All Leaf Fans want is a winner.
I know there are plenty of Leaf bashers out there and that is fine as Leaf fans do their share of bashing too. But we all have something in common and that is we want to see our team win. For Me I want the Leafs to win but they have plenty of work to do. First, the Leafs should try to get rid of Nolan and Mogilny for cheap prospects or draft picks. I know that likely they will not get much for them due to their age, price tag and health but in case of a cap they would have a bit more flexibility to resign Nieuwendyk, Roberts and Belfour who are priorities. There would be teams interested. I can see the Ducks being interested in Mogilny in order to play him with Fedorov and keep Fedorov happy out west. And I can see the Panthers looking for leadership and toughness grabbing a guy like Nolan who could really help guys like Horton, Jokinen, Weiss and Stewart. The return wont be high but that shouldnt discourage the leafs from moving them. I am sure they could squeeze out some draft picks higher than the third round in these moves. They need the draft picks to restock their farm system that was a bit depleted at the trade deadline. Again, the Leafs wont get much for them if they try to move these big stars but so be it. The free agent pool is as big as ever and these guys are replaceable.
I can see reasons for the Blues to not qualify Pronger but I cant see them dropping their biggest asset for nothing. It would be best to qualify him and try to trade him to get 2 or 3 decent prospects for him. There will be plenty of other names out there that likely wont get qualifying offers thus making them UFAs. Guys like Arnott, Bonk, Val Bure, Isbister, Niinimaa, Allison, Gratton, Carter, Rob Niedermayer could be made available as they are just some of the overpaid among the restricted free agents. They are good players, but their teams for a variety of reasons may not be able to keep them. So with some of these guys possibly being available, there is no need to key in on just one guy. There will be lots to choose from this year in the free agent pool.
And I am sure there are some trade possibilities out there that the Leafs could explore. Tucker may be their best asset to move but guys like Antropov and Coliacovo could also be made available to fill that gaping hole on defence. Not saying by any means that these guys could fetch a Chris Pronger but certainly there are guys out there who would fit in with the Leafs and who could help them now and in the future. guys who would fill needs on the Leafs defence.
Sure it would be nice and good to grab Kariya, Pronger, Lindros, Murray, Hull, Shanahan, and so on, but you cant get all of them and likely wont get any of them. if free agency is the way they want to go, just look at the Flames and how deep they were (despite tons of injuries) and how many solid role players they had. The Leafs have a big star in Sundin like the Flames have with Iginla. And with the money they have they have room to nab another star or two, but instead of having Ponikarovsky and Reichel play key special teams roles, or needing a spark from a career minor leaguer in Clarke Wilm or thug Wade Belak, maybe they can fill their team with guys like McAmmond, Rolston, Stevenson, Barnaby, Laperriere, Konawolchuk, Weimer, Brylin, Zhitnik, Modry who are really solid role players who will likely be affordable.
You dont need to hit the home run every year with free agents. you just need to build the best team and based on the results in the playoffs, speed kills and that is what the Leafs should look at. And having guys with a really great work ethic doesnt hurt either. Not just look at the place of birth or if their best friend plays with the Leafs already, or if they played well against the Flyers whom the Leafs cant beat. or if they played for the coach in the past or if they were members of the 2002 Salt Lake team. or grab former Leafs who were huge crowd favorites. JFJ needs to build a team a well balanced team that can match up with anyone and not just be able to beat the Sens. and if he has one in mind then he should follow it and not let anyone or anything get in his way of his vision.
So first and foremost lets hope there is something to cheer about next year and I am talking about for all of us as we all want to see our favorite teams playing in October and if so, then for me, I sure hope next year is the year of the Leafs.