Nail Yakupov

Sometimes relationships just sour. In hockey, in business, in real life…it happens. In most cases it’s tough to admit to yourself when you’ve reached that point. Sometimes you find yourself existing within a constant struggle, passing off the trials and tribulations as one-offs because of a particular situation, when the reality is that things would get a whole lot easier if you just cut ties and moved on. Sometimes the situation isn’t working because it’s unfixable.

We see this in pro sports all the time – Misused or Miserable Player A gets dealt somewhere new, gets some new linemates, a different colored sweater and a few more minutes, and poof: Mikhail Grabovski suddenly has exactly double his point total in the same amount of games just one year later. And (for some reason) the Leafs don’t seem to miss him either.

So, with the talk of a “double trade deadline” this year, we can expect to see some players get some new homes. Here’s 10 guys who need the fresh start most.


ryan milller profile#10

Ryan Miller

Salary sitch: $6.25 this year, pending UFA

Stat line: 36 games, .926 save percentage

Miller is an easy one. The poor guy was stellar for the Sabres during the years they were relevant, and had a couple fairly good playoffs runs (05-06, 06-07). Since then he’s seen a couple first round exits, the organization blow the team up with grenades, and more black rubber than a Goodyear factory. He’s 33, is having a tremendous year, and doesn’t deserve to spend his remaining years as a quality tender as part of a rebuild. He’s too competitive.

martin erat prof#09

Martin Erat

Salary sitch: $4.5 per this season and next.

Stat line: 45 games, ZERO goals, TWENTY assists

Also an easy pick given that he actually requested a trade from the Capitals earlier in the season. He put together a career as a pretty effective point-producer in Nashville, and now finds himself getting third line minutes in Washington. Head coach Adam Oates doesn’t love him. Remarkably, he’s played 45 games without scoring a goal (20 assists is the most ever by a forward with no goals, if he were to pack it in today – thanks to Japers Rink for that). He came to the team at a high cost, so expectations were the same. Dude just needs to pretend Washington never happened, like Jeff Carter with the Blue Jackets.

thomas greiss prof#08

Thomas Greiss

Salary sitch: $750k this year, pending UFA

Stat line: .935 save percentage in 13 starts

The Coyotes back-up goalie is only ever going to get back-up minutes and back-up pay given that the team just chucked a duffle bag full of money at Mike Smith. Meanwhile, Smith is sporting a .908 save percentage, and Greiss is at .935 in 13 appearances. He only turned 28 a couple days ago. Dude shouldn’t resign himself to mop-up duty.

david booth prof#07

David Booth

Salary sitch: $4.25 this year and next

Stat line: 5 and 7 for 12 in 39 games

The personified camo that is David Booth is not exactly beloved by his new coach John Tortorella. This is a guy who has a 30 goal season and two 20-plus goalers under his belt (and was on pace for another). In Vancouver he has five in half a season (despite being near two shots a game), and he’s only averaged 13 minutes of ice, when he isn’t healthy-scratched. He needs to go somewhere like Detroit (hey look, that’s where he’s from!), where he can ride an ATV around and shoot stuff and fly that US flag that he likely has tattooed somewhere, I’m guessing his shoulder blade.

james reimer prof#06

James Reimer

Salary sitch: $1.8m this year, pending RFA

Stat line: .911 save percentage in 24 starts

The Maple Leafs now-back-up is a 25-year-old saint with a career .914 save percentage (while playing behind the Leafs D), and for some reason people think he sucks. Seriously, it’s remarkable how small the difference between Bernier and him actually is, and how large people believe the gap to be. He needs to go somewhere he’d be appreciated. Like, say, the New York Islanders. He could resist all the big-city temptations after the move to Brooklyn too, it’d be perfect.

evander kane prof#05

Evander Kane

Salary sitch: $5.25 per through 2017-18.

Stat line: 15 goals, 14 assists in 42 games.

