Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maple Leafs Mid-Season Value Ranking

As we stumble past the mid-season mark, this seems like as good a time as any to do a status report on the 2008-09 Maple Leafs. And with the trade deadline just seven weeks away, I'm going to take a slightly different approach.

I'm going to try to rank the Maple Leafs, top to bottom, based on their value. Not their production, not their potential, and not their likelihood of being dealt. I want the big picture. I want to figure out which Leafs are currently the most valuable NHL assets.

Obviously, there's no such thing as one league-wide price tag you could put on a player. The contending Sharks would have a different view of "value" on the Leafs roster than the rebuilding Islanders.

But imagine it this way: What if the NHL allowed teams to bid for a player's contract on the open market? Which Leafs would get the highest bid?

Sound like a fun time-waster? Then here are the rules:

  1. We're looking at everything: track record, current production, injury status, intangibles, and especially contract. I've included cap hit and contract length for each player. Contract status is a huge consideration in a salary cap world.
  2. To that end, I'll draw a line at the point where I think we reach negative value. Yes, a player can have negative value -- these are the guys who are overpaid to the extent that you literally could not give them away (at least without sweetening the deal, or taking back another negative value guy). Let's see how far we can get before we hit that line.
  3. I've ranked players from the current NHL roster only (although I included both Stralman and Sifers since they switched spots today).
  4. No ties. Everyone gets their own spot.
Here we go...

1. Luke Schenn ($2.225M through 2011) - An easy call here. Schenn is the only untouchable Leaf, and is their most valuable NHL asset by a mile.

2. Tomas Kaberle ($4.25M through 2011) - Not his best year, but still has tremendous talent. Given his age and track record, his contract is excellent.

3. Mikhail Grabovski ($850K through 2009) - He's young, and has already shown signs of explosive offensive potential. He's also inconsistent, has questionable character, and needs a new contract. And he's older than you think (he turns 25 in two weeks).

4. Matt Stajan ($1.75M through 2010) - Is having a career year offensively on the top line. He's a little on the soft side and isn't really an especially well-rounded player, but is capable defensively. He's also signed through next year at a very reasonable rate.

5. Nik Antropov ($2.05M through 2009) - Might be the toughest Leaf to rank, given his upcoming UFA status. Still, he's put up solid numbers two years running and seems healthy again. Would probably jump up several spots if he signed a reasonable extension.

6. Nikolai Kulemin ($1.487M through 2010) - On the one hand, he's struggled most of this year. On the other, he's shown flashes here and there. Not a blue-chip stud by any means, but I'm not sure how I could rank him much lower.

7. Alexei Ponikarovsky ($2.105M through 2010) - Certainly isn't flashy, but he keeps finding ways to score. At his current level of production, he's a bargain through next season.

8. Niklas Hagman ($3.0M through 2012) - Offensive production has cooled off recently. Still, given everything he brings to the table his contract seems like a bargain right now.

9. Pavel Kubina ($5M through 2010) - Great example of a guy who's be attractive to a contender, but has little value on a rebuilding team. Has been inconsistent through his entire stint as a Leaf, with the exception of a short stretch at the end of last year. Is overpaid, but given everything he can do his contract isn't terrible and it only runs through one more year.

10. Jonas Frogren ($1.065 through 2010) - Was a virtual unknown coming into the year, but has shown the kind of mean streak most coaches love from a second or third-line defenceman. Is too old (29) to have much upside, but should improve somewhat as he gets used to the North American game.

11. Dominic Moore ($900K through 2009) - Has cooled off significantly over the past month, but still brings a nice mix of speed and occasional offense. Short, cheap contract could make him very attractive to a contender.

12. Ian White ($850K through 2010) - Is versatile and has contributed occasional offense while leading the team in +/-. Is only 24 and is signed very cheaply through next year.

13. Vesa Toskala ($4M through 2010) - Would have been in the top three if I'd done this in the pre-season, but his value has been dropping steadily all year. Could he be significantly better on another team? Every other Leaf goalie seems to be.

14. John Mitchell ($487K through 2010) - Still has another year left on a rock-bottom deal, which means he represents solid value even if he never makes it past the third and fourth lines.

