Leaf Players To Watch After All-Star Break
The All-Star Break has come and gone, and while the weekend in Nashville (*Scottsville) was a tremendous success, the unofficial start of the second half of the regular season begins tonight.
The Leafs needed the few days off as they have not been playing well of late (currently on a four-game losing streak and 1-7 in their last eight), but the road to the offseason continues to become long and tedious. This year has been a learning year, and the results clearly show (last in the Atlantic and tied for dead last in the NHL).
On the plus side, the Trade Deadline date of February 29th is fast approaching, which will bring buzz to Leaf fans and hockey fans alike. The Buds are clearly sellers with nearly every man on the roster readily available to be shipped to a new home (with the exception of Rielly, Kadri, Gardiner, and Reimer).
While not all Leaf players likely on the trading block will be traded come the deadline (see David Booth), it will be very interesting to see what unfolds as the days go by.
Here are some players likely to be traded and why you should keep an eye out for them this month.
After having a disappointing season with the Canadiens just one year ago, the 32-year-old right winger has become a pleasant surprise for the Leafs this season. In 48 games, Parenteau has 11 goals and 23 points, good enough for third and fifth on the team respectively.
On a team that has had a hard time finding the back of the net at a consistent pace this year, Parenteau has been one of the few bright spots on the team, offensively speaking. He's done well enough to earn a nice payday in the offseason and, more importantly for the Leafs, earn a shot at the Stanley Cup this spring with a trade.
Many playoff contenders will be looking to acquire Parenteau as a solid offensive player for either the second or third line. On pace to reach the 20 goal plateau, Parenteau's trade value is fairly high at the moment.
Keep an eye out for him to produce once the team gets out of its current offensive slump. He will likely land the Leafs, at least, a second/third round pick and/or a prospect.
One of the few right-handed defenseman playing with the big squad, the 29-year-old has been a solid player for the Leafs on the defensive aspect of the game. Although he's not expected to produce at a large amount offensively, Polak currently has a respectable 10 points on the back end.
In any other situation, Polak's place on the team long term would seem to be secure. However, the Leafs currently have a large amount of defenseman from within the organization ready to make the jump to the NHL for next season (Percy, Harrington, Loov) and a free agent prospect expected to join next season (Zaitsev). Because of this, Polak now becomes more expendable as he will no longer have a place on the roster in the future.
Playoff teams looking for defensive depth or in need a solid defensive defenseman could come calling for his service. He will likely net the Leafs a draft pick, potentially a prospect, and a roster player with salary.
Polak's task the rest of the way is simple: keep playing a strong defensive game and get involved in the play offensively. Check to see how he plays the rest of the way as he will likely be preparing for a playoff run by months end.
Marincin is similar to the aforementioned Roman Polak. Both are defensive defenseman, play a strong defensive game, and have proven to produce at a respectable rate offensively. What makes Marincin different is age, the fact he is left-handed, and that he has no points so far this season.
There may be some interest for teams to acquire his service as a young player with some upside. If Marincin wants to assure a higher return for the Leafs (which is currently a lower round draft pick), he needs to produce offensively while also becoming a more noticeable player on the ice on a consistent basis.
While he is unlikely to be traded, it will be interesting to see what happens with Marincin as the season wears on.
The versatile third liner has been a solid addition for the Leafs this season. On pace for his fifth straight 20+ point season, Matthias has done everything the Leafs hoped they would get when he signed with his hometown team this past offseason.
While he hasn't been a consistent difference-maker for the Leafs on the offensive side of things, 14 points up to this point is still a respectable amount for a third liner. This, along with his decent two-way play, makes him an attractive target for playoff teams looking for a solid two-way depth forward with some offensive punch.
Even though Matthias would love to stay with the Leafs long term, he would net the team a decent return in a potential trade (a third rounder and a prospect) or could be part of a multi-player transaction to acquire a more solid player.
In order to net the Leafs a better return, he needs to produce offensively the rest of the way. Keep an eye out for him as he closes in on the 20 point plateau.
Others Worth Noticing
Michael Grabner: Has been a decent player for the Leafs this season, especially on the penalty kill. Speed is his strong point, but could produce more than he currently has (11 points in 46 games). Likely will stay past the deadline.
Brad Boyes: The former Leafs draft pick has been a solid veteran this year. Despite limited playing time (34 games), he has produced at a respectable rate (14 points). May be moved come deadline, but will likely stay because of his veteran presence.
Joffrey Lupul: Has been mostly healthy this season for the first time in years, but has also been a disappointment offensively. Lupul's best season seems like a lifetime ago (25 goals, 67 points in 2011-12) and has been in and out of the lineup ever since. Even worse, Lupul is still under contract until 2017-18 and given his injury history and his production this season, he is likely to stay. It will be interesting though to see if he goes on an offensive tear down the stretch.
Daniel Winnik: The second-year Leaf continues to be an important depth player for the team. With 11 points so far, the fan favourite has been effective on the penalty kill. Winnik's place on the team is safe for now especially since he is on a two-year deal. This could also mean that his long-term future outlook may change come next season, so keep an eye out for him.
Tyler Bozak: Has been a pleasant surprise this season after most expected his offensive production would go down after Kessel left for Pittsburgh. Though he has never exceeded the 50 point plateau in his career, Bozak has been a solid all-around player for the Leafs all year long. He does have a cap-friendly salary that may attract some teams in need of a second liner, but Bozak's place on the roster appears to be safe for the time being.
Matt Hunwick: The first offseason signing by any team this past July, the alternative captain has been a heavily utilized player for Babcock. Mostly paired with the promising Rielly, Hunwick has been fairly effective at both ends of the ice (see his game winning goal against the Flyers last week) at a nice salary. While he could attract many as a solid depth player for a long playoff run, he is most likely to stay past the deadline and beyond.
Nick Spaling: The depth player has been limited to 26 games due to an injury, but has been effective when healthy. One of the players acquired in the Kessel trade, Spaling was one of the players likely to be traded come the deadline. The current outlook has him likely to stay with the Leafs past the deadline due to his prolonged absense, but solid two-way play the rest of the way may change that.
Dion Phaneuf: The captain has had a solid bounce-back season for the Leafs this season. A popular player for criticism for the fan base, Phaneuf has worked well with Babcock as his playing time and ice placement has drastically changed from seasons past. Though there have been some rumors of his availability for months now, his salary cap makes a potential move difficult. On pace to exceed 30 points for the eighth time in his career, the captain appears to be safe to stay not just past the deadline, but after the rebuild.
Jonathan Bernier: In his third season with the Leafs, the 27-year-old is currently going through the worst statistical season of his NHL career. He was winless in his first 10 starts, was sent down to the Marlies on a condintioning stint, and has been the face of criticism all season long. It appears his days in Toronto are numbered, especially with the strong play of Reimer and the promising Sparks waiting for a call up next year. While he has improved as of late, his poor start to the season, along with his salary and the low number of available suitors makes a potential Bernier trade difficult. Only time will tell what will happen with the former first rounder come deadline day.