Nonis will soon put his stamp on Leafs

 

 
 
 
 
Newly-appointed Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis attends a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday January 9, 2013.
 

Newly-appointed Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis attends a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday January 9, 2013.

Photograph by: Chris Young, Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Dave Nonis has buried a contract in the minors and shipped a fourth-line winger to a team in the Western Conference, but the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager has been fairly quiet since taking the reins from Brian Burke two months ago.

That could soon change.

With the NHL's trade deadline less than a month away, we will soon see what type of GM Nonis is. The deadline has traditionally been a time when sane men lose their heads in an attempt to chase a Stanley Cup or simply sneak into the playoffs. More recently, it is a time where the hype heading in far exceeds the actual moves made.

This year's deadline is April 3 -- a mere 12 games before the end of the regular season -- so teams should know if they are buyers or sellers. But for the Leafs, the decision-making process could be a little more complicated since they could be buying and selling.

Will Nonis try to dump the team's highly paid healthy scratches? Will he try to turn some of the pending unrestricted free agents into draft picks? Will he try to acquire a top-line centre, such as Colorado's Paul Stastny, to push the Leafs from a bubble team to a contender?

Or will he stay the course and see what he has in this current group?

The latter was Burke's preferred method. He never made any blockbuster moves at the trade deadline because he never liked the prices being asked or to be in a position to have to make a decision out of fear or in a panic.

In hindsight, his biggest trade deadline pickup was acquiring defenceman Mark Fraser from Anaheim last season.

This year, it is a bit different, if only because the fifth-place Leafs are not on the outside looking in. Heading into Friday night's games, they were four points back of the Montreal Canadiens and seven points ahead of the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets.

Things could obviously change, but for now they look like a playoff team. They might not look like a championship contender or even a team that can make it out of the first round. But with two capable goaltenders, plenty of depth on defence and a forward corps that should be getting Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin back from injury sometime soon, there is something to build on here.

Nonis' challenge is to keep building without affecting the foundation.

The No. 1 priority is to qualify for the playoffs. And while Nonis has made it clear he will not mortgage the future to get there, he also recognizes what lies ahead.

The Leafs have six players headed for unrestricted free agency and another six who will be restricted agents on July 1. It is safe to say that Tim Connolly, who is playing out his contract with the Toronto Marlies, is on the market. But the decision becomes tougher with a player such as Clarke MacArthur.

The third-line winger, who is in the final year of a contract worth US$3.25-million, has scored 20 goals in each of the last two seasons and has been one of Toronto's hottest forwards of late, with four goals and 10 points in his last 10 games playing on the wing with Nazem Kadri. For that reason, there is an obvious downside in taking him out of the lineup.

Then again, with Lupul and Frattin close to returning, there are other options.

Nonis might not trade MacArthur for a second-round draft pick. But would he move him to the offence-deprived San Jose Sharks in exchange for Ryane Clowe, who is having an off-year in the final season of his contract but has the size that head coach Randy Carlyle covets and playoff pedigree the Leafs could use?

A similar question exists with pending UFA Tyler Bozak, as well as with some of the team's defencemen.

The Leafs would likely have no issue parting ways with Mike Komisarek or John-Michael Liles, who have become regulars in the press box. But would they also move soon-to-be free agent Mike Kostka, knowing Jake Gardiner is biding his time in the minors and 2012 first-rounder Morgan Rielly could be available to play for the Leafs as early as March 16 if Moose Jaw fails to make the Western Hockey League playoffs?

The answer will come sometime before April 3. Until then, let the rumours begin.

 
 
 
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Newly-appointed Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis attends a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday January 9, 2013.
 

Newly-appointed Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis attends a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday January 9, 2013.

Photograph by: Chris Young, Canadian Press

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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