Better Luck Next Year Toronto

From the early happenings in the free agent market, it appears that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be out of the running for many if not all of the big free agents available this season. With only 7-10 Million left to spend and several roster spots that need to be filled, it appears that the Leafs wont be contending for the time being at least.

The Leafs for the last few years have been built through free agency but not this year. Several key free agents already, including their own in Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk have passed on Toronto for greener pasture. Previously the Leafs always had a competitive edge on the competition because they could outbid other teams for the services of players. But in the new economic world, that seems to be no longer the case.

It is not really known what the plan is that John Ferguson is partaking. Does he know something we dont? Is he rebuilding? My take is that he is planning to make a run at players next summer when the free agency age goes down to 29. Though the talent is plentiful this year, it may be even better next year and more beneficial since the players available will be younger.

There are plenty of big names available. There are many players whose contracts will be up this year and would be eligible for free agency either because they have played 8 seasons in the NHL or they are 29 years old. and even more players available if some of the current RFAs just take qualifying offers and make themselves free for next summer. Here’s an unofficial look at who could be had on the unrestricted free agent market. Of course some players wont be available if they end up signing long term deals this summer.


Anaheim: Sykora, Carney

Calgary: Iginla, Warrener, Kiprusoff

Chicago: Thibault

Colorado: Hedjuk

Columbus: none

Dallas: Turco, Arnott

Detroit: Lidstrom

Edmonton: Smyth, Dvorak

LA: Norstrom

Minnesota: none

Nashville: Sullivan

Phoenix: Gauthier, Morris

San Jose: Nabokov, McLaren, Marleau

St Louis: Pronger

Vancouver: Jovanovski, Ohlund, Morrison


Atlanta: Savard

Boston: Thornton

Buffalo: Briere, Biron, McKee

Carolina: none

Florida: Jokinen

Montreal: Theodore, Koivu

New Jersey: Friesen, Langenbrunner, Elias

NY Islanders: Peca

NY Rangers: none

Ottawa: Chara, Redden, Hossa

Philadelphia: Johnsson

Pittsburgh: none

Tampa: Lecavalier, St Louis, Kubina

Toronto: McCabe

Washington: Witt

That is an impressive list. The Leafs would probably not exercise the option for Belfour’s contract for next season meaning the team would only have Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker under contract and over 30 million in cap room. This is the only logical step the Leafs can take to remain competitive sooner rather than later.

If the idea by JFJ is to get younger then that is a good plan for the team. Much too often, the Leafs have turned to aging veteran talent on their last legs. I am not sure if you could consider it tanking but the Leafs will certainly face some lumps this season. They may still be ok thanks to Ed Belfour stealing some games for them. But if they struggle they can be buoyed for next year getting a high draft pick and getting the chance at some younger free agents.

Players like Coliacovo, Kronvall, Steen, Wellwood, Stajan will have 1 more year of pro experience under their belts whether it be with the Leafs or Marlies and Rask is one year closer to coming to North America. This can only help the Leafs in their transition to get younger. And if they do miss the playoffs, they could add a nice prospect in the draft next season which early on is considered fairly deep.

There may be some hope to salvage this year. With little payroll available there chances of landing a top end player is limited. But they could fill their roster with cheaper talent like a Jason Allison, Eric Lindros and/or John Leclair who could take cheap deals with plenty of bonuses worked in. Players like Anson Carter, Ville Nieminen, Jan Hrdina, Chris Gratton are young still, and would probably come cheap like Jeff O’Neill did and would help the Leafs stay relatively competitive. THe Leafs could target a player like Martin Prusek or Brian Boucher to help give the team a decent backup to Ed Belfour.

Their major weakness though is defence and while we have seen many of the top blueliners go off the market, the Leafs may still target a top guy like a Gonchar or Hamrlik but unlikely. They may simply add a guy like Numminen or bring back Leetch to bridge the gap until next season and hope for the best.

Either way, things dont look that great for the Leafs this year, but are looking up for next year. They could still remain competitive by grabbing a few of the scraps that are left over from other teams, but dont expect much of a cup run for the time being.

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36 Responses to Better Luck Next Year Toronto

  1. samcal17 says:

    Apparently the Leafs just signed Allison. We’ll see maybe Fergie still has something up his sleeve

  2. Ace_Bailey says:

    I agree 100% with this article. But perhaps it won’t be just one year, it could be several years the leafs finish in the bottom end of the playoff seeds or even be out of the playoffs altogether. Has there been a rule change where the top 20 teams make it into the playoffs?

