PHILADELPHIA – The price isn’t right, so the Toronto Maple Leafs might just stand pat with the eighth pick of the NHL draft.
General manager Dave Nonis said Thursday afternoon that he expected to remain at No. 8 because talks to move up—even potentially to No. 1—haven’t gained any traction.
“Moving up to 1 or 2 or 3, does that increase your odds of picking an impact player? It does,” Nonis said. “(But) it’s not something we’re desperate to do and we’re pretty content we’re going to get a quality player at 8.”
Taking a patient approach might have to be standard procedure for the Leafs on a lot of fronts. Centre Dave Bolland remains unsigned with just a few days until the unrestricted-free-agent market opens, and with reports that he’s seeking a deal in the neighbourhood of eight years and $40 million, it’s uncertain if Toronto will be able to keep him.
Nonis said there has been an “open dialogue” between the team and Bolland’s agent, Anton Thun. He didn’t reveal how optimistic he was about getting the 28-year-old signed to a new deal.
“It’s not that we’re not speaking. it’s just that at this point we haven’t been able to find common ground,” Nonis said. “There’s a number and term that we believe is fair. David and Anton have a different number and different term. We still have time to get something done.”
Nonis compared the situation to last season, when centre Tyler Bozak was a pending free agent. The Leafs didn’t get him re-signed until July 1, when he was already technically free to sign with other teams.
“Whether it comes to that, it remains to be seen,” Nonis said. “But we’re going to keep up good communication and see what’s out there.”
Even with the NHL’s still relatively new negotiating window, which opened Wednesday and gives teams and players permission to talk but negotiate money or years, it’s impossible for the Leafs to plan for life without Bolland just yet.
“Your only Plan B is going to be the players you have under contract because you don’t know who else you can sign,” Nonis said. “Whether or not there’s other centres besides David that we would get, there are other people that we would talk to, but it’s not something where you just go from one to the other because those players could sign elsewhere, as well.”
Nonis said the Leafs were also interested in bringing back Finnish forward Leo Komarov, but only at the right salary-cap number. Komarov, who spent last season in the KHL, has said he wants to return to the NHL, and Toronto has his rights until July 1.
The same is true for Nikolai Kulemin, but Nonis said he hasn’t traded any offers with the winger’s camp.
“We’re going to get through the draft here first and see where we end up,” he said.
Given the tumultuous season James Reimer had as the backup goaltender to Jonathan Bernier, the assumption has been that the Leafs would trade the restricted free agent this summer. Not so fast, according to Nonis.
“That’s a possibility. The other possibility is to come here and try to start here,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that people are waiting for James to be gone, that that’s a certainty. He’s a good goalie. He has the ability to start. Even last year, he started 10-6. He had a very good start. I wouldn’t rule out him coming back.”
Or Reimer could be traded during the NHL draft. As of Thursday it seemed like trade talk around the league was still below a boiling point, but Nonis thinks one of the big centres available—the Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler or the Ottawa Senators’ Jason Spezza—getting moved could start a domino effect.
Even there, Nonis cautioned that everyone shouldn’t just expect Kesler and Spezza to get traded.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not,” he said. “Those teams don’t have to, they have good players. But if they do get moved, you might see some other things happen because of it.”
Not surprisingly, Nonis said the Leafs were not in discussions to acquire either big-name centre. Spezza did not put Toronto on his no-trade list, but the thought is Ottawa wouldn’t trade him to a major rival.
But just because the Leafs aren’t going hard after Spezza or Kesler doesn’t mean they’re not trying to do something in Philadelphia.
“It’s not as easy to make a deal as it used to be, but there’ll be some deals this week,” Nonis said. “We’re going to do our best to see if we can be one of the teams that alters our team a little bit, but we’re not going to jump out and make a deal just to say we did it.”
Nonis said the team is “closer but not done” in the process of hiring new assistant coaches to work under Randy Carlyle. The Leafs fired Scott Gordon, Dave Farrish and Greg Cronin in May when they extended Carlyle’s contract.
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