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:
- 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.
- 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.
- I've ranked players from the current NHL roster only (although I included both Stralman and Sifers since they switched spots today).
- No ties. Everyone gets their own spot.
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?