This is a 22-year-old 30 goal scorer who tweets pictures of himself using cash stacks as a phone in Vegas, and he plays in Winnipeg, where the media talks s*** about him. I bet he resents the hell out of that relocation from Atlanta. He’s worth a small fortune in a trade, but man, does he ever belong on this list. He needs to live in Manhattan Beach and play for the Kings. Lord knows they need the scoring right now.

pk subban prof#04

P.K. Subban

Salary sitch: Hahahahah.

(…okay fine, he makes $2.875, pending RFA)

Stat line: 8 and 28 for 36 points in 53 games.

Subban is going to draw attention anywhere – he’s a big personality with a big shot who hits hard and just plays…big. The magnifying glass of Montreal has made him into a caricature of who he really is, and something about the whole situation just seems toxic. He’s a 24-year-old Norris Trophy winner who could probably use some good coaching, less attention, and just a fresh start. His contract’s up and the man is OWED. Like, 10-million-per-owed. We’ll see if Montreal agrees with me or not.

dustin byfuglien profjpeg#03

Dustin Byfuglien

Salary sitch: $5.2 per through 2015-16

Stat line: 12 goals, 28 assists for 40 points in 55 games.

Third in the league in scoring by a defenseman (yes, I know he’s been playing forward lately – he has points in one of his last six games though), and the guy gets articles – like, plural – written about him about how he’s bringing the team down and needs to be run out of town. 40 points from the backend. Eff off. So anyway, give the people what they want. 29 other teams would be happy to have him, and the whole Winnipeg part of his career doesn’t seem like it’s been much fun.

nail yakupov prof#02

Nail Yakupov

Salary sitch: Entry level deal, $925k this year and next.

Stat line: 10 and 10 for 20 in 51 games.

Oh, calm down. I’m not saying the Oilers should trade him – I’m saying there’s no doubt that he’d benefit from being on a new team. They’ve got this kid tumbling around the emotional dryer in Edmonton – he’s a healthy scratch, he’s on PP1, he’s crap, he’s awesome…he doesn’t know which way is up. He definitely needs some good coaching, and while I believe Dallas Eakins is capable of providing it, I think his skills are probably being shaped, instead of nurtured so they can grow. They’re shearing off his square edges so they can jam him into a round hole, like a good ‘ol North American player. I have no doubt that some team out there would provide him a square hole so he could just bomb around and fire one-T’s on the powerplay and thrive.

jake gardiner prof#01

Jake Gardiner

Salary sitch: Entry level, $875k, pending RFA

Stat line: 5 and 12 for 17 in 53 games

Y’know those years where babies have like, a crazy ability to absorb information and language and all that? The formative years, as they say? Jake Gardiner has like, one or two “formative years” left as a developing NHL d-man, and the Leafs are filling his head with shit he doesn’t need, like Latin. (Take THAT, Latin.) He’s another guy who’s been healthy scratched because he won’t dump the puck in and he won’t stop rushing and he refuses to kill a sabre-toothed Tiger with his bare hands or whatever it is Randy Carlyle wants him to do. Some team could take the talented guy, take the governor off the golf cart and let him fly. He’s a beautiful skater with great offensive sense. He needs to be somewhere that lets him use the tools he has.

Comments (46)

  1. Obviously not at the same level of the guys above, but Josh Bailey needs a fresh start someone.

  2. I would love for the Avs to somehow pry Gardiner out of Toronto. Think he would be a great addition for a team that lacks a gifted offensive defenseman and somebody to run the PP. Don’t know what Toronto would need in return but can’t see Colorado giving up one of their big guns for him. Now Subban on the other hand…

    • Way ahead of you, friend! I’ve already put together some flashy charts showing how great Mitchell’s shot quality is, and photoshopped him blocking a shot while wrestling a bear.

