It’s a unique feeling in Toronto this year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in solid playoff position and unlikely to fall out, and general manager Dave Nonis won’t even consider selling off any of bodies.
The pending unrestricted free agents are likely going to stay – and more may even be added to the mix.
But it’s not so much “going for it” as “staying with it” as Nonis wants to improve his team in both the short and long term making what he hopes will be “a hockey trade” rather than one organization dumping a body.
“We’re not trying to sell off players for future assets,” Nonis said on Monday after the team finished practice. “We’re either going to, likely, add a piece or two or stand pat. I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t move players or even UFAs, but we wouldn’t move them for draft picks. The players have worked hard to try and get themselves in position. And if we make deals now, by and large those will be for pieces that can help us.”
In pretty much every recent season, the Leafs have been no hopes or small hopes at the deadline – which is looming on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET – but that’s obviously not the case this year.
The Leafs are currently in sixth in the East, nine points up on ninth place and within five points of the Northeast Division lead. They’ve taken points out of eight straight games in solidifying their position and now have an 82-per-cent chance of finishing fifth or sixth, according to sportsclubstats.com.
That has put all eyes on Nonis for these next three days, as even if making a huge splash isn’t in the cards, the league’s biggest hockey media market generates the most attention near deadline day.
Despite all the talk recently that the Leafs could land Roberto Luongo or Miikka Kiprusoff, however, their GM sounded like a man prepared for minor tinkering if there’s no big deal he likes.
“It’s not a priority,” Nonis said of adding a goalie. “It’s the same as every other position. If we can add a goaltender that strengthens our group and helps the guys that we have here, then we would look to do it. If not, as we’ve said all along, we think we have two NHL-calibre goalies. They’ve proved that so far this year, and goaltending hasn’t been an issue.”
As for how disappointed he would be if he doesn’t make a move at all, Nonis said, unequivocally, not very.
“I wouldn’t be disappointed at all,” he said. “When you’re making trades just to make yourself feel good, it’s not something anybody wants us to do. We’re going to explore a lot of different areas. I believe we’ll have something to look at by the deadline that we’ll have to make a decision on.
“But if there isn’t something there that’s going to help us now and more importantly in the future then we’ll go with what we have. A lot of teams are saying the same thing right now. It’s not a year where there’s a lot of players available. Some players, it’d be a reach just to say that they can help you. So to give up assets for players like that isn’t something we’re prepared to do.”
Transcript of Nonis’s comments:
Any dance partners as the week progressed?
Nonis: Not yet. Calls have picked up but it’s been relatively slow so far. I expect that as it usually does, the day before, you start to get some meaningful conversations.
How different is the deadline this year?
Nonis: It’s a little different. We’re not trying to sell off players for future assets. We’re either going to, likely, add a piece or two. Or stand pat. I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t move players or even UFAs but we wouldn’t move them for draft picks. The players have worked hard to try and get themselves in position. And if we make deals now, by and large those will be for pieces that can help us.
Could adding a veteran element be beneficial?
Nonis: No question. The only problem is the price tag for the veteran element is those young players we talked about. That’s not a situation that we have a whole lot of time for. We do have some players that have some playoff experience; we want to make sure those guys lead down the stretch. If we can add some depth and get a veteran presence at the right price we would do it but not at the expense of young players.
Do you want to add players with term or are rentals a potential?
Nonis: Either one would be fine. I would prefer actually a hockey trade where we’re giving up some assets and getting assets back. Difficult to find that right now. The rental market, I don’t think it’s actually even defined itself yet. There’s been a couple high-profile guys that have gone, but the mid-range or depth, there hasn’t been a lot of those players that have been moved. Usually once the price is set, the rest of the guys will follow. If the price makes sense for us, we might choose to do something.