals.

But in a business sense, fans are captive, though we help generate the reality of astronomical contracts.  Because so many people bet on sports, follow sports, have a rooting interest in particular teams, we all, each in our own way (for example, simply watching games on TV, which boosts rating and therefore advertising revenues; buying merchandise; going to games, etc.) contribute to the inflationary spiral.

Regardless, absurd, long-term contracts, right or not, are the going rate in professional sports nowadays.  If you want to keep a player like Kessel who is in the top-tier of NHL talent, you evidently need to spend ridiculous money—whether, like the Canucks in the Luongo situation, you end up regretting it mightily down the road.

I don’t need to run through all the Kessel pros and cons.  My sense—and it is only that—from the comments I see here at VLM is that most Leaf supporters do feel Kessel has evolved a bit since he arrived here, that he is not simply a shooter/streaky scorer-type player at this juncture in his career.  They see some evolution in his game, a guy who sees the ice, makes sweet passes, can create havoc off both wings and is generally a dangerous offensive threat almost anytime he is on the ice.  While he will likely never become the consummate all-around player in the mold of an Yzerman or Modano (who themselves were mostly offensive-minded through the first several years of their careers) and other similar players who became true superstars by developing all aspects of their game, many do see significant growth in Kessel’s game. 

And hey, the guy is flat-out exciting.  Maybe most importantly, when it comes to talking “value” and whether he “deserves” a massive new deal from the Leafs, he played none too badly against his old nemesis and former team, the Bruins, when the Leafs tangled with Boston in the first round of the playoffs this past spring.  I was among those waiting to make my judgment on Kessel until I saw him play games that mattered, under the glare of the playoff spotlights.  I don’t know that he passed with flying colours exactly, but given what many Leaf supporters expected him to do against the Bruins, I’d say it was pretty close to that.

Now whether this means he will be a sure-fire big-time playoff performer in the years ahead for the blue and white, I don’t know.  (It was one series that, c’mon—and we all know the back story—he should have been highly motivated to play in.)  Maybe—maybe not. 

But my question of you today is: does Nonis have to make something happen pronto, to secure Kessel’s signature on a contract before we get into that awkward and uncomfortable scenario where a player is somewhat lame-duck, and finally decides he’d rather play it out until free-agency and see “what he’s worth” on the open market? (Also, while that player is often being ticked off that his current club is not willing to give him the contract that he thinks he is worth for all the years of effort, productivity and service the player has provided…)

While you’re at it, by all means feel free to opine on the notion of trading Kessel.  Goodness knows the Leafs still have needs that we have discussed here a gazillion times—a big, talented center and a stud defenseman to mention but two areas of chronic ‘lack’.  Would Kessel net us one of those pieces in return? 

Of course, the related question is:  but at what cost?  Would we simply be swapping a talented, first-line guy (who is still young and just now entering his prime, presumably) for another high-end talent, but simply leave ourselves a huge hole on the wing with Kessel gone?

So for you, how big a priority is re-signing Kessel—at all, and from a timing context, doing it this summer? If you can’t sign him before training camp, when the player really stars to hold the proverbial hammer as the clock ticks down to the following July, do you then consider dealing him, out of fear that he will walk next summer and leave the franchise with nothing near a championship to remember after all his years in Toronto (and yes, lingering memories of the 'cost'  - Seguin and Hamilton - as it turned out)?

I realize all these decisions have to be made in the context of overall organizational priorities and objectives.  Kessel is but one (albeit significant) piece of the emerging Leaf puzzle.  Everything has to fit- and not just in terms of money.

I have my own views, but I’d like to read your assessments.  Let me know what you’re thinking on this one….


  1. There are more urgent things than Kessel. Not because Kessel is unimportant, but rather there are other more pressing items in terms of time: The draft, Free agent day, Kadri's bridge deal, Franson's new contract, Tyler Bozak's fate?

    There is also news that Komorov may be very close signing in the KHL, which needs to be addressed: counter offer? replacement?

    Let's see how the start of the season goes and try to sign Kessel by mid season.

    1. I believe everything written below, but I think we still be ok if they focus on a few more urgent tasks try to get the deal done by say..October?

