Leafs in good spot with Nonis
Dave Nonis will put his stamp on the Maple Leafs' organization very
TORONTO -- The Brian Burke era in Toronto is over, albeit prematurely.
In June, there were rumors flying left, right and center over the
inevitable dismissal of Burke as the Maple Leafs General Manager. I
recall having powwow sessions with several Toronto-based media members
discussing the possibility while covering the Stanley Cup Final in Los
Angeles. It wasn't imminent, at the time, but with new ownership
taking over, it was bound to happen.
I understand why it happened now. I was surprised it happened at this
point in time (now at surprised as Burke himself, from what I hear),
but I get it.
With the season on the verge of starting up again (FINALLY!!), Maple
Leafs Sports and Entertainment's new board wanted the team to begin
with a fresh face running the show.
Granted, Nonis has been with the organization since Dec. 6, 2008, but
he now calls the shots. He's the GM. It's his baby.
And maybe there was something behind-the-scenes recently that caused
the decision to go down at this point, but what's the difference,
really? Burke wasn't going to be renewed, and I was told had the
season started on time, if the Leafs got off to a bad start, they were
planning on firing him then, anyway.
So the keys are now in the hands of Dave Nonis.
And if you're a Leafs fan, you better be smiling.
Nonis is a very capable and qualified GM. He's got A LOT of changes to
make, which he plans on doing over the next year. In the grand scheme
of things, it won't take that long, but it's not happening overnight
The Leafs have six forwards on their roster in the final year of their
contracts. Outside of All-Star winger Joffrey Lupul, none of the other
five will be brought back. In fact, there are no guarantees Lupul
re-signs with the club. I can tell you he'd like to, and Nonis will
want to get him locked up to an extension, but there's a chance he
tests the waters (especially if the Leafs' offer isn't what he
But for argument's sake, let's say Lupul is a priority. That means Tim
Connolly, Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur (whom Burke refused to trade
for a first-round pick last February), Matthew Lombardi and David
Steckel will be shown the door.
The opens up a crap load of cap space and roster spots for Nonis to
fill via trades and free agency.
There are holes in Toronto's backend, but the defensive isn't that
bad. With Jake Gardiner ready to play fulltime minutes with the Leafs,
their top-four is pretty solid with Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles
and Carl Gunnarsson joining him. But it takes six quality defensemen
to compete for a championship, let alone a playoff spot, and the Leafs
Mike Komisarek says he's out to prove his worth this season, and while
he's a solid third-pair defenseman, he's not someone Nonis will look
to count on in the future.
Morgan Reilly, a great pick up in the draft by Burke, by the way,
shouldn't be rushed to the NHL and could use another year in junior.
The Leafs will be hard-pressed to compete this season, so they're
better off giving Reilly significant minutes with the WHL's Moose Jaw
Oh, and what about that other position I haven't brought up yet? Ahh,
Nonis will pick up where Burke left off, in trying to acquire Roberto
Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, Nonis was pretty heavily
involved in those discussions from the get-go, I've been told.
Nonis and Luongo share a history together.
I recall jumping in a cab outside of the media hotel and racing down
the streets of downtown Vancouver the evening before the 2006 NHL
Entry Draft for a press conference Nonis held outside of the NHL's
main hotel to announce the acquisition of Luongo.
I will not be surprised if I'm racing down to the Air Canada Centre on
Sunday (okay, maybe Monday) for a similar announcement.
There has been plenty of talk surrounding the Leafs and Canucks' trade
talks. Names like Bozak, Gunnarsson, Nazim Kadri, Nikolai Kulemin and
Matt Frattin have all popped up in discussions, among others. Whether
Nonis and Canucks GM Mike Gillis can put the finishing touches on a
deal remains to be seen, but I can guarantee you they'll try their
The new contractual elements of the CBA, where teams can trade/pay up
to 50% of a player's salary, could come into play in these trade
discussions, but we'll have to wait to see all the details once
they're released... if a deal is ironed out.
And with several significant potential players set to become
unrestricted free agents this summer if they go unsigned by July 1 --
guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Nathan Horton, Derek Roy, Ryane
Clowe, Alexander Edler, Stephen Weiss, Valtteri Filppula, David
Clarkson, Douglas Murray and Ladislav Smid -- don't be surprised to
see Nonis active on the UFA side of things, either.
The Leafs, with Nonis at the helm, are in a position to reshape their
franchise. Who knows, this team might actually make the playoffs at
some point during this new CBA.