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Siegel: Nonis updates Leafs' draft shuffle, coaching search

Jonas Siegel
6/11/2014 7:58:51 PM
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NEW YORK – These are busy times for Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis.

There's the upcoming draft in Philadelphia, a coaching staff to round out and a roster requiring some alterations and likely upheaval following another late season collapse.

First up is the draft. The Leafs hold the eighth overall pick in a class that's more or less unpredictable – especially at the top. Nonis, attending the GM meetings in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, reiterated what was first reported in the Toronto Sun, that his club would be open to moving up from their current perch or staying put if the price was too high.

"You've got a pretty good chance of getting a good player at eight or four," he said. "For us to move up the price tag would have to reflect that fact."

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is reported to have been actively shopping the first overall pick in a 2014 collection that lacks any clear-cut top prospect; defenceman Aaron Ekblad, as well as centres Sam Bennett, Leon Drasaitl, and Sam Reinhart are among the names in contention.

Nonis went with a hulking, defensively-aware centre in Frederik Gauthier a year ago – his first draft as the Leafs boss – but is almost certain to add skill with the eighth pick this time around.

"I wouldn't say it's a priority that we're going to go for the most skilled player," Nonis explained, "but I think the players that are going to be available in the top eight by and large are skill players so because of that fact there's a good chance that's what you end up with."

Lacking in high-end depth organizationally down the middle, the Leafs are likely to miss out on the top-end centres (Bennett, Draisaitl, Reinhart) if they stick with their current pick, but could lean in the direction of Sault St. Marie pivot Jared McCann or a promising bunch of big, high-scoring wingers – Michael Dal Colle, Nick Ritchie, Brendan Perlini, Jake Virtanen – not to mention speedy, skilled types in Nikolaj Ehlers and Willie Nylander.

"I think all those guys have ability," Nonis said. "It's not one [of those drafts] where you're going to get a hard-nosed plugger or shutdown defenceman; I think even the guys who are more rugged there's some pretty good players there."

The search for a coaching staff to surround incumbent Randy Carlyle continues additionally. Opting to keep Carlyle as the lead bench boss in early May, the Leafs fired assistants Dave Farrish, Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin.

Nonis declined to say how many candidates had been interviewed for jobs on the staff nor how many would interviewed in the future. "I'd like to have it done sooner rather than later, but there's still quite a few people to go through and we're not going to rush it," he said.

As far an impending pack of free agents that includes Mason Raymond, Nik Kulemin, Dave Bolland and Jay McClement, Nonis hadn't ruled any out from a return to the club next season; the Leafs have had preliminary discussions with the Bolland camp.

Nonis wouldn't rule out a return for former Leaf Leo Komarov, who plans to return to the NHL, though only at the right price-point.

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