Salary cap space may be a valuable commodity, but it still can’t stop a puck or snipe top shelf on its own.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the actual players the Toronto Maple Leafs received in their blockbuster trade with the Ottawa Senators and examine how said skaters may play into the Leafs’ long-term blueprint for success.
Jared Cowen, D, 25
Drafted two spots after Nazem Kadri at ninth overall in 2009, Cowen has never realized the potential scouts saw for him. Injuries have definitely played a role in his lack of development. At six-foot-five and nearly 240 pounds, Cowen fits the description of someone who was always going to get a second chance somewhere.
When asked what Cowen’s realistic best-case scenario was at this point, a scout responded: “He’s a heavy player who plays in the six spot.”
Cowen is under contract with a cap hit worth $3.1 million until the summer of 2017, at which point he’ll become a restricted free agent. The Leafs have between now and then to see what they can coax out.
Milan Michalek, RW, 31
Remember how Toronto inked the likes of Brad Boyes and P.A. Parenteau to trade-friendly, one-year deals last summer? It’s just getting a head start acquiring next season’s trade bait with Michalek.
A big body who can provide offence, Michalek was the key piece coming back when Ottawa was forced into dealing Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks in 2009.
Like Cowen, Michalek has been unable to stay healthy—he’s currently on injured reserve with a broken finger—but the fact he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2017 means, if he can get in the lineup and stay there, Toronto should have no trouble turning him into a draft pick at some point in the next 12 months. Maybe even a decent one.
Tobias Lindberg, LW/RW, 20
Because of his age, this might be the most intriguing acquisition. Lindberg comes from Djurgardens, the respected Swedish club that has produced many quality NHLers, including former Toronto captain Mats Sundin.
Last year, Lindberg made the leap to major junior hockey and, for the first time in his career, showed some real scoring prowess during the Oshawa Generals’ run to the Memorial Cup.
He’s registered five goals and 22 points through 34 games as an AHL rookie this year. His six-foot-two, 216-lb frame is also something that stands out in a sea of small Leafs prospects.
“If he hits, he’s a bottom-six type of player,” says the scout, who believes Lindberg has a legit chance to play in the NHL.
Colin Greening, LW, 29
Nothing to see here. Greening hasn’t been a full-time NHLer for a couple seasons and his $1.7-million cap hit has been buried in the AHL all season. He’s eligible to come off the Toronto’s books at the end of next year.