Leafs, Raptors being patient

on July 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

It has been a relatively quiet draft and free agency period for those here in the GTA. While blockbuster trades and free agent signings sent huge shockwaves across the NBA and NHL, the Dinos and Buds simply did what everyone already expected them too. It feels like a bit of a letdown almost as if both teams took a step backwards because nothing ‘exciting’ transpired. It wasn’t for lack of trying though as they did try to sign a superstar like Steven Stamkos and they did try to trade for a power forward like Serge Ibaka. But rather than make splashy headlines they remained patient and did what was best for their organizations.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs won the draft lottery a few months ago, it gave them the overall number one pick in the draft. The city was abuzz with excitement. Everyone knew that this pick meant a young hockey phenom by the name of Auston Matthews was coming to Toronto. His name came up on every single radio and tv sports talk show over and over again. His stats, his size, his skills and his weaknesses were analyzed, re-analyzed and then over-analyzed some more. So a couple of months later when the draft occurred and the Maple Leafs were on the podium it became very anti-climactic when they selected the American number one overall.

The Toronto Raptors knew for quite some time that one of their top priorities this offseason was to sign 2x all-star, DeMar DeRozan. There was talk that a number of teams were interested in signing him from the “I don’t care what the salary cap is” New York Knicks, to the Compton born’s favourite team growing up, the Los Angeles Lakers. Torontonians have plenty of history of best players leaving and signing elsewhere like Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh so there was a reason to worry. But a week prior to free agency, comments from teammate Kyle Lowry, coach Dwayne Casey and from DeRozan himself led most people to believe he was going to remain a Raptor. In fact, he wasn’t setting up any meetings with other teams unless talks broke down with the Raptors. So it came to no one’s surprise then that a few hours into free agency it was announced that DeRozan had agreed to resign with the Raptors for $137.5M over 5 years. A Raptor re-signing should be big news and it is, but it just didn’t grab our attention once again because we knew it was going to happen.

Both teams could have made that big, flashy transaction that would have thrilled fans and media alike, but the overall feeling is that it would hurt the team in the long run. So the Raptors did not overpay for Ibaka like Orlando did. The Leafs didn’t offer Stamkos an ungodly amount of money in the cap era of the NHL. In either case it would not have been the best option for the team and although it appears that in the short term they have failed to improve, they are better in the long run with staying pat.

So the Leafs went on to sign free agents Matt Martin and Roman Polak. The $10M contract over 4 years for Martin may seem a little steep and long, but it isn’t horrible. Martin does add some feistiness but it is his veteran leadership that management wanted to assist what will be a very young team. Polak’s deal is most likely in hopes of trading him to a contender at the deadline… again. Just like Daniel Winnik, he is the gift that keeps on giving. Now none of these signings are as headline grabbing as the “23 minutes that shook the hockey world” but these moves will keep the Leafs on course. By the way for those living under a rock, those 23 minutes I mentioned was in reference to the huge and unrelated back-to-back-to-back announcements. First Edmonton traded one of their top forwards, Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenceman Adam Larsson. Shortly thereafter Twitter broke the internet again as the Montreal Canadians traded PK Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. Finally, a few minutes after that the biggest free agent since Zdeno Chara signed with Boston in 2006, Steven Stamkos re-signed in Tampa Bay.

So despite headlining events are still occurring like Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors, it doesn’t look like that will happen in the 6ix anytime soon. But don’t worry, sometimes the best move to make, is no move at all.

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