15. Lee Stempniak ($2.5M through 2010) - Is making second-line money, but often goes several games without doing anything noticable. Is probably young enough to still have some upside.

16. Mike Van Ryn ($2.9M through 2010) - Was a pleasant surprise in the early going, but ongoing concussion problems have to be factored into his value.

17. Jaime Sifers ($505K through 2009) - Has looked like a borderline NHLer in limited playing time. His two best features are that he's young, and he's cheap.

18. Jamal Mayers ($1.33M through 2010) - He's a good dressing room guy and can kill penalties. He's also moderately overpaid for what he brings to the table.

--------------- negative value ---------------

19. Jeff Finger ($3.5M through 2012) - Has been almost exactly as advertised: solid, unspectacular, and overpaid. Could become attractive to a contender in another year when his contract is nearing the halfway point.

20. Jeremy Williams ($487K through 2009) - Puts up reasonably numbers given his limited opportunity, but nobody in the Leafs organization seems to feel he has much future.

21. Anton Stralman ($732K through 2010) - I know he's a favorite of some of you, but at this point he hasn't shown that he's going to be an NHL defenceman. He could still make that leap, but right now every team has one or two guys that are exactly like him, and many of them are cheaper.

22. Brad May ($600K through 2009) - Virtually all his value comes from his dressing room impact. Works cheap, but Leafs are probably the only team in the league that can squeeze any value out of him right now.

23. Andre Deveaux ($480K through 2009) - He's cheap, young, and tough. And so far, he hasn't shown any indication that he has much of an NHL future.

24. Ryan Hollweg ($512K through 2009) - All but useless as a player. His expiring contract is really his only virtue.

25. Curtis Joseph ($700K through 2009) - Not really playing near an NHL level these days. At least the contract is short.

26. Jason Blake ($4.0M through 2012) - His play has picked up modestly lately, but he's still a borderline third-liner on any decent team. Given his age and production curve, his contract has to be among the worst in the league.

So there's your list. From Schenn to Blake, all 26 current Leafs ranked in order of value. Eighteen guys with at least some value, and eight that would probably clear waivers today.

I'll be amazed if anyone thinks I got this exactly right, so let me hear it. Who needs to move up? Who needs to drop down? Who am I completely out to lunch on?


  1. I'm not sure Toskala has any positive value at this point. Going into the season I thought he was at least top 5 in the conference. Now he's not even top 5 in the division. Based on the number of goalies available (either free agents or former starters bumped by newcomers) and the relatively few teams in the market for goalies, the demand for Toskala is at an all time low. I can't think of a single team in the league that would want a $4 million unknown.
    Brad May on the other hand, I can see a market for. Perhaps a team looking for some added toughness and playoff experience could use him. I don't think he has a lot of value, but I could see teams like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Phoenix, or even Washington having a need for him at the deadline.

  2. Blakefanboy says: Who r u to say nething bout Blake! hezmazing. JB4Life.

    Seriously, in the end that 16 million will be worth it for that spinorama. I'm convinced he just needs to grow a stache to up his game. A thinning blonde sickly stache....perfect...

    Best Jersey ever.

  3. I think Jamal Mayers would rank much higher. Playoff-bound teams covet tough, defensively responsible forwards who can drop the mitts and wear an 'A' much more than they do soft secondary (or tertiary) scoring. He'll be an extremely hot commodity this deadline.

    I can also see the Rangers throwing us our 6th round pick back for Hollweg.

  4. No way Jeremy Williams clears waivers. Someone would grab this guy. Toskala has a better chance of clearing waivers.

  5. I agree that Antropov is hard to rank but I would rank him perhaps as high as third spot based on the way he's played over the past 1.5 seasons. I believe he would fetch more than Gabrovski in a deal.

    Brad May would be a solid addition to a playoff team lacking some spine.

    While I know you are ranking players we have another asset that would rank minimum third perhaps first - our 2009 1st round pick.

  6. @Deano - That's a depressing throught about Toskala, but you could be right.

    @Dan - Mayers is one of those guys who's value could move up near the deadline. Actually, on deadline day I could see everybody except Blake having a positive value under the right circumstances.

    @Meat - Maybe. I like Williams whenever I see him play, but it seems like Maurice and now Wilson don't have much time for him. That must mean something.