      Make the intitial offers this summer, allow time for the usual back and forth, and try get this done before it becomes a distraction. I'd really like this completed before Christmas.

  2. I'm one of those who thinks signing Phil ASAP must be a priority for the team. He's the kind of offensive threat every team wants - and this year he upped the ante by improving his playmaking and adding backchecking to the mix. I can think of at least two goal-saving plays he made in the playoffs by using his speed to catch up to opponents on a break, not to mention a host of other good plays in our end as well the offensive zone. He outplayed both the oft-mentioned Seguin and Hamilton, both throughout the year and in the playoffs. To risk letting him go for unknown quantities in a trade would be crazy IMNSHO.
    I didn't see the column you mention, Michael, but it just goes to show that the so-called press pros can be as idiotic as any fan!
    We have many problem areas that need improvement, but removing our top scorer from the mix isn't what I'd call a solution to any of them.

    1. If the Leafs believe Kessel is becoming a stronger defensive player, as you cite, than that certainly plays into the urgency of the decision, too, Gerund O'. He is a fairly rare talent these days. Worth 8 million a year for 8 years though, I wonder?

      The "trade"option question becomes more real if he is not signed by the trade deadline next season...

      Thanks Gerund- hope you're enjoying the summer!

    2. "... believe Kessel is becoming a stronger defensive player..."

      What does that mean?

      Playing the PK? Sacrificing his body to get in the shooting lanes?

      What is it that Kessel can do to improve his "defensive" game? What do Parise, Perry, Stamkos, and Kovalchuk, do differently that Kessel could learn from? (Name above are all wingers in the top 20 12-13 TSN ranking)


    3. Hi Chuck- there is no doubt Kessel has a long way to go to become a great all-around player. This is why I cited guys like Yzerman and Modano, who pushed themselves (along with their coach's 'nudging') to become complete players over time.

      My point is/was, based on what fans are telling me, they believe Kessel has gotten better in this regard. Good enough? He'll never be confused with Bob Gainey defensively (or as you mention, current generation stars like Parise and Stamkos, who show they are willing to play hard at both ends of the ice on a consistent basis).

      Is there more he can give? The short answer is yes. But that's now up to Kessel. Thanks Chuck.

  3. In a purely business sense, I understand the theory. Take away any emotion, excitement for what the team is and what it might be next year, and look at the players as exchange stocks. You try to buy low (well, okay we didn't exactly do that, but I digress), and sell high. In that sense, Kessel will turn 26 at the beginning of this coming season, and will be in that general age range when snipers such as he peak. So he can bring a lot in return in a trade today. He'd bring more in a trade if he were under contract for another few years.

    But how much could they truly get for him today? I have supported Kessel quite a lot this year, and I am inclined against trading him at all. But keeping an open mind, what would I allow him to go for? A true number one center plus a top ten draft pick? Yeah I think we would have to do that. Could they get that much for him? I really doubt it. Unless some free wheeling GM antes up, I say hold on to him.

    If they remain committed to him, they need to sign him to an extension right now. Before this last season I had imagined him bolting as soon as his contract expired. This was mostly due to all the unfair pressure put on him by what Burke traded him for. We have talked here at length about how he has stood up to the pressure. Yes I would say he did pass the playoff test, against Boston no less, with flying colours. He looks comfortable and happy out there on the ice. My fear is that by not approaching him for talks of an extension now, cracks in his will show, and he will not feel appreciated or part of a core group moving forward. He would then play out a lame duck season and go not necessarily where the biggest money is, but somewhere quiet where he will feel appreciated.

    Okay, I almost feel silly saying that, defending grown men with fragile feelings? Yeah I know, but it is the reality with so many of these athletes. If you are a GM and you know what your assets are, you protect them.

    1. All good points, Pete, and think you've nicely touched on part of what I was trying to get at in my column today. I don't know exactly when it is, but there is often a "point" in these situations where the player begins to feel the organization isn't doing what they could/should to prove how much they value them.

      Once that point is hit, it is hard for them (fair or not) not to become agitated and mentally start going somewhere else. At the very least, their agent will convince them to see what they're worth in free-agency.

