I wasted most of my University years taking Philosophy and Science classes, meaning there wasn’t a ton of time left over to learn the principles of economics.
However, the most basic of all economic theories, and the one I have at least a rudimentary understanding of, is Supply and Demand. It plainly states that the value, or price of a particular item, will vary depending on fluctuations in both supply and demand.
For instance, if demand for a product skyrockets than there is the potential for a shortage to occur. A shortage results in a higher price point, since there is limited supply. Conversely, if the supply rises quickly enough the item will enter into what is called a surplus. In this case there is so much of an item available to everyone that its price decreases substantially.
Why am I boring you with economics terms you could have looked up in Wikipedia yourself?
Well, I think there is something here that can be applied to the Toronto Maple Leafs, specifically to the team’s defencemen.
Every season, especially around the trade deadline, I am inundated with report after report echoing the importance of the vaunted “puck moving defencemen”. The majority of TSN’s 12 hour trade deadline coverage will be split screens of Dreger, Duthie and McKenzie checking in on the availability of veteran puck moving blueliners around the league who could be that final piece of the puzzle.
All this brings us to the Maple Leafs, and the log jam that has been created on defence. With Mark Fraser now close to fully recovered from a knee injury the team will feature seven NHL caliber defencemen: Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Franson, Rielly, Fraser, Gardiner, and Ranger. You could say eight if you include John-Michael Liles and his $3.8 million dollar contract currently playing for the Marlies.
The term “puck moving” is a bit flexible and open to interpretation. For the sake of argument let’s identify Phaneuf, Franson, Rielly, and Gardiner as players that could be considered in that category.
Dion represents a much larger discussion and we’ll likely devote more than a few blog posts to his future. As captain and an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Nonis will need to decide if he is worth upwards of $7 million dollars over five plus years.
Cody Franson is coming off of a fantastic 2012-13 season in which he finished with 29 points in 45 games. He’s off to another great start this year with 8 assists through the first 11 games. In addition, because none of the Leafs are ambidextrous (at least to my knowledge) he carries increased value as a right handed shot. I have a hard time believing the Leafs would consider moving him at this time.
Through process of elimination we are left with the two youngsters, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. In a perfect world, one that sadly doesn’t yet exist, both of these guys would be given a spot on the team and Fraser and/or Ranger would spend time in the press box. But we know coach Randy Carlyle is a strong supporter of Mark Fraser and he’ll skate in the team’s third pairing most evenings.
At 19 and 23 years old I don’t think it is wise for the development of either Morgan or Jake to be sitting and watching hockey games every night. However, with the recent annoucnment that Rielly will not be returned to his junior club we know that this is a strong possibility. If their development is being put at risk then it behooves Nonis to at least consider trading one of them to shore up a need elsewhere.
I know some rumors have been bantered about to send Gardiner and Reimer to land a top six centermen. Personally, I just don’t see how the math or value will work out. Reimer is a solid goalie but how many teams with a top line centermen would be willing to send him away? Add to that the small cap hit of Reimer and Gardiner combined and the salaries wouldn't align. Reimer helps establish a depth in goal the Leafs haven’t had for half a decade; I’m happy to have him for now, at least until there is a better understanding of what Bernier is.
The scenario that does seem plausible and helps to solve an organizational need is moving Gardiner for a top level center prospect. Outside of Frederik Gauthier and Greg Mckegg the Leafs don’t have a ton of center prospects in the pipeline. With all due respect to Gauthier and Mckegg, at this moment neither player projects as a top six forward in the near future.
What kind of deal would make sense?
I look back to the Zack Kassian and Cody Hodgson deal as a template Toronto could build around. Trading Gardiner to a team over indexed with forward prospects, but in need of the ever popular puck moving defencemen. This would help both teams address an area of weakness while also minimizing cap issues that would subvert a larger move. I don’t necessarily want to get into speculation on players to target since the list would be expansive. You can review the center prospects of all teams on Hockey Futures.
I absolutely love Jake Gardiner as a player. He’s capable of doing things on the ice that very few defencemen can replicate. At times during the Boston series last spring he was far and away the Leafs’ best player. Unfortunately, this may end up being a case of supply and demand where the surplus of Toronto defencemen necessitates a move. Let’s hope it’s one that helps the team take a positive step in its never ending quest to find a first line centerman.
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer who can’t escape his Maple Leaf roots. If you’re ever looking to kick around some trade ideas or want a second set of eyes on your team you can follow him @FantasyHockeyDK