Saturday, September 18, 2010

What they might be doing with Jeff Finger

The Leafs have bolstered their defense as heavily as they can. While they may not have the premiere defensemen in the league on the roster, they still sport the most accomplished 6,7,8 and 9 defensemen in the league.

The top 4 of Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn is formidable. Those should be four solid defensemen that work hard - galvanized by the support of Francois Beauchemin, Carl Gunnarsson and the newly acquired Brett Ledba. So what does this tell us?

I read an article in the Toronto Sun yesterday:

Jeff Finger will not have to take a hard right turn to the Marlie dressing room Friday morning when Maple Leafs’ training camp opens.

Though a summer of speculation has the veteran defenceman and his $3.5-million US contract getting demoted for cap relief, Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations Dave Nonis said nothing has been decided.

“That would be unfair to players who have spent the summer working hard (to make the main roster),” Nonis said Thursday.

Finger is a good reserve defenceman, but has had a target on him since then-GM Cliff Fletcher overpaid $14 million for four years back in 2008. The Leafs enter camp about $200,000 over the NHL cap of $59.4 million.

“We’ll have to do something, make a roster move or put someone on waivers, but there is not a great deal of issues at this point,” Nonis said.

Most teams do like to have a couple of million dollars in cap ceiling in case they have to add someone in a pinch.

So - even though it's been argued that Lebda is somewhat overpaid to be the Leafs' next Garnet Exelby (basically plays 40 games / season) what it may do is push the $3.5 million per Finger into the minors. Frankly, Finger will do one of two things: Play like a $4 million player or play in the minors. Bad on me, I guess, but I hadn't foreseen this strategy until just last night - and it's clever.

We spoke yesterday of there being very little pressure at the centre position, but with so much competition on defense, they may be able to save some big money to use up front at some point in a trade. Could be interesting. Being able to take on 2 or 3 million dollars in a trade could mean the Leafs can move for an expensive (thus, theoretically, talented) centre.

Phaneuf - $6.5 per
Komisarek - $4.5 per
Kaberle - $4.25 per
Beauchemin - $3.8 per
Finger - $3.5 per
Schenn - $1.45 per
Lebda - $1.45 per
Gunnarsson - $.800
Lashoff - $.550

So - by replacing Finger for Lebda - the Leafs make space for $2.05 million on the cap. In this case, the Leafs would be interested in moving another defenseman for space up front. Believing that Phaneuf is off limits - we can believe that the Leafs could trade anyone from Komisarek to Beauchemin (ranging from $4.5 per to $3.8 per). We know that trades have to basically comprise of equal $ value or else teams get into tough spots taking on salary. And the Leafs have been very vocal about using their ability to take on salary to increase the value they receive in a trade. By bumping Finger with a deep blue line, and then exploiting that depth to trade for a talent forward - the Leafs will be able to pick up a forward (hopefully a centre) who's value ranges from $6.55 million per to $5.85 per. This is the same value that Phil Kessel is priced at - meaning we should be able to expect another 30+ goal scorer in exchange for that much cap space relief.

Consider that the Leafs are over their cap limit by $274,167, so we should subtract that from the trade limit, bringing us down to a range of $6.276 - $5.576 million per year.

Who falls into this category?
Mike Richards (PHI) ($6.4), Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin (VAN) ($6.1), Ryan Malone (TB), Anze Kopitar (LA), Alexander Semin, Niklas Backstrom (WAS), Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) ($6), P. Bergeron (BOS) ($5.75), J. Pominville (BUF), Ryan Smyth (LA), Jeff Carter (PHI) ($5.5), Corey Perry (ANA) ($5.375), Simon Gagne (TB), Martin Erat (NSH?) ($5.25), Andy McDonald (STL) ($5.2), Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) ($5.125), Johan Franzen (DET), Mike Ribeiro (DAL?), Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston (NJ), Mike Cammalleri (MTL) ($5).

Which of those players might be traded? That's a tougher analysis. I'd bet Malone, Kopitar, Semin, Bergeron, Pominville, Erat, McDonald, Riberio, Elias and Rolston the likeliest of candidates (even though the likelihood is still low).

Who would be interested in relieving cap space in a trade with the Leafs?
The NY Rangers are over the cap by $4.06
The Canucks are over the cap by $3.15
The Bruins are over the cap by $3.09
The Devils are over the cap by $3
The Flames are over the cap by $2.35
The Maple Leafs are over the cap by $0.27

Who on the Rangers could provide what Toronto is looking for?
Maybe Dubinsky (if they can't resign him? Though you'd think NYR would sign Dubinsky)

The Canucks
Kesler at $5 mil.

The Bruins
Bergeron at $4.75 mil.

The Devils
Elias at $6 mil. or Parise at $3.125 (if they can't resign him - though I can't imagine NJ would do that)

The Flames
Daymond Langkow makes $4.5, but I can't imagine they'd trade for him.

The Redwings, Flyers, Senators, Canadiens and Blackhawks are up close to the cap within a million dollars, so they might be interested in making a move. Though it'd be a surprise if MTL or OTT made a trade with Toronto. CHI has already made a trade so it'd be a surprise if there was much left to pick off their roster. So - DET and PHI are the options that might be opportunists - what have they got?

The Red Wings
Franzen at $3.96 mil. (who has a 8 year contract or something, unlikely they'll trade him)

The Flyers
Mike Richards at $5.75 mil., Carter at $5 mil. (but I don't think Philly is moving these guys either). Ville Leino might be a bit too expensive for them to resign - though someone will definitely give a good package to get him if Philly's moving him).

In Conclusion:
Not much out there even though the Leafs could make a big swing for a centre.


Anonymous said...

None of them. At least this season.

There is a solid free agency coming up after this season I believe. The likes of Thorton(UFA-31), Richards(UFA-31), Carter(RFA26), Bergeron(UFA-25).

Could the Leafs pursue one of those centers?

Rogers said...

I agree - I got excited with the possibility of big cap space and the opportunity it could present in a trade. Then I got to seeing what the options were - and grew disappointed. I can only hope that they might be able to snag a young RFA (Kessel-like) in a trade and then resign him to a term contract. Will we really have to wait another 82 games for a chance to get the forward we know that we've needed for the last 160 games?