      Does Kessel care about all that? I don't know, but most stars like to be chased and to feel appreciated, and to see that their club is willing to go the extra mile.

      Whether the Leafs "should" do it is part of the debate today. Thanks Pete.

  4. Those are all fairly urgent priorities, DP, no question. I guess the question is: if the Leafs miss the opportunity to extend him before next summer, how big will it seem then, compared with Komarov, Bozak, Franson, etc.? Tough call for Nonis....

  5. It is not a priority yet. This summer there are bigger needs to attend to. However, it will become a priority over the course of the year especially if Kessel plays like he did this year.

    I am not against trading Kessel but it can't be for draft picks or prospects. It has to be for a specific need and that is the under 25 first line superstar center. Those are few and far between so I seriously doubt Kessel is going anywhere. I do think by around the dead line though Kessel must be signed to a new contract or he will have to go. They can not risk him going to free agency and loosing him for nothing. He is too big a piece and way too important to loose him for absolutely nothing.

    So not a priority yet but by midseason will be by far the biggest priority..

  6. I guess what I'm wondering, Willbur, is at what point does Kessel go, "these guys don't really want me badly enough..." if they don't come to an agreement this summer. Then he plays next season as a lame duck Leaf, and agents will then often advise their player to stop even thinking about it and say "no negotiating" during the season. Once that happens, the player is often as good as gone....

    So, if the Leafs play the waiting game, will they delay themselves out of a good player, and as you say, lose him for nothing?

  7. The primary objective of the drool stained denizens in the Toronto hockey msm is to be as disruptive, attacking and negative as possible, at all times.

    Phil has to be resigned, only the poorest and most unable of franchises would not resign a consistent top 10 scorer in his mid 20's. Those who regularly fail drug tests may fall into the 'trade/let him walk' group as well.

    Given those facts signing Phil sooner rather than later is the way top go. No sports team should take action due to the local media but Michael could you imagine the vitriol that would be spit at Kessel , and Nonis for that matter, if he went into the final year of his deal without an extension? The msm would single-mindedly attempt to shred his character, capabilities and of course attack his nationality.Nonis would be pilloried daily and the longer it dragged on the longer it will stay front page after Kessel resigns. The sorry mess would make the ink wasted on the Rob Ford chaos to be but a drop in the sea.

    Nobody on the team or in the front office needs the distraction.

    We know that the msm is populated by enough mouth-breathing bib wearers that a number of them would make Crucify Kessel or Nail Nonis To The Cross their obsessive mission.

    Who needs that? Especially when they are going to resign him anyway. Get on with it and leave the sorry mittenstringers in need of a different cause from which to launch their primary school tirades.

    I am not saying he has to be resigned because of the media. I am saying he has to be resigned because that's how you build a winning team. Distraction wise, the sooner the better.

  8. You make a very good point, Bmaximus, that the Leafs should not (and won't be) be pushed into a decision by the local media, but as you mention, the reality is that the "story" will become a media obsession if this carries on into the season.

    I doubt the Leafs are going to learn much more about Kessel than they already know by watching him play without a contract this coming season. (if anything, he won't want to get hurt before he comes a free-agent...). So they already know how badly they do or don't want him.

    Teams often claim these things are not a distraction, but I wonder what the Luongo fiasco meant to the Canucks this past season? Thanks Bmaximus.

  9. Hi Michael,

    It is always a "priority" when any deadline is approaching but IMO this conundrum will require other aspects to be sorted out before a definitive path is taken both from Nonis' and the Kessel'c camp. I think both would think it is premature to do so.

    I too agree with you on long term and big money contracts but fact of the matter is that players of Kessel's talent and stage will command this obscene costs and commitment. Agents are fully aware how rich the leafs are and how much they have available in cap space and will extract whatever they think they can get. It would be fool hardy to think that Nonis has the power here. At the end of the day, Kessel will be the one calling the shot.

    The argument can be made easily by any standard that Kessel will command a large raise. That said, I would not be surprise how much Kessel is willing to forgo if the situation is 'right' for him. As much as he is uncomfortable on camera, I am not so sure he isn't happy being a Leaf. I think the next month will be very indicative of his path with the next trade deadline being definitive. I think two elements is at play here now - more than money and terms for Kessel, that being Bozak situation and Nonis' willingness to commit in moving forward with acquisition(s) that on face value will be a sign of improvement.