  3. So Yakupov is obvious because its so publicized, but Gardner is such a great call. I swear when I get the chance to watch Leafs play he stands out more than any defenseman on that team, in good ways. I would love for him to be on my favorite team and im sure many people who watch the game would agree. Puck moving defenseman are never used right by some coaches though, its the square hole round peg argument. Work with the assets you have don’t change them into the assets you want.

  4. We, as a Toronto organization, really, really suck at developing young talent apparently. Or maybe it’s just Carlyle. I’m not sure, but after Luke Schenn’s solid rookie season, we made him put in 30-40lbs or whatever it was as a 19-year old, and he became the slowest player in the league (and we lucked out HUGE getting JVR back as a result).

    We’re totally screwing Reimer and Gardiner up, in and out of the pressbox, going from Reimer as our #1 leading us into the playoffs against the Bruins to barely a backup. Gardiner no better: he’ll play 26 minutes some nights, 12 on others, and some not at all. I don’t get why Reilly is so talented and Gardiner apparently isn’t, but I’d love to have Randy explain this shit to me one day. And we’re letting him do this after he ran Grabbo out of town and replaced C-Mac with Clarkson because he’s a “Carlyle” type of player with a career high 40-something points (which he played with Elias, Parise and Kovalchuk to get).

    I think I might hate Randy Carlyle.

    • Also, I really, really want PK Subban on my team, and hope with all my heart that Montreal sends him here (Toronto) for pennies on the dollar because of his “risky” play.

      • The rivalry would prevent any such trade. No way do rivals like those trade without it being bit players or for a kings ransom. Just look at the Kessel and Kaberle deals.

    • The corollary to this (and it applies to the Leafs and Carlyle): don’t get the players to fit the coach, get the coach to fit the players. Coaches are easier to find than top end talent. Carlyle isn’t even a top end coach. A new coach is sort of a change of scenery.

  5. I’d add Khudobin (if Ward stays) and Neuvirth to that list. I think Khudobin has real #1 potential and I think Neuvy could develop into a solid #1 if put in the right situation.

  6. Anyone else wildly uncomfortable with the fact that 4 our of the top 5 on this list are essentially there because of Race or Country of Birth? I am not saying I a disagree with Borune’s list, but rather that I am so confused as to why bigotry is still so prevalent in the NHL in 2014, a league that is otherwise so blessed with such a rich collection of different nationalities and cultures.

    • No no no, its just a coincidence. Two guys in Winnipeg who are both great players being run out of town by the media. Is there something a common trait between them that would rub the media the wrong way in Winnipeg? Nooooooooooo…

    • Wouldn’t it be all 5 then (Gardiners from ‘murica)?

    • It’s getting harder and harder to figure out why people don’t like certain players. As I previously stated, I’d give my right arm to have Subban on the Leafs, and the same goes 100% for Buff or Kane. These guys are key, big-time players who put up solid numbers who aren’t getting paid ridiculous salaries (yet, and I’m ok with the Leafs paying Subban $10M a season anyway). It can’t seriously be as simple as a race thing…can it? I’d be really disappointed in humanity these days if that was the best explanation we had :(

    • I think your comment raises some interesting points, especially if we look at it from a probability point of view.

      ****My probability skills are not great (and realize that my version is largely simplified and not completely accurate), but I think you will get the point.****

      There 30 NHL teams. Each team has about 23 players. That means there are about 690 players, more or less, in the NHL.

      According to various sources on the internet, there are about 26 “black” players in the NHL.

      Therefore, 26/690 = 3.77% of NHLers are black. This means that roughly 96.23% of players are white.

      Now the really interesting part, is that what are the chances that out of 10 random players, 3 are black? That would (roughly) be something like:

      3.77%x3.77%x3.77%x96.23%x96.23%x96.23%x96.23%x96.23%x96.23%x96.23% = 0.004%, or about 1/25,000.

      Obviously there are other factors going into the list, but it still shows that something is not quite right.

