If I'm the Leafs…
As I am sure you are all aware, tomorrow is free agent day. As some of you know, I am a Leaf fan but I live in Ottawa so am intimately aware of all the happenings in Senator land. The Senators are in a tough situation heading into the free agent period. As of right now they have close to $42 million spent on 16 players with at least another million dollars committed to Saprykin should Saprykin want to sign his qualifying offer. They have 3 restricted free agents that they likely want to re-sign in Ray Emery, Chris Kelly and Christoph Schubert. But here is there problem. Other teams are seemingly interested in putting in a qualifying offer for Emery. Rumours are that Boston is interested as might be Los Angeles or St. Louis. I am still convinced that Detroit might be interested as well as they are seemingly having trouble finding an appropriate number for Hasek. Or rather, maybe conveniently not finding an appropriate number in order to wait and see if they could get someone like Emery. Regardless, Emery might be getting as much as $4 million next year so that is going to quickly eat up Ottawa’s cap space.
So that brings me to Chris Kelly. Chris Kelly is probably my favourite player on the Senators and I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves. He is fast, feisty, great defensively, a great penalty killer and last year got 15 goals and 38 points. If I were the Leafs, I would toss some money at this guy as I think the Leafs could really use Kelly speed and penalty killing abilities. Is Kelly worth as much as Nik Antropov? Probably. If I am the Leafs I’d present Chris Kelly a 4 year offer sheet in the $1.8-2 million dollar range and see if Ottawa has the guts, or cap space, to match. The compensation for a deal in this range is only a second round pick so it is well worth it. You could even front load it and include a no-trade clause to make it even more difficult for the Senators. My guess is it is at best 50/50 whether they would match or not. Kelly is Toronto born so he might jump at the opportunity to play in his home town.
If the Leafs could sign Kelly and someone like Paul Kariya via free agency they would add a lot of speed to their lineup which is very much in need of some speed. Kelly would significantly improve the penalty kill and Paul Kariya will add a lot of offense as well as a guy who has been very good in the shoot out (12 for 18 the past 2 seasons). With those two players and Toskala in the fold and a bit of luck in the health department the Leafs should easily pass the Islanders, Thrashers and Lighting to move up several spots in the eastern conference standings next season.