With the draft just now to the point where counting down to it in hours doesn’t seem completely ridiculous we near what is without a doubt the most exciting week of the offseason. With that comes a lot more insider information (or noise depending on how you want to interpret it.) On his 31 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek, Elliotte Friedman shared some information that might be important to Leafs fans:
Also names Gudas, Vatanen, would those be players they look at? EF also believes if Tanev hits the market, Leafs will definitely be in on him.
Friedman can see them going in on two RHD rather than going all in on one big RHD.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) October 3, 2020
So there’s an absolute ton of information in those two tweets. And a lot more detail in the podcast. We’ll unpack it quickly because I’m sure the information will be completely different in half a day.
So Pietrangelo wanting to stay in St. Louis is the least shocking thing ever. In the middle of a global pandemic, I can appreciate any player that can make the decision not to relocate. Throw in the fact that he has in-laws in the St. Louis area and a number of young children it gets complicated.
Vegas being the second choice is what we might not have been prepared for, given that Pietrangelo is from Toronto, and has family here as well. Plus our biases and usually high profile players tend to want the Eastern timezone. The preference for Vegas could be a desire to be some place warm, some place where he won’t be playing under a microscope, or the very real possibility that Vegas is considered to be closer to a cup than Toronto. All valid points, but Vegas is also in even more of a cap crunch than Toronto, so I’m not sure how this happens without Fleury being dealt.
Toronto is still very much in it on Pietrangelo, but maybe having solid Plan Bs in place is important. Arguably maybe if a trade can be figured out, that should become the Plan A, but a lot of the other stuff from Friedman is on the Plan B free agent options, so we’ll focus there for now.
Plan B Free Agents
So the names listed are Dylan DeMelo, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Radko Gudas, Sami Vatanen, Chris Tanev, and T.J. Brodie.
Of the names on that list, T.J. Brodie is the only one that can comfortable be mentioned as a clear top three defenseman on most teams. DeMelo over the past couple of seasons has established himself as a strong top four defenseman, and Chris Tanev is still that when he’s healthy as well. The fact that the Leafs could afford to bring in two defenders instead of one isn’t a bad situation either.
Radko Gudas is a plea for physicality on the bottom pairing, without the acknowledgement that Gudas is not the player he was a couple of seasons ago. Vatanen is a swing for the fences, hope that he can rediscover his game type acquisition, and honestly it feels like Toronto might be heading down a Tyson Barrie path with him.
As for Trevor van Riemsdyk, well, I’d absolutely love to see him on the Leafs, but again this isn’t so much a move that radically overhauls the Leafs blueline, but instead gives Toronto a solid third pairing defender that you can comfortably move up in the lineup if there’s an injury.
None of these options are bad, but there are warts and shortcomings. None of them instantly make you feel better about the blueline like Pietrangelo does, instead we repeat the feelings we had when Barrie was brought in and carry some optimism and good vibes into the season instead of confidence.
For deeper dives on some of these suggestions, Trevor van Riemsdyk was featured in our discount free agent exploration:
Here’s a look at unpopular option Sami Vatanen…
And finally here are some brief summaries of DeMelo and Brodie…
It seems like a safe bet that Toronto will have new defenseman by next week, and while the optimism for Pietrangelo being it might have taken a hit today, there is a sense that this will be a bizarre week and things are going to change daily. The way the goaltending market shrunk swiftly in a couple hours this morning is a good example of that.