      • Just got finished saying:

        You have 3 black players in a row insinuating personality/character issues and you didn’t even try to hide it, either. Spread them out a bit if you’re going to make veiled racial insinuations. Try not to be so lazy and transparent about it, right?

  7. Yotes fan here: I actually wouldn’t mind resigning Greiss and making him and Smith a Tandem.

  8. The most telling factor in Gardiner’s case is his player profile picture. dude looks terrified…

  9. Media Category #1: James Mirtle

    My favorite hockey writer (Sorry, Bourne. Will you take top-5?) is stuck in Toronto, forced to cover only the Leafs for the Globe and Mail. He really needs to move to franchise that will allow him to roam all over the League and cover what he wants, when he wants. At the G&M he’s done great work introducing the new statistics to a wider audience, and explaining how Nonis and Carlyle are terrible. For his trouble he gets called a traitor by Panglossian fans who read him and a Leaf homer by people who clearly don’t. Get him out of there.

  10. Justin, good call on getting Booth out of Vancouver. When he has not been hurt, he has been ineffective there. Detroit or Dallas would both be good for him.

  11. Your entry on Reimer could be pulled straight from my brain, right down to thinking he and the Isles could be good for each other. To be fair, though, my version would include more, “Why are you like this, Leafs?! Whyyyy?”

    • I’d like to see Reims get a honest shot at a #1 job whether it’s with the Islanders or maybe Winnipeg. I wondered if (hoped?) there was a deal in the works a couple weeks ago – Reimer and Clarkson for Scrivens and Gagner.

      I’m really disappointed in how Reims has been treated lately. Hate to see him go but happy to watch him succeed I guess.

      • Unfortunately there is no way Clarkson is getting traded after half a season (maybe a 1/4′s worth of games). That would signify that Nonis was wrong and would cost him his job if they missed the playoffs.

      • Winnipeg could definitely benefit from his talents, but they seem inexplicably determined to stick with Pavelec. I get GMs not wanting to admit they’ve given a fat contract to the wrong guy *coughClarksoncough* but surely there’s no way anyone can look at Pavelec and think, “that’s our guy,” right? Poor Jets fans.

  12. Jason,

    Please bear with us re. #’s 1 & 6. As it turns out, it’s a lot harder to trade a coach than players but we are working on it. As I said no one is untouchable but Randy’s not in high demand at this point. We may have made a minor strategic error sending Mikhail and Clarke off to sing his praises but we will not make the same error with Jake and James.



  13. Bourne, I really respect your hockey writing, but your ongoing woe-is-me commentary about Gardiner is absolutely ridiculous. Gards doesn’t get benched because he doesn’t dump the puck in or slay tigers. He gets benched when he tries spinerama plays in his D-zone and gives the puck away. But yet you keep going on and on about how RC is trying to turn Gardiner into some stay-at-home Gleason type.

    You’re so far off base on this that you just need to stop. Gards plays a ton for the Leafs and is often one of the team’s leaders in TOI, and he and partner Rielly have free reign to rush the puck when the situation warrants. But when they make dumb giveaways or stupid decisions in the D-zone, they are held accountable and that’s the way it should be.

    • I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. Carlyle is irrational with some players, trying to fit them into his system. He has been hard on Gardiner, Kadri etc. And caused them to lose confidence. He’s done the same to Reimer. You quote stats but who has been set up to succeed? Too many young Leafs are playing with the 350 lb gorilla on their backs. And not surprisingly, it took Nonis taking Holland away before Randy Bobandy started to loosen the leash. Now if Diamond Dave can figure out how to make Carlyle appreciate Reimer…

  14. “Seriously, it’s remarkable how small the difference between Bernier and (Reimer) actually is”

    That’s true. That is until you look at things like rebound control and, I dunno… statistics?

