Would Stamkos fit into the Leafs’ Rebuild?

STAMKOS TO THE LEAFS?

I honestly hope not. I am going to be crucified for this, but it is just my opinion that it doesn’t make sense for the Leafs. Would this not just be reverting to old Leafs habits that have blown up in their faces before? “We’re going to do this right, we’re going to tear it down an- OH LOOK A SHINY NEW FREE AGENT TO OVER PAY!” Now, I know there has likely never been an unrestricted free agent of Stamkos’ caliber before, but there has also never been a more expensive free agent. He is going to be asking for a contract in the ball park of Kane and Toews, but a little higher. Kane and Toews signed matching eight year contracts with an annual average value (AAV) of $10.5 million each. The most term a free agent can sign for to leave his team is seven years, so you’re looking at something like seven years with an AAV of $11 million for Stamkos. The salary cap is allegedly jumping from $71.4 million this season to $73.8 next season. That means that Stamkos alone would take up 15% of the salary cap. Add that to Dion Phaneuf’s boat anchor of a contract and there goes almost 25% of your cap until 2020-21. Morgan Rielly is in the final year of his rookie deal and will receive a massive raise this off-season. Nazem Kadri is also a RFA at the end of this season and the Leafs will have to make a decision on what to do with him. Something people don’t seem to be considering is that Stamkos has been declining quickly in terms of production.

I would argue Stamkos has not been himself since he broke his leg at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. He ended that season with a very good 40 points in 37 games, but the Lightning were swept by Montreal in the first round. He followed that up with 43 goals and 72 points in 82 games last season. He also had an underwhelming playoff performance with seven goals and 18 points in 26 games en route to a Stanley Cup Final berth. Although they came within two games of winning the Stanley Cup, it wasn’t on Stamkos’ back. The line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov did the heavy lifting as far as offensive production.

Is he a centreman or a winger?

Stamkos played on the wing throughout the Cup run, but he views himself as a centre. Lightning Coach John Cooper seems to like Stamkos on the wing and it has clearly caused some problems between to two. Whatever the reason for his decline, Stamkos is sitting at 22 points in 32 games this season. Should we not be concerned that his point production has dropped significantly ever since a major injury? I think the Leafs should stay the course and build through the draft. No more shortcuts, they don’t work. Moving forward, a core of Rielly, Nylander, Marner and whoever the Leafs choose with their inevitable high pick this season sounds like some good pieces to build around to me. I would hate to see a situation where you can’t afford some of those players in a few years because you’re paying a 29-year-old Stamkos $11 million to get 70 points a season.

“But he’s from Toronto! It’s a homecoming just like Lebron!”

I do not care that he is from Toronto. It is ridiculous how blinded people are by “the hometown boy coming home.” You don’t pay a guy for his birth certificate. Remember the last time the Leafs over paid the hometown free agent to come home? It didn’t go so great. At the end of the day, I trust the new Leafs front office to do what’s best. I just feel that “what’s best” is to continue in the direction they are headed and fight the temptation of Stamkos. Continue to build through the draft. Free agency should be used to add a piece to the puzzle when you are ready to contend. It is not a good idea to build your team around it, as the Leafs have learned the hard way in the past.

What do you guys think? Am I completely out of my mind?

What the hell is wrong with Jonathan Bernier?

A lot has happened with the Jonathan Bernier situation since I last posted anything. One thing that hasn’t happened is Bernier picking up an NHL win. He did, however, pick up a few AHL wins. He agreed to a conditioning stint with the Marlies to attempt to get his head straight and get that confidence back that he is clearly lacking. He put up three straight shutouts in his first three games with the Marlies and I was happy. Not because I though Bernier would come back and be incredible, but because I thought he could come back and be serviceable enough to trade. He then laid an egg in his last outing in a 5-4 overtime loss which was just perfect timing because he was coming up to start against the Lightning two nights later. Guess what? He was horrible again last night in a 5-4 shootout loss against Tampa Bay. Bernier has three wins and 20 something losses since this goal in late January of last year.

Is this a coincidence? Let’s be realistic here, we all saw the Leafs performance in the second half of last season. It was the worst hockey I have ever watched, but Bernier played just as horrible as the rest of the team. What can you do with him now? He’s 0-8-2 this year and as little confidence he has in himself, Babcock has even less. He’s under contract for another season after this one at $4.15 million. They’ve tried everything with him, is it time to put him on waivers and hope somebody takes him off their hands? It’s a weird situation because the Leafs aren’t exactly worried about winning a whole bunch of games this year and they aren’t a cap team. You can afford to hold onto him and see if he can get it together enough to at least garner some trade interest. I know there are a lot of people out there cringing at that idea because Bernier isn’t exactly a fan favourite, but that’s just my opinion. It’s not good asset management to give away an asset for nothing when he isn’t playing well. It can’t get much worse than it is right now, so let it play out and see what happens. If he improves and garners some trade interest, that’s great. What’s the worst that could happen if he doesn’t improve? Auston Matthews? I’ll take that.

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