Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Rumors: Ryan Malone or Ryan Jones?
Of course, outside of the GM’s and scouts, you may also have noticed that the Maple Leafs failed to impose their will on the struggling Habs, who came away with a 3-1 victory over the limp-wristed Maple Leafs.
That’s right, I said it, the Maple Leafs looked limp-wristed against the Habs, which is hard to do when you consider most of the NHL looks at Montreal as a skill team, rather than one that attempts to out-muscle its opponents.
When Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke joined the Maple Leafs he promised to instill a brand of hockey that would feature plenty of testosterone, truculence and pugnacity. Thus far, despite assembling a decent cast of players, Burke has failed to deliver on that promise, which has a number of fans shaking their collective heads.
Brian Burke’s teams have been a lot of things over the years, what they have never been are pushovers in the physical department, which is what the Maple Leafs are turning into.
Sure, when he is on his game, team captain Dion Phaneuf can lay a guy out with the best of them and Luke Schenn, Joey Crabb, Mike Brown and Mike Komisarek bring a reasonable amount of sandpaper to the lineup. That said, when is the last time Toronto beat a physical team? Further, how is it that the Maple Leafs were not able to dominate the “mighty” Montreal Canadiens in the physical department on Saturday night?
To Burke’s credit he sent pugilist Colton Orr packing earlier this month. With the NHL encouraging less fighting and more skill, Burke made the necessary change in order to make way for Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb (who bring a more balanced game to the table) to get more ice time.
Truth be told, the Maple Leafs do not miss Orr, as he rarely saw more than five minutes of action. That said, the Buds could benefit from an injection of toughness to the lineup, in the form of a veteran forward or defenseman that can help keep opposing forwards on their heals, while adding a measure of leadership to the team.
When you consider the options out there, few players look to fit the bill of what the Leafs need. Sure, there are some tough players available, but few can play the 12-15 minutes per game that is needed to make a true difference in the lineup.
Having a hard time visualizing what type of player I am talking about? Think Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers, or a Steve Downie-type from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hartnell brings a gritty game to the table, but is also known as a consistent 20-goal scorer, who stands up for his teammates and makes opposing forwards and defensemen pay by initiating contact and engaging in the odd scuffle.
Hartnell is an example of a player that teams hate to play against. Sure, Hartnell won’t burn the opposition every night, but you’ll know you were in a battle when you go one-on-one with Hartnell, night-in, night-out.
One of the GM’s at the Air Canada Centre last night was Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
Word on the street has Yzerman looking to make a deal to bolster his club for the long term, with names like power forward Ryan Malone (whom Burke has been rumored to be interested in before), being rumored to be trade fodder.
While Burke recently said his preference would be to add a younger player to the lineup, an argument can be made that Malone, who stands 6’4” and weighs in at 215 pounds, is exactly the type of player the Maple Leafs need.
That said, a move for Malone would not be easy to pull off. According to CapGeek.com, Malone owns a No Movement Clause through 2012-13 and a limited No Trade Clause which allows him to submit a 12-team trade list from 2013-14 through 2014-15.
Further complicating matters is the substantial $4.5 million cap hit Malone’s contract carries and the fact that he just turned 32 on December 1st.
On the positive side, Malone’s contract is salary-friendly, coming in at $5.5 million in 2011-12, followed by three consecutive seasons in which his actual salary drops from $3 million in 2012-13, $2.5 million in 2013-14 and $2.5 million in 2014-15.
Originally drafted in the fourth round (115th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Malone has made a living on his physical play and ability to score.
Injuries have often limited his output, but with five 20-goal seasons under his belt, playoff experience and the ability to bring a physical edge, Malone would fit in well on the Maple Leafs top-six, or at the very least, on the third line.
Malone currently sits 60th with 81 hits on the season and has a respectable number of blocked shots (18) and takeaways (21) on the season.
One area Malone would not help the Maple Leafs is on the penalty kill. Malone barely plays the PK, but hey, you can’t have everything, right?
A better choice for Burke might be 6’1”, 205 lbs, 27-year old, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Jones, who is more adept to playing on the penalty kill, carries a much more affordable salary-cap hit and has some offensive upside to his game.
Don’t get me wrong, Jones is not an elite defensive forward, but at $1.5 million per through 2012-13, Jones is an affordable/reliable option.
Would Edmonton be willing to listen to offers on Jones? Perhaps. And, if the Oilers are willing to listen to offers for Jones, what would it take to get him in a Maple Leaf uniform? Thus far, there is really no indication that Edmonton would be willing to trade Jones, but with their best hockey yet to be played in Edmonton, a young prospect might just be of interest. One thing is for sure, a trade for Jones would seem to be a lot easier to pull off than a move for Malone, especially when you consider Malone’s steep cap-hit.
The sad reality is, there are few forwards that bring a defensively sound game that have the talent to score upwards of 20 goals, at least not that teams are willing to trade.
For Burke, the challenge of bringing in a physical player that can contribute 12-15 minutes per night while bringing an element of scoring will be a tough challenge. Adding one physical player may not transform the Maple Leafs into an intimidating club, but it would be a start and a step in the right direction.
One thing is for certain, the current roster is void of such a player, so there is no point in waiting for someone to emerge, thus Burke must act now.
Until next time,