This tale of three Maple Leafs centres is a complicated and unusual challenge for general manager Dave Nonis — not now, but at the conclusion of this hockey season. Exactly what he is going to do with Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovski — the three Leaf centres whose production rank somewhat in inverse relationship to their contribution to the success of the hockey club — is a guessing game at this point. But it will be the first creative significant challenge of Nonis’ relatively quiet time on the job. No team in hockey has as strange a juxtaposition between salary paid out and performance in-team than do the Maple Leafs. Their second-highest-paid defenceman is in the minor leagues, playing on the same team as their fourth highest-paid forward. Their highest-paid forward, Grabovski, centred the fourth line on Wednesday night in New York and is having his first dreadful season. A Harvard professor — not the previous general manager — could take on the assignment of making sense of the interrelationship between Leafs payroll and output and it would make for a difficult thesis in convoluted hockey economics. And soon Nonis will have to act on the expiring contracts of Bozak and Kadri, two very different cases of players who will be free agents, with Bozak unrestricted and the younger Kadri restricted. Begin with Bozak, who has clearly found a place as coach Randy Carlyle’s trusted centre of choice. That has to be worth something in this fine Toronto season. He plays more time minutes, in more situations, than any other Leaf, centring the first line and the first power play, significant faceoffs — and yet his offensive production playing alongside Phil Kessel is just ordinary.
Leafs have to figure out what to do with their centremen in off-season
Toronto Sun | Apr 12