    @JimmyP - If the draft pick was on the list, it would be #2 behind Schenn, and would move up to #1 if the Leafs go into freefall.

  7. I would put Moore and White ahead of Frogren. There's a reason Frogger struggled to get into the lineup when cats were healthy. And both those guys come cheaper.

    I'd also rank Mayers higher, ahead of Stempnisuck for sure, based on that fight against Kostopolous alone. If he was told not to fight, and he still fought to defend the honor of his fallen teammate, he's one of the greatest men, ever.

    I'm not sure I agree that Finger has "negative value," but based on what you wrote about him, you're probably right. It's not him, it's the contract (the "it's not you, it's me" of hockey).

    It's a shame Williams got hurt. Poor guy.

    And I still have faith in Stralman. He's young as shit. Kulemin hasn't shown us much of anything, and you have him sixth. I think he and Stralman are similar in some respects, so I don't agree with the disparity. But I have a man crush on Stralman, so my judgment is clouded. FREE STRALMAN!

    I'd put Joseph at the bottom. Blake is a third-liner, Joseph should be retired.

  8. I'd move Blake up the list. Despite the fact he's being overpaid, he's a 50+ point producer and has been through the last 4 or 5 seasons of his career... minus that whole blip 40 goal season.

    That has SOME value.

    Joseph is done... he's bottom of the list. Some of the worst stats in the NHL. Should be retired.

    I think Stempniak's deal brings him closer to negative than you might think given his production. His age keeps him above water though.

  9. Williams still has upside, he's young, and has shown he can produce at the NHL level.

    he's not blessed with the greatest skating legs, and that could be his only drawback. I don't understand all the knocks against the kid...

    I don't think Finger is overpaid. As a stay at home blueliner, we're not supposed to notice him. If we do, it's because he screwed up. He's doing his job perfectly...

  10. re: Blake...

    Yes, he's done a few good things. Yes, he's a third-liner and is contributing more than, say, Cujo.

    But I'd argue that in today's NHL, a borderline NHLer on a cheap one-year deal is third-liner with a bad contract. And Blake's deal is really bad. If you think he looks bad now, how will he look when he's 39? Get ready to find out, because he'll still be under contract then.

    If the Leafs could get a seventh-round pick for Blake, straight up, I'd be doing cartwheels. But that's a pipe dream.

  11. Do you think that Finger was signed partially to give Schenn a vet with a similar style of play? Finger might be good for the kid's development.

    Finger's character seems pretty decent to me.

  12. I like the list overall.

    I think that Stralman should be on the positive side. I think he is better than Sifers for sure - not impressd by Jamie at all.

    Finger is overpaid, maybe by just a little - but he has had some games where he has looked like he has no idea how to play hockey, and then he has games where you don't hear his name or see him on the ice. That's what the money is for, to be invisible - as one poster said if we don't see him he is playing well.

    Also agree with the posters that Mayers is higher.

    I would have Cujo at the bottom, then Blake. Mitchell should have negative, ever since he got hurt he is useless. Very weak plays, terrible decisions. Williams I would have on the positive side for sure. Young, natural scorer - both big pluses.

    Everyone else is near where they should be, say for May - he could be at the bottom of the positive list.

    How many guys do you expect to be in a Leafs uniform come opening day next season? Schenn is a no-brainer. Who would you like to see back?

    It should be an interesting 8 months!

  13. DGB sez: "If the Leafs could get a seventh-round pick for Blake, straight up, I'd be doing cartwheels."

    That would rival Fletcher's deal for Douggie et al. Jason Blake has more negative value than a black hole. Not even light can escape his suck.

    The only team stupid enough to (re)acquire his services would be the Islanders, but that's a moot point now considering the standings. Here's my submission of what the Leafs can realistically do to rid themselves of Jason Blake:

    1) Package him with any useful player south of, say, Matt Stajan on your list.

    2) Offer to eat a million or so per season of his stupid contract.

    3) Ask for NOTHING in return.

    4) Employ hypnosis, blackmail, kidnapping and/or strong-arm tactics.

    5) Resort to prayer.

  14. re: Finger. I see what folks are saying, and his play has been solid so far. But to my mind, any player who never gets noticed (even a guy in Finger's role) is overpaid at $3.5M x 4 years. And being overpaid is a value-killer in today's NHL.

