Leafs have Dermott, Bracco thanks to 3 UFAs, 4 Trades By Luke Garrison (Wednesday January 16th, 2019)
PICTURED—LEAFS' PROSPECT JEREMY BRACCO USES HIS BLISTERING SPEED TO BLOW BY THE DEFENDER// Original Photo—Toronto Marlies on Twitter
TORONTO--It’s been a somewhat controversial season for the Leafs despite their fantastic 28-15-2 record.
William Nylander took forever to sign and is now slumping hard, Nazem Kadri has two goals in his last 27 games, and Frederik Andersen/Auston Matthews have both missed chunks of time due to injury.
At the same time, many things have gone right for the Leafs this year as well and two of those ‘things’ are Travis Dermott and Jeremy Bracco.
Dermott’s contributions have been far more noticeable seeing as he’s up with the big club full time, but Bracco has been tearing up the AHL as a 21-year-old sophomore while proving two things---his lack of size (5’9) isn’t a problem and his decorated junior career wasn’t a fluke.
Through 38 games, the young American has recorded eight goals and 37 points which has him tied for eleventh in AHL scoring.
Bracco’s never had issues piling up the points, however his success as a pro so far is still surprising not to mention extremely impressive.
Other career highlights from his junior days include three world junior gold medals (U17, U18, and U20), a Memorial Cup (where he led his team in scoring), and even a Calder Cup last year in what was his rookie season with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s hard to speculate on what his career potential might be, but it’s certainly looking positive.
As previously mentioned, Dermott has been a bright spot himself which is encouraging as any mention of the Leafs’ blue line is often met with harsh criticism.
One of the 22-year-olds’ biggest draws is his ability to drive play in the right direction. His CF% has remained just north of 55% since his NHL career began which is borderline elite for a young defender who’s just starting to get his feet wet against the best forwards in the world.
The offensive aspect of his game could use some work, but he’s already proven to be a stabilizing force in his own end. It’s ironic seeing as offence usually comes first for young rearguards. He’s also still on pace to hit around 25-30 points by season’s end which is far from abysmal for a blue-liner.
PICTURED—LEAFS' PROSPECT TRAVIS DERMOTT AS A MEMBER OF THE MARLIES IN 2017// Original Photo—Toronto Marlies on Twitter
The best part about both of these players is they were acquired for next to nothing thanks to free-agent signings, timely trades, and thorough scouting.
It all started back on July 8th, 2010 with the free agent signing of Brett Lebda. Remember him?
Many Leafs fans will remember Lebda as one of the worst defenceman to ever don the blue-and-white. He only played half a season with the Leafs, but that was more than enough time to dislike him completely. He recorded a goal and four points to go along with a plus-minus rating of minus-14 during his time in Toronto and often looked lost out there.
When he was finally shipped out, everyone was just happy to see him go. The return really meant very little as the trade’s ultimate prize was the riddance of Lebda. What some may not realize is that getting rid of him was actually the first domino to fall. Subsequent trades over the next few years, starting with that trade, eventually lead to the selections of Dermott and Bracco.
Isn’t it crazy how all of this can be linked back to saying bye bye to Brett?
The deal officially took place on July 3rd, 2011. The buds sent Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney (an undrafted free-agent forward the Leafs had previously signed from the QMJHL) to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson.
Lombardi had been signed by the Preds in the summer of 2010, inking a three-year deal worth $10.5 million ($3.5 million AAV).
Unfortunately, he suffered a concussion in the pre-season and only ended up playing two games for Nashville that year.
Lombardi had actually scored a career-high 53 points the season before his injury, but the Preds decided to move on from him due to cap issues.
He became hard to ship out since he hadn’t played regularly in nearly a year; therefore, adding Franson as a pot sweetener so that Toronto would accept the deal became imperative.
Franson was everything the Leafs were looking for in a defenceman and he had some solid years for the team.
He was 24 years old, 6’5, and coming off a decent sophomore season that saw him rack up eight goals and 29 points in 80 games.
Did I mention he’s also a right-handed shot?
PICTURED—FORMER LEAFS DEFENCEMAN CODY FRANSON LAYS OUT SIDNEY CROSBY // Original Photo—Toronto Maple Leafs on Twitter
On July 3rd, 2014—exactly three years after the Franson trade—the Leafs signed free-agent depth winger Mike Santorelli to a one-year, $1.5 million pact. As a rebuilding team, the buds were simply looking for all the cheap, veteran help they could get.
As the 2015 trade deadline approached, Toronto was having a predictably mediocre year and decided to make a swap ahead of the rush.
On February 15th, the Leafs dealt both Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Olli Jokinen (a veteran forward), Brendan Leipsic (a forward prospect), and a 2015 1st-round pick.
Fans were fed up as the disastrous 2014-15 season finally came to an end. The buds finished fourth last in the NHL, but having two first-round picks (4th and 24th overall) was exciting not to mention essential in regards to the team’s rebuild.
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft began and many around the hockey world believed the Leafs would select Dylan Strome. After all, the team desperately needed a top-six centre and the young forward was coming off an absolutely dominant sophomore season (68 games played, 45 goals, and 129 points) with the Erie Otters (OHL).
His size (6’3) was also a very appealing asset and the fact that he was born and raised in nearby Mississauga was simply icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, the Arizona Coyotes took Strome third overall halting all dreams of a homegrown, locally-raised star centre saving Toronto.
As many know, however, the Leafs went on to draft Mitch Marner next and the rest is history. Not to mention Marner was also raised in the Greater Toronto Area. Considering how things have played out, the slick winger ended up being the true homegrown star the team needed.
PICTURED—MITCH MARNER SALUTES THE CROWD // Original Photo—NHL Public Relations on Twitter.
As the buds’ 24th overall selection approached, theories of who it might be ran wild.
Leafs Nation was especially salivating at the idea of picking Travis Konecny as both Konecny and Marner were fantastic while capturing gold for Team Canada at the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
But Toronto’s GM Kyle Dubas had other ideas and soon enough, one pick became two. The Leafs traded the 24th overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the 29th and 61st overall picks.
Neither draft choice originally belonged to the Flyers (29th was from Tampa Bay, 61st was from Chicago) and sure enough, the Broad Street Bullies went on to select none other than Travis Konecny. Dubas also wasn’t done turning one thing into two. The Leafs then dealt the 29th overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for the 34th and 68th overall picks. Strangely enough, the 34th pick acquired by the Leafs was originally theirs but had been sent to the Los Angeles Kings during the Jonathan Bernier trade.
Life works in mysterious ways, right?
At 34, the Leafs selected the beloved Travis Dermott. It kind of hurts to know that the Carolina Hurricanes took Sebastian Aho at 35, but hindsight is also twenty-twenty which is why many other teams passed over him as well.
The original draft-day trade with the Flyers granted the Leafs the choice of picking Bracco at 61 and that’s exactly what they did.
It’s also quite fortunate to see their first three picks thriving as the other six from that class are either no longer affiliated with the Leafs or have not yet made a significant impact with the organization, aside from perhaps Dmytro Timashov (5th round, 125th overall).
In summary, Toronto signed Lebda, Slaney, and Santorelli as low-cost, low-risk free agents and was able to turn them into Dermott and Bracco through a series of trades.
A GM’s dream scenario when it comes to asset management.
PICTURED—BRETT LEBDA WAS A STANLEY CUP CHAMPION WITH THE DETROIT RED WINGS // Original Photo—Brett Lebda on Twitter