This is the first of several posts I will dedicate to what I expect the Leafs will do this upcoming off season. In this post I outline where the Leafs are at now and what holes need to be addressed over the summer months.
The Leafs ended the 2010-11 season on a high note being backstopped by solid goaltending from James Reimer and an improved offense including significant offensive contributions from Dion Phaneuf for the first time in a Leaf uniform and Nazem Kadri among others. This late season surge has given Leaf fans renewed optimism entering the 2011-12 season but before we get to the 2011-12 season we need to take a look at what the Leafs might do during the summer and before we get to that lets take a look at the team that finished the season. After all the trades made at the trade deadline, this is the lineup that finished the 2010-11 season.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Joffrey Lupul||Nazem Kadri||Phil Kessel|
|Clarke MacArthur*||Mikhail Grabovski||Nikolai Kulemin|
|Fredrik Sjostrom**||Tyler Bozak*||Colby Armstrong|
|Colton Orr||Tim Brent**||Mike Brown|
|Jay Rosehill**||Darryl Boyce**||Joey Crabb**|
|Dion Phaneuf||Luke Schenn*|
|Keith Aulie||Carl Gunnarsson*|
|Mike Komisarek||Matt Lashoff*|
*Restricted Free Agent
**Unrestricted Free Agent
There are essentially 6 restricted free agents that need to be re-signed and an additional 5 unrestricted free agents that decisions need to be made on.
Restricted Free Agents
James Reimer – Maybe the most important RFA to be re-signed is James Reimer. In Reimer the Leafs hope to have finally found a true #1 goalie but as of yet Reimer can’t claim to be that having only started 35 NHL games. I expect Reimer to get a similar deal to the one Gustavsson signed (2 years at 1.35M/year) after his first season in the NHL in which he started 39 games. Now Reimer performed better so might deserve a little more but I think 2 years at $1.5M/year is reasonable.
Luke Schenn – If Reimer isn’t the most important RFA to be re-signed, Luke Schenn is. The question is, what is he worth? The New York Rangers re-signed Marc Staal to a 5 year deal at an average salary of $3.975M per season last summer. It could be argued that Staal is a better defenseman than Schenn but the difference would not be great so I’ll suggest that $4M/year is an upper limit on Schenn at this point in time. I think Schenn’s contract will probably come in around $3.5M/year on a three year deal or a more Staal-like $4M/year deal if the contract length was 5 years.
Carl Gunnarsson – I like Gunnarsson as a defenseman and he has done some really good things in his brief NHL career. He has good long term upside but as of right now is still not yet proven. I think a fair price for him is a 2 year deal at $1.25M/year and lets see what he can do in a full time, possibly top four, role.
Clarke MacArthur – I wrote an article a month or so ago on the progression of the Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur line in which I suggested that MacArthur might not have as much value as we think. Brian burke was listening to trade offers on MacArthur at the trade deadline and I think he will continue to do the same, especially if MacArthur is asking for $3M/year type money. I personally don’t think he is worth that. He isn’t that great defensively and while he was important as a playmaker for Grabovski and Kulemin, I don’t consider him someone that isn’t easily replaced and I think Kadri might be good replacing MacArthur on the wing if the Leafs manage to find a proven #1 center. If he is asking for much more than $2.0M/year I’d seriously consider trading him.
Tyler Bozak – I am not quite sure what to make of Bozak yet. He has some offensive skill, but not good enough to be a first line center. He has shown some ability defensively and on the PK but his defensive ratings are still quite poor (HARD+ of 0.816 over past 2 seasons is actually pretty bad) but he is the Leafs best faceoff guy (54.6%) and I think the potential is there that he can be a solid 2-way third line center. As such I would like to see him re-signed and see if he can excel in that role. A fair value might be a 2 year deal at somewhere around $1-1.25M/yr, certainly no more.
Matt Lashoff – I liked what I saw from Lashoff in his short time with the Leafs at the end of last season. In limited ice time over the past 4 seasons he has a weak 0.611 HARO+ rating but a very solid 1.288 HARD+ rating. I’d like to see him as the #6/7 defenseman and see what he can do. He has good size and skates well and as a former first round pick was once highly thought of. He might be one of those guys that just needs to be given a chance and he’ll be cheap so why not.