    You have to believe in an organization's willingness to improve and build. Nonis needs to demonstrate that the organization is moving towards a championship and Kessel will be part of that process. This is where Burke seems to have been very good at - the ability to sell (unrelenting conviction tends to get people to follow). Hopefully Nonis will be able to do that as well.

    Bozak's situation will also be at play. Although it might not be the one that break the proverbial camel, it will have some bearing on Kessel willingness to extend. Fact is we all want to have friends we work with and Kessel is no different.

    As much as it is a "priority" the next 6-8 Months will be much clearer of the path. If the Leafs regress, a trade is highly likely. People also forget that even if Kessel extend now, there will likely be a NTC in it. That really reduces your return so trading him now or 6-8 months from now really makes no difference to the organization hence I doubt Nonis or Kessel will lose much sleep over.

    1. You've well outlined the steps that Nonis will be considering as he plans his strategy regarding Kessel, Lukas. The only thing I may differ slightly about is whether a NTC really matters, in terms f what you can get for Kessel in a trade now or later.

      It's a delicate situation, and Nonis will aim to get Kessel signed at some point. I just wonder if waiting will make it that much harder to convince him to stay....Thanks Lukas.

  10. Obviously, I am a supporter of Kessel. I think he is an elite talent that is very hard to replace and would be in favour of extending him as soon as possible. My point being that I am not sure Kessel would want to unless there is definitive reason to do so. Kessel knows he will be be paid one way or another effectively putting him as a UFA already. Whether that it will be the Leafs or not would likely based on the points I've made.

    My point on the NTC was that even if you extend him now and all went south, your return is still limited because of that NTC so trading him at the next trade deadline will be the same. This effectively will be a more logical step given that you will know the state the team is in and whether desperate teams are available. I don't think anyone will be foolish enough to let Kessel walk for nothing. We're not talking about someone of the the Iginla vintage. Kessel will still commands a good return. I also don't think it will be a distraction at all. At the end of the day, the delay really is mutual. If I was Kessel, I wouldn't want to start negotiating knowing I will get what I want either way and if I was Nonis, I would have to pay more than what is anticipated to convince Kessel and do so not knowing what I can get via UFA yet. Something that really is not yet needed. Like I said, until Free Agency, Bozak and any trading is done, the Kessel talk will unlikely start.

    1. All valid points, Lukas. Tje only thing I would maybe throw into the hopper is injury- while Kessel certainly overcame adversity early in his career as we all know, he has not been hit with serious head or knee injuries.

      Once a player faces those issues, I'm not saying they lose their value but it can take a hit. Right now, Kessel is healthy and will command a huge pay day, as you say, regardless of when (or where) he signs.

      If he hits a major injury, who knows how that changes the landscape? That's always the risk athletes run...

  11. Hi Michael,

    I think that before we get into whether or not the Leafs have to re-sign Kessel, we should think about the willingness in Toronto to let players walk away without the team getting anything of value in return. No matter if you feel Kessel is overrated or if you feel that he is one of the best players in the league. The Leafs cannot let him leave without getting appropriate value in return. Kessel signed to a reasonable long term deal, traded or not is in both Kessel's and the teams long term interest. They just aren't going to get as much for him in a trade if he is a rental at next years deadline.

    The problem I see is getting Kessel to take a contract that I would view as fair. I don't see him as one of the truly elite players in the game, and I wouldn't pay him like one. Especially, since we all moan about the lack of a true number one centre and how they are impossible to find, ignoring what it would take in terms of salary. If the Leafs pay him at or near the level of a Malkin, Toewes, Datsyuk, they hamstring themselves and limit their ability to acquire the real difference makers in the game. I see a similar problem with our captain in the future. Are either of these players the kind that will inspire and lead a team to the Stanley Cup?