    @WingMan... my guess would be 12 guys who played for the Leafs this year on in the opening night lineup, and maybe eight finish next year in Toronto. That might even be high.

  15. DGB: I don't think Wilson has soured on Williams. Williams is hurt - that's the only reason he isn't playing as far as I can tell.

  16. @Meat... here's Wilson from

    Ulmer: Jeremy Williams?

    Wilson: I’m still not sold on him because he’s not consistent. He will score a few goals and then have a few off games. This league is just not about scoring goals. You need other dimensions. That’s what has kept him out of the NHL. He has NHL hands and he has to be consistent. A lot of players are like that.

  17. This has nothing to do with this blog but I'm a fan of the site and have a question you may be able to answer.
    Can the Leafs buy the Coyotes franchise and absolve all their players into our organization?
    Can teams still offer money (a la the Gretzky trade to LA)for players. Example: Kyle Turris for 10 mil?

  18. Team sales have to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors right? So I doubt that could happen although MLSE obviously has the money.

    As for Finger, I think he will get a lot closer towards being worth his contract once Kubina and Kaberle are gone and he is getting more chances on the PP to put up points.

  19. You guys are kidding about Mayers right? Defensively responsible? He's a -10. Penalty killer? We have the worst penalty kill in the league. He has as many points as Brad May, and for all that he's being paid double than most of our rookies and fourth liners. How does he have positive value?

  20. Yeah, I can't see the NHL allowing one team to buy another. That would go against their strict "all teams must be sold to shady businessmen who will keep them in terrible US markets" policy.

    I don't believe there's a rule against including cash in trades. But all deals must be approved by the league, so again Bettman would probably step in if he thought one team was taking advantage of another's financial situation.

  21. @ Scott: +/- rating isn't an accurate indication of a player's defensive ability when sourcing from a bottom-feeding team like the Leafs. He wasn't chosen to represent Canada at multiple WHC's for being a pylon.

    He's not a star player by any stretch, but every year teams fall over themselves trying to add players fitting the tough / can-fight / can-skate / wears-an-'A' mould at the deadline.

  22. I know full well the vagaries of the +/- system, but it's certainly a better indicator of Mayers' performance this year than "number of historic World Hockey Championship appearances".

    We hired Mayers for his defensive abilities, his penalty killing, and to be a veteran presence. So faar the team is second last in the league in goals allowed, has the worst penalty kill in the league, and we're still blowing leads, coming into games flat, and folding when teams get physical with us.

  23. No argument here. The Leafs stink. How Mayers' value plummets as a result though is where you lose me. He's a 3rd liner, how much do you hold him accountable for? At worst, he's having an off-year. I'm pretty sure that a 10 year track record and firmly established reputation mean a lot more to GMs than does a meaningless stat in the middle of a throwaway season on a team everyone knows is outmatched and outclassed more nights than not.

    Anyway, I think he'd garner a decent return. If Hall Gill brings in a 2nd and a 5th in an off-year, Mayers easily brings in something similar. Especially if it's a seller's market at the deadline, which it looks to be.

  24. There is indeed a rule against including cash in trades, it was outlawed when the new CBA was signed.

  25. I would say Vesa has 0 trade value right now. He's awful. I don't think anyone expected Vezina-caliber performance from him this year, but no one could have been expecting this level of suck.

    Finger should have some trade value, if not much. The contract really isn't that rich, and he's been basically as advertised. I can't see there being a huge market for him, but there might be someone out there.

    Blake has no value, but he's not as bad as he's made out to be. We paid for him to be a goal scorer, at which he's failed, but he's put up points at a reasonable level, above his career average, and pretty close to his best 2 seasons in the Isle. The $4m part isn't so bad, it's the duration and his age. If he was 2 years younger and his contract was 2 years shorter, he would almost have some trade value.

    Poni should be ranked higher, maybe top 3 in value, just because he's cheap and signed for 1 more year. If he could hit the net with his shot he'd be a dynamo.

    I'd probably rank Kubina higher, and if Van Ryn comes back and plays well until the trade deadline he may have more value as well.

  26. This post didn't make me laugh once.

    It did make me smile, remembering so many of those guys leaving.