Dave Nonis doesn’t want you to label it a fire sale, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a position where they will “for sure” be selling as the March 2 NHL trade deadline inches closer.
“If and when there are deals that make sense to us to bring in players, whether it’s [through] free agency or trades, that will help us win and develop our team long-term, then we’ll do it. But there isn’t a time frame on it,” Leafs general manager Dave Nonis told Hockey Central at Noon Monday. “You have to get value if you are going to move players.”
Nonis refused to confirm last week’s Globe and Mail report that management was given approval from the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment ownership board to proceed with a long-term rebuild that could spell three to five more years of losing. He didn’t deny the report, either.
“What I will say is, nothing has really changed in what we are looking at and what we’re prepared to do,” Nonis said. “We’ve developed a plan going forward. This goes back months.”
Asked about trading away members of the club's core, Nonis conceded there is "no question" his team, sitting 12 points out of playoff berth, must make changes.
Watch: Dave Nonis talks Olli Jokinen, how the Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli deal developed, and the "scorched-earth" mandate report
A hot source of trade rumours, star winger Phil Kessel holds a limited no-trade clause and is signed through 2022.
"Yes, we signed Phil long-term; we think he's a good player. I think he's still top-20 in goals this year despite the fact he's had a difficult time lately, but he doesn't have a [full] no-trade," Nonis said.
"We do have teams we can trade him to. You need to have some flexibility to change your team, and we have that."
Nonis said there have been "a number" of conversations with fellow general managers regarding trades focusing on the Leafs' core players.
"Players that are at that end of the pay scale usually get moved in the off-season, if at all," he explained. "Very few get moved in the season, but we have had discussions with other teams."
Nonis said he believes most of the Maple Leafs' remaining trades will be made on or close to trade deadline day.
Watch: Nonis talks Phil Kessel, Peter Horachek, and David Clarkson
Other takeaways from Dave Nonis's HC @ Noon interview Monday:
- He will look at flipping veteran Olli Jokinen, an impending free agent, before the trade deadline: "Guys like that deserve it."
- The Cody Franson trade talks got serious on Feb. 3, when the Leafs visited Nashville, and was essentially solidified when Predators GM David Poile upped his offer Saturday, calling Nonis during intermission of the Leafs-Habs game.
- Nonis praised Peter Horachek, explaining that the interim coach has worked hard to get what he can out of the group. The improvement of forward Richard Panik is one example.
- On Nonis's 2013 free agency splash, David Clarkson: The forward has shown flashes of his potential, but "consistency has not been there for him."