    The media in Toronto are a meddlesome bunch, aren't they? No matter what way the team goes the divisive stories are already written. Why haven't you locked up Kessel? Are you trying to trade him? What should the return be? Is it distracting the team while the negotiations continue? Does paying Kessel that kind of money restrict your ability to attract and retain high end players to play with him? Tough questions, and they are waiting for the day they get put out there, they are already written.

    I heard this week that Komorov is going back to the KHL. Kinda liked him, so I am not sure why the team couldn't come to terms. I know that it is early in the offseason, and as a Leafs fan, I am prone to worry and exaggeration. But, I do hope Nonis gets some things done improving the team this offseason. A summer where the team stands pat at best and at worst loses talent would be awful to me. I honestly don't think I can take another season where Gardiner sits in the press box so that Mike Kostka can play top four minutes. As rumoured elsewhere this weekend, Eakins is now the head coach of the Oilers. I hope he doesn't come back to haunt the Leafs.

    1. Plenty of food for thought there, Jim, and it goes beyond what you self-describe as the usual Leaf fan 'worry and exaggeration'.

      Typically, teams built for success are strong up the middle. (I'm not saying there aren't exceptions, but not many...) You need two really top-end centres, at least two stud defensemen and an elite goalie. You build from there.

      Also, good teams do therefore tend to spend most on those positions. With that in mind, where does a high-end scoring winger like Kessel fit? Is he "worth" 8 million a year over a long-term deal? And, as you suggest, if we sign him for max money, how do we afford the center we need, much less a center and a defenseman?

      This, presumably, is why someone like Nonis, and not we mere fans, has the job. Thanks Jim, good stuff as always.

    2. I for one, am against giving a player a max 8 year contract for $8 or more million dollars a year. The only player I might be tempted to give that kind of term and money to would be Zedeno Chara.
      Similarly, as well as Bozak has played I do not believe he is a $5.5 million a year player either. So what do we do.
      Can kessel and Bozak lead us to the Stanley Cup Finals. I do not believe so.
      So maybe it is time to approach Florida and Nahville about trading up in the draft. Kessel, Bozak, Phaneuf and a prospect to Florida for their pick, 2nd overall (Nate McKinnon).
      Or Kessel, Bozak, Phaneuf, our 1st round picks in 2013 and 2015 for their 1st round pick (Barkov) and a player to be named on July 5th. That would be Shea Weber. Leafs agree to reimburse the Preds for the up front millions they were forced to pay Weber due to the Flyers offer sheet.
      With Florida's pick we would potentially be looking at Nate McKinnon. With Nashvilles pick we might be looking at Barkof, Lindholm or Monahan.
      There are some good free agents on the market to persue. Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Bryan Bickel, Viktor Stalburg, Andrew Ference, Rob Scuderi among others.
      Leafs would look good for the future with JVR-Barkov-Horton, Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson, Bickel-Colburn-Fratin, Orr-McClement-Clutterbuck as their forwards.
      On defense we would have Shea Weber-Morgan Rielley, Gardiner-Ference, Franson-Fraser.
      I also think Leafs should try to sign Tim Thomas as their backup goalie if the money isn't too high.

    3. That's an intriguing blueprint to say the least, Anon. The roster would look quite different, of course. Is it do-able? That I don't know.

      You raise an important question; are Kessel and Bozak players we will "win" with? Can they get us to where the Bruins and Hawks are right now, at some point in the future? Could they do it with a better surrounding cast?

      I wonder, to your last point, if Thomas would be willing to act as a back-up?

      Regardless, names like Weber, Horton and Clutterbuck are significant, not to mention the high-profile players who are available in the draft this summer. Thanks for chiming in on this one...

  12. Just a few random thoughts to throw into the mix:

    I think that the fact that Kessel hasn't had an injury as a Leaf has a) a lot to do with his style of play - he is very good at avoiding hits and checks and does not look for trouble so-to-say by agitating and hitting other players and b) the fact that he has always been well protected by the goons (Brown, Orr, now McLaren and Fraser). The fact that Kessel plays this way, in my opinion, inflates his value. He is not a power-forward by any stretch of imagination but he is a hell of a 'skill-player' and there's only half a dozen or so of those in the NHL. If he were to be signed to an 8/8 contract right now I'd be very happy (he'll be 34 in 8 years - just starting to decline). I'm afraid, however, that that is not gonna happen.

