Dave Nonis, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs speaks with the media during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 29, 2013 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)

Under Pressure: Dave Nonis

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs we picked… general manager Dave Nonis.

In a single season he managed to accomplish what his predecessor, Brian Burke, never could: He led the Maple Leafs the playoffs. Of course he did that with a team largely built by Burke and while Nonis still deserves some recognition, last summer was his first opportunity to mold this team in major ways.

So what did he decide to do? For starters, he decided to re-sign of Tyler Bozak to a five-year, $21 million extension and ink of David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million deal.

Those two contracts are big risks as they are lucrative deals to players that have historically been solid, but not consistently great. Clarkson in particular is a big roll of the dice as that contract will take the physical 29-year-old well past his prime.

Taken as part of the larger picture and those deals represent a summer theme of seemingly dismissing potential cap implications. When they acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings, Nonis offered to retain a cap hit of around half a million. Paul Ranger, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009-10, was offered a one-way, $1 million deal. More recently, with 13 other forwards inked to one-way contracts and already close to the cap ceiling, the Maple Leafs handed Mason Raymond a similar contract.

When he was still a restricted free agent, Nazem Kadri expressed frustration over the Maple Leafs’ cap situation and while he did eventually agree to a bridge contract anyways, Toronto has put itself in a bad position when it comes to dealing with restricted free agent defenseman Cody Franson.

Ultimately, Nonis will be judged on how this team does as a whole rather than how much each player is making. In that regard, the Maple Leafs have some potential. If Joffrey Lupul can stay healthy, if the young goaltending tandem of Bernier and James Reimer works out, and if some of their maturing defensemen continue to take steps forwards, then Toronto could make the playoffs again this season and even make it past the first round.

That would be critical, as Nonis didn’t sign captain Dion Phaneuf or forward Phil Kessel to contract extensions over the summer, so both are still eligible to become unrestricted free agents after this season. Losing Kessel in particular would be a huge setback for the Maple Leafs as they paid dearly to get him and now rely on him heavily to lead their offense.

If they believe that the Maple Leafs under Nonis are heading in the right direction, retaining their services would be far easier. Conversely, if Toronto gets off to a rough start, then the Maple Leafs will be bombarded with trade rumors.

Either way, this season has the potential to define the Maple Leafs for years to come, and consequently shape Nonis’ tenure as well.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Torts not worried after Jackets get blown out twice — ‘Today was going to be a mess’

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets reacts on the bench during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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John Tortorella could only blame John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets got blown out in both their split-squad games Sunday against the Blues.

The Jackets dropped a 7-3 decision in St. Louis and lost 5-0 at home.

“Let’s not make any judgments here as far as today,” Tortorella said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “Today was going to be a mess. I give the guys credit. I’m not being negative about the team. They did what we asked of them (the first three days). They pushed. They gave it to us there and it suffers in these games.”

Tortorella, who runs notoriously tough training camps, wants to “make sure our conditioning is there by the 13th,” when the Jackets open the regular season.

Columbus plays its first three games at home, against Boston, San Jose and Chicago. A good start is going to be key for the Jackets, especially after starting last season 0-8-0.

Bernier back with Isles on training camp PTO

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Steve Bernier #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 25, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York liked enough of what it saw from Steve Bernier last season to offer him another kick at the can.

On Monday, the Isles announced that — for the second year in a row — Bernier would be coming to training camp on a PTO.

Last fall, Bernier parlayed his tryout into a one-year, $750,000 deal but only saw a limited body of work. The former first-round pick scored six points in 24 regular season games, then dressed for six playoff contests.

Bernier isn’t the only veteran forward attending Isles camp on a PTO, as longtime Devils winger Stephen Gionta is also there (Gionta and Bernier were once teammates in New Jersey).

There are holes to fill up front. The Isles lost three key forwards in free agency — Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Kyle Okposo — which will result in some of last year’s third- and fourth-line players getting bumped to more prominent roles.

Those promotions could bode well for Bernier and Gionta.

 

Sens to move AHL affiliate from Binghamton to Belleville

MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 13:  Center Jason Spezza of the Binghamton Senators smiles before the start of the American Hockey League All Star Skills Competition on February 13, 2005 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators announced today that they’ve purchased the AHL franchise in Binghamton, N.Y. and will move it to Belleville, Ont. for the start of the 2017-18 season.

From the press release:

The Ottawa Senators and the City of Belleville have also agreed on an eight-year agreement to welcome the newly minted Belleville Senators to the city.

In order to properly accommodate a new professional AHL team, the City of Belleville will immediately undertake more than $18.5 million in important renovations to modernize Belleville’s Yardmen Arena and prepare it for professional hockey for the first time in the city’s history. 

The Baby Sens have played in Binghamton since 2002, winning a Calder Cup in 2011. AHL officials are reportedly working to secure another franchise for the city for the 2017-18 season.

Belleville to Ottawa is a mere 2.5-hour drive, according to Google. The Belleville Bulls were an OHL team that started playing in 1981 before moving to Hamilton in 2015.

Seidenberg, without a contract, playing a key role for Team Europe

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Dennis Seidenberg has been a key player for Team Europe at the World Cup, and he doesn’t even have an NHL contract.

Seidenberg, 35, logged 23:30 in Europe’s 3-2 overtime upset of Sweden on Sunday. Only Roman Josi (29:00) played more for the winning side. Seidenberg even played more than his old Boston teammate, Zdeno Chara (22:26).

“I’ve played quite a bit,” Seidenberg said earlier in the tournament, per the Associated Press. “People should know what I can do and can’t do by now, but nonetheless this is an important tournament for me.”

A Stanley Cup champion in 2011, Seidenberg became an unrestricted free agent when he was bought out by the Bruins over the summer. At first, the decision shocked him, but the shock eventually passed. So far, he’s been holding out for a guaranteed contract, as opposed to a tryout.

The Ottawa Senators are reportedly a potential landing spot.

Seidenberg may not be a full-time, top-four defenseman anymore, but he should still be able to hold down a bottom-pairing role, with the ability to log top-four minutes if there’s an injury.

He’ll get another good look from the scouts on Tuesday when Team Europe opens its best-of-three series with the heavy favorites from Canada. He’s not the only UFA blue-liner on his team, as 34-year-old Christian Ehrhoff is also playing a role, albeit a smaller one.