With the Toronto Maple Leafs currently sitting 11 points out of the playoffs, the focus now is less on the postseason race and more on dealing with the team’s pending free agents.
The Leafs have seven significant UFAs, and will need to decide whether to re-sign those players or to move them in exchange for futures prior to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 29.
How much value do those players have on the trade market? Obviously, it’s whatever a rival general manager is willing to pay, but to get a ballpark figure we dug into the trade deadlines of the past few years to see what players in similar roles and with similar production brought back in trade. Using that information, we have assigned a tentative value to Toronto’s potential rental players.
P.A. Parenteau: Second-round pick
Players like Parenteau, who was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens last summer, can be difficult to gauge.
Generally, a player scoring at better than a 40-point pace will command a second-round pick or even more. But there are exceptions to the rule, and they tend to be players with a black mark somewhere in their history.
He lacks the physical game of a Glencross or the experience of a Jagr, so Parenteau won’t bring back that much, but a second certainly seems reasonable.
James Reimer: Third-round pick, possibly a little more
Digging into recent goalie trades, it’s hard to make a case that Reimer is going to cost a contender a lot. Of the five goalies traded in the last two deadline periods, four went for a third-round pick (two of those with a lesser goalie going back the other way) and the fifth went for a fourth-round selection. The list includes both Devan Dubynk and Ben Scrivens, both of whom were cast as a starter with his new team.
Shawn Matthias: Third-round pick
Matthias is a tough player to figure. His underlying numbers aren’t especially good, and he isn’t setting the world a-flame offensively, either. Having said that, he’s a reasonably young veteran, and NHL teams tend to be willing to pay a premium for big guys who can kill penalties.
His scoring right now is a nearly exact match for Brian Flynn last season, and Flynn only brought back a fifth-round pick when Montreal traded for him. Matthias, however, has enjoyed a far more distinguished career than Flynn and as we’ve noted, there’s reason to think he’ll bring in more than we would have cause to expect from his scoring totals.
Roman Polak: Third-round pick, possibly a little less
Defencemen dealt over the last two seasons seem to fall into two categories: legitimate top-four rearguards and veteran third-pair options. The price on the former tends to start at around a second-round pick and escalate from there. Polak, though, falls into the latter category.
The floor for a competent veteran third-pair option is a fifth-round pick, the price commanded by players like Nick Schultz, Jordan Leopold and Mike Weaver in recent years. Marek Zidlicky and Andrej Meszaros both commanded third-round selections in exchange, though, and Polak being a right-shot defenceman may mean he carries similar value.
Michael Grabner: Fifth-round pick
The recently-dealt rental player who most resembles Grabner is probably Torrey Mitchell, who went from the Buffalo Sabres to Montreal last year in exchange for a seventh-round pick and fringe prospect Jack Nevins. The scoring numbers are almost identical and, like Mitchell, Grabner is a distinguished penalty killer on a pricey contract.
Grabner’s $5 million salary (his cap hit is $2 million lower, a product of a back-loaded deal of the type the Islanders tend to favour) will make a deal difficult even at the deadline — but there are going to be teams who saw the bargain that Montreal got with Mitchell and spy an opportunity to replicate it.
Brad Boyes: Sixth-round pick
Like Parenteau, Boyes was the subject of a buyout last season. Unlike Parenteau, he has played a relatively small role with the Maple Leafs and his scoring figures have been less impressive. Also unlike Parenteau, his previous deal was of the comparatively modest variety.
It’s hard to imagine a contender picturing Boyes as a fit in its top-six. He’s a depth piece at this point in his career and he’ll be priced accordingly.
Nick Spaling: Seventh-round pick — at least for now
Spaling has some things going for him. He can play any forward position and has been a regular penalty killer for Toronto. As fourth-line insurance, teams could do much worse. The problem is, there’s only so much Toronto can really expect to get for a forward with no goals coming off a long-term injury.
This is one of the more fluid valuations on this list, though. With a strong month or two, Spaling could improve his trade assessment markedly. James Sheppard fetched a fourth-round pick at the deadline a year ago; if Spaling’s scoring picks up, it's plausible he might bring the same kind of return.