    Reimer 24 0 2 1180 63 0 1 3.20 10 6 1 658 0.913

    Bernier 40 1 0 2231 98 0 1 2.64 19 15 5 1207 0.925

    • Reimer is definitely starter material though. He doesn’t get credit for just how good he is. I think that the Isles would be a perfect fit for him. With real goaltending, they’d benefit.

    • “like rebound control”

      Stopped reading here. You’ve been listening to Damien Cox and Glenn Healy too much. (He doesn’t actually give up a lot of rebounds).

      • Rebound “control”. Control is the important part of that statement. The amount of rebounds is unimportant. Bernier is a lot more comfortable and capable of kicking the puck to the corners whereas Reimer gives up more second chances (not a lot, but more).

        Reimer is a great goalie and has starter potential. But anyone who watches the Leafs consistently can see Bernier is the better and more consistent player.

  15. Seriously though, fuck Randy Carlyle.

  16. Can’t disagree with your more about Gardiner, Justin.

    The coaching staff has been telling him to move the puck more and move his legs more – quit gliding while making plays. I could probably come up with 20 direct quotes from the coaching staff relating to this.

    Gardiner gets beat on his one-on-one coverage regularly and this is the reason the coaching staff doesn’t trust him against the best players. I’m sure Carlyle would love nothing more than to have Gardiner / Phaneuf as his top pairing, but Gardiner has difficulty against 4th line. He has no assemblance of defensive zone coverage and it’s frustrating to watch, even for fans. But that should come with time—defenceman take a long time to learn how to defend properly.

    The nonsense about him not dumping the puck is simplistic journalism, misleading and is just plain wrong. Shameful stuff.

    • Also, if Carlyle hates him for not “dumping the puck in” (whhhattt?) why is he *2nd* on the team in ice-time and a few games was leading TOI for the Maple Leafs?

      How does that work, exactly?

      • The whole argument for Gardiner being traded seems like it was taken from the season where he was stuck in the minors and #FreeJakeGardiner was all over Twitter. Anyone who watches the Leafs will have seen that Gardiner is getting almost as much ice time as Phaneuf. Yes, clearly Gardiner needs to move on – getting 20+ minutes a night must suck for his development.

        • Actually Gardiner gets MORE even strength ice time than Phaneuf, Gardiner leads the team in that category, but the haters gotta hate so Carlyle must be doing something bad to Gardiner.

  17. I hope people understand that nobody in Winnipeg actually agrees with Gary Lawless, the writer who is supposedly running Kane and Buff out of town. If you watch the games you’ll notice that Byfuglien gets the loudest cheer every time they introduce the players. Sure there was a bit of frustration with his spotty defensive play when he was back on D, but the guy is a fan favourite and isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

    Kane is a similar story. There were a few off ice incidents in his first year here, but the money-stack picture story is a whole load of bullshit. Nobody cares except Lawless. I feel the average fan would say Kane plays selfishly on the ice from time to time, which can be frustrating, but he’s still developing as a player and we’ve already seen improvement.

    I think it’s completely naive to say these players are being run out of town. Please don’t think that shitty beat writers like Lawless echo how the fans in Winnipeg feel.

  18. Reimer needs to go because he has lost the starting job to Bernier and Reimer will be a UFA in July Bernier is simply a better goalie, get over it, Carlyle is not “screwing” with Reimer, in fact he’s probably played him too much if anything.

    The Gardiner thing is also knee jerk leftover from Gardiner’s post concussion time in the AHL, this year Gardiner is 3rd on the team in ice time and LEADS THE TEAM IN EVEN STRENGTH TIME ON ICE, so if Carlyle is jerking him around he’s doing a terrible job of it. Maybe the author should watch more games and listen to less rumours.

  19. To be fair the negative articles about Buff and Kane are pretty much just from Gary Lawless (mabe 80% at the least) because he does not like black people I would assume. I hope they both get traded so WPG can see what they lost. Not to mention put Buff back on D! Watching him play back there was great, not now that he has to drag setoguchi and jokinen around with him, no wonder he is so skinny now

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