Dave Nonis has been the Leafs' GM for two years now. When Nonis was GM of the Vancouver Canucks, he pulled off an amazing deal that transformed the franchise. He somehow managed to rid Vancouver of an over-priced Todd Bertuzzi while bringing in Roberto Luongo. While Luongo couldn’t bring the Cup to Vancouver, he had a fantastic run and provided some truly great hockey. Nonis also managed to steal Alex Edler with the 91st pick. Besides those great moves, Nonis mostly made a slew of minor deals that had little effect on the team.
In Toronto, Nonis has had many more moves to dissect in a shorter amount of time. Taking over for his pal Brian Burke, Nonis had a ton of housecleaning to do. Burke loved him some veterans, and managed to bloat the team severely with players like Matthew Lombardi, Tim Connolly, and of course Mike Komisarek. Nonis did well to purge the roster and create tons of cap space, at the time, they had the second-most in the league. This was cause for great excitement for a fan base that was aching for change. Nonis unfortunately couldn’t contain that excitement and spent all of his money at once. By overvaluing Dion Phaneuf and David Clarkson he has left the Leafs with no cap room yet again. Their payroll has the structure of a championship team, while they are in the middle of yet another disaster season. To make things more complicated, Brendan Shanahan was appointed Team President, and outsiders are left wondering who is truly in charge.
Brendan Shanahan has used his time so far to evaluate the organization from top to bottom. You have to think Nonis is being scrutinized heavily. Let’s scrutinize along with him.
12 Losing Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin for nothing
Two useful players that Nonis lost for nothing. MacArthur was allowed to walk as Nonis thought he was upgrading with the similarly named Clarkson. MacArthur had provided and still provides a similar if not arguably better game, at far less money. He ended up signing with Ottawa for the same $3.2 million per year that he had been making in Toronto. Ottawa liked him enough to reward him with a longer, richer contract.
11 Buying out Mikhail Grabovski
Two of the biggest problems with the Leafs right now: they are in desperate need of a compliance buyout, and Tyler Bozak is miscast as a top-six center. Nonis created two problems with one stone when he criminally wasted a buyout on the useful Grabovski and used that money to tie Toronto to Bozak for five years at $4.2 million per season.
10 Overpaying Tyler Bozak
9 Dion Phaneuf contract extension
8 David Clarkson
When a player earns the nickname “the contract”, that says all you need to know. Nonis went full Glen Sather on this one, outbidding the competition in a sweepstakes reminiscent of the Gomez, Drury and Briere summer of 2007. The best teams are always mentioned in the trade rumours, but like Kenny Rogers always says, “know when to walk away, know when to run.”
6 Nazem Kadri's RFA contract
5 Acquiring Mike Santorelli
The former Vancouver GM is two for two when picking up the Canucks castoffs. Santorelli was a fan favourite in Vancouver, providing decent production on the cheap. Their loss is Nonis’s gain as he scored a fantastic utility player for just $1.5 million. Santorelli was able to slot in on the wing or as a center, can score or check, and he proved to be a useful trade chip this year, when he was sent to Nashville along with Cody Franson in exchange for a 1st round pick, Brendan Leipsic, and Olli Jokinen. We'll see what Nonis is now able to do with those pieces, if he's around to see next season.
4 Signing (and dropping) Mason Raymond
3 Trading for Jonathan Bernier
He can hardly be blamed for the Leafs record. Before Randy Carlyle was fired, nobody was playing defence and Bernier was usually left out to dry. Of course this creates some goaltending controversy as James Reimer, the darling from seasons past, has been relegated to the backup position. Not a bad problem to have. He can either be moved for an asset or kept around in case Bernier falters.
1 Trading David Clarkson
Nonis, just when we thought Leafs fans couldn't get any madder at you, you do something like this... And totally redeem yourself!
It's nothing short of a miracle that Nonis managed to unload Clarkson's contract on the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Nathan Horton, who has been snake bitten with a severe back injury and it is doubtful whether he'll ever play again. If he ever can play again and be an effective player, great. But if he can't, the Leafs still won't have to worry about his cap hit on their roster and address their rebuild.
Has Nonis saved his job with the move? Who knows. At least if he is fired, he's made the job a little easier for the next guy.
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