    I think that we have a big problem in Toronto insofar as the media and the blogosphere are relentlessly attacking certain players for whatever reason. Just like there's no way it feels good for Phaneuf to be constantly criticised for being a bad leader or not a 'true top defenceman', it cannot be comfortable for Kessel to constantly have to read about how weak he is and how he should be traded or how he was received in a bad trade or to simply be disliked by the not-so-silent majority for not being Canadian.

    In the meanwhile, Kessel's best friend Tyler Bozak, who I think is a very good hockey player (who plays big minutes on a great PK and silently provides offence by winning face-offs and finding Kessel on the ice, not to mention has a crazy knack for finding the net on breakaways and in the shootouts) is constantly being mocked and hated-on by the most influential bloggers because he supposedly has bad so-called 'advanced stats'. Despite the Carlyle's and the management's efforts to block it out the 'white noise' is a huge factor in Toronto and it may well throw a wrench into the Leafs' management's efforts to build a championship team. I'm afraid that if Bozak is allowed to walk so will Kessel.

    Speaking of management's efforts, I am not so sure Nonis will be able or willing to keep Kessel. He worries me. I've never heard anyone criticise his decision to let Steckel go and that surprises me given the fact that the guy was a solid fourth-line center who had a great face-off win percentage and would have probably made a huge difference in that fateful first-round series against Boston. He was also very cheap and would probably have been happy to stay and provide some valuable minutes on a nightly basis. I really believe that Burke built a championship team here and I'm really worried Nonis will screw it up.

    Finally, although I am not an expert on cap-management it seems to me that a well-managed team should be able to spend big money on 3-4 top players and be fine. Suppose we find a first-line centre and another top defenceman and spend about 30 million on the top-four players, we'd be left with 40 or so million to spend on the rest of the team. The bottom half of the team (about a dozen players) will cost us about 20 million and that leaves us the other 20 to accommodate players like Bozak, Grabo, Kuli and kids on 'bridge contracts'.

    1. Just on the Bozak topic, leafdreamer, I remember writing that sometimes we need to be casreful what we wish for; that is, some Leaf fans were seemingly glad Bozak was hurt and Kadri moved up in the lineup against the Bruins in the playoffs. While the Leafs did nicely without Bozak at times, over time, I wonder if he would nindeed be missed for the very qualities you mention?

      Now, is what he brings worth more than 5 million a year? It's harder to make that decision.

      Sometimes this is a difficult place to play, and yes, the media (and even the blogospehere) can play a part in it. How much that affects someone like Kessel, I really don't know.

      On Nonis, I still have a difficult time getting a handle on him. We all saw his work in Vancouver. OK, not great results, obviously- again building on what Burke had done before him.

      Whether Burke built, as you suggest, a championship-level team here, I will say he improved the roster and certainly improved the farm system, despite plenty of managerial gaffes. I do like the quieter tenor in the GM's office. I'm not sure what Nonis has done (yet) to make his mark. This summer may tell, and the Kessel "decision" may be part of it.

      Thanks leafdreamer!

  13. Don't you think that there's an opportunity to get both Kessel and Kadri to sign this summer at a little bit of a lower salary than they could get elsewhere to nice long contracts and continue to develop their chemistry and friendship? They could remain on a great 1B line and the Leafs would be free to overpay a free agent big centre to center the new power-forward line that we've always been looking for. That would be a really nice warm and fuzzy conclusion to this seemingly never-ending frustration that is coming through on blogs and in the mainstream media. Whether Nonis is able or willing to pull this off is another matter. I really hope he tries. He seems to be losing Komarov now, he's already given away Steckel, Bozak looks like he may be let go for nothing. I'm worried.

    1. It's always difficult, leafdreamer, to determine what a player might be prepared to do in terms of a so-called 'hometown discount'. I don't see many young players (not many players at all, for that matter) who will do that. Agents never recommend it.

      That said, I'm sure Nonis will try to sweet-talk these guys, but these days, I'm not sure how effective that will be. It's not like he is selling them on playing for a team with a recent history of success. So it may be a challenge.