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UPDATE: Friday, March 29 at 10:23 a.m. ET
Tyler Bozak is one of the Leafs' best trade chips because of his expiring contract and ability to play in a top-six role. He's also needed for shootouts because of the 11 Leafs players who have participated in a shootout this year, Bozak is the only one who has scored.
Toronto has won four of its last six games and should not make any major changes to its roster. For the first time in several years, the Leafs don't need to make a deal at the trade deadline to ensure they earn a playoff spot.
If the Leafs don't acquire a veteran goaltender like Roberto Luongo before the deadline, expect Bozak to be in Toronto for the rest of the season.
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The Tyler Bozak situation is an interesting one for Nonis. His No. 1 center is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer, but he is an important part of the Leafs' offense and power-play success.
Bozak ranks fifth on the Leafs in scoring with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 32 games, fifth in power-play points (three goals, three assists) and third in power-play time on ice per game (3:01/g). He also leads the team with 30 takeaways and has 17 blocked shots and 47 hits.
The 27-year-old is the Leafs' most reliable faceoff man as well, with a team-leading 53.6 success rate among players who have taken at least 50 draws. His ability to win key faceoffs, especially in the offensive zone, is a valuable part of the Leafs' success.
Bozak has a $1.4 million salary for this season and will get a huge raise in his next contract. After Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract last season, Bozak will likely want a similar deal—or even something larger, such as $6-6.5 million per year.
Most top-six centers make over $5 million as UFAs on the open market, and if the Leafs don't think he's worth that, he could leave in the summer. Since there isn't much top-six center depth in the 2013 UFA class, there could be a lot of interest in Bozak during the offseason.
Acquiring a first-round pick in exchange for Bozak before the deadline, probably in the 25-30 range from a playoff contender, wouldn't be a bad situation for the Leafs. But then Nazem Kadri would have to play a top-six role and face opposing teams' best defensemen much more often. He's not ready for that kind of pressure at this point in his career, especially when his performance as a third-line center has been a huge success this year.
It's probably going to take a huge overpayment from a desperate team to acquire Bozak, because the Leafs don't need another late-first-round pick. If Bozak is traded, another young, established NHLer should be going back to Toronto.
Unless the Leafs go on a losing streak leading up to the deadline and fall down the standings, which is unlikely, expect them to keep Bozak for the playoffs and either trade his negotiating rights for a draft pick after the season or let him walk as a UFA.