    I think Prusek was a very underrated goalie and he is a stellar backup in my opinion. I was a bit shocked to see Ottawa let Prusek go. If he can be signed for about $1million, then why not. I really don’t think Tellqvist is all many people think he’s cracked up to be, although I have new found hope in Rask.

    Long story short, no cup run for the next few years. Like I said a while back, the Leafs will be rebuilding. ‘Nuff said.

  3. desertdog says:

    Toronto fans: Things are not so bleak….the new CBA was designed so all teams can compete with each other. The leafs still have a lot of good young talent, some good veterens, a great captain, and with a few select free agent signings could certainly make the playoffs. And once in the playoffs we all know a hot goalie and team chemistry can take you all the way.

    While this off season may not be some flashy bidding war over some free agent who will undoubtedly end up overpaid, don’t count yourself out now.

    Even with all the young teams that stunk in the past seeming to have bright futures…come april, I wouldn’t be suprised to see a majority of the “usual suspects” in the top 8 in both conferences.

  4. wingerxxx says:

    Allison could still contribute, assuming he doesn’t get injured early in the season. But no, the Leafs never were going to compete for every free agent out there. When Foote, Hatcher and Rathje left the market, it kind of came into focus. Defense is exactly what Toronto needed. Not more scoring. This is the new NHL, as a player, you can’t just pick and choose your team like you might have been able to in the past. But who knows what the season will bring. They could always try to make a trade during the season.

  5. Leafskickass27 says:

    I do agree with most of what you are saying except for the Leafs making a splash in the free agent market. No offence but get your facts straight. The leafs are not on the hook for Owen Nolans contract one way or the other an that leaves tehm currently with a salary of 23 mil approx. That does leave them with 17 mil or room to add to the team. As for next year they will have Jeff O’Neil under contract along with Mats and Tucker. I do believe that we will see lots of younger talent make there way up but expect the leafs to sign Lindros, possibly Jason Allison and a big name Defencemen. There may also be some possible trades . Any how the future is definately uncertain but either way they still have me as a proud member of the Leaf Nation!

  6. Aetherial says:

    The Leafs will need scoring MORE than defense…

    Kaberle McCabe Klee Pilar Berg Colaiacovo are far from the worst 6 in the league.

    Look at their fowards though…

    Sundin Tucker O’Neill, Stajan. Then we go WAY downhill with Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Kilger, Perrott, Belak…

    They need 4 forwards, and 2 d-men probably.

    Tellqvist will and should be the backup. He should be given a chance to show once and for all whether he can play in this league… the new rules may just favor reflex goalies, so there may be hope yet.

  7. tml87 says:

    woah!? wtf did that post 3 times

  8. Aetherial says:

    Which big name defenseman is left?

    How do you figure that the Leafs are going to fill 6 more spots with about 7 million dollars (assuming they leave a couple million wiggle room on the cap, which would be wise).

    There are NO big-name D-man signings coming to Toronto. Frankly, I am happy about it. The D-man signing so far have been ridiculous.

    except, I am sure we will find out that Clarke paid like 1 million a year for Hatcher and Rathje… because he is an evil genius and a Jedi.

  9. tml87 says:

    everyone is stating different numbers for how much the leafs owe right now and how much they have left under the cap. neone care to set the record straight on that?

  10. Leafskickass27 says:

    Yes just go look at TSN’s website and look at the eastern division off season tracker. Currently it shows them with 28 mil however Owen Nolan will either be shown as a buyout or nothing at all. His contract is in dispute with the league right now and basically the Leafs may be able to walk away with out paying him a cent or they have already tendered the buyout to the league just in case. either way the team salary will be slightly below 23 mil. and that is a fact!

  11. afanofthelakings says:

    their’s Niedermayer left but he’ll end up with New York

  12. Aetherial says:

    There is a good write-up on this by 92-93 or whatever the name was. He lays out the numbers. I don’t agree with who he thinks we can sign and for how much but the current scenario is pretty much accurate. The only one I question is Belfour… I thought he was 4.6 not 5.6.

    A summary of the the Leafs situation is as follows:

    Assume a 23-man Roster

    Assume they keep Colaiacovo at 859,000

    Assume they want a budget of around 36-37 million.

    Including the players under contract and the qualifying offers they have made, they have 6 players to sign and about 8 million to spend.

    Under Contract or Qualfied:

    Sundin 6.3

    O’Neill 1.5

    Tucker 1.6

    Antropov 1

    Perrott .45

    Ponikarovsky .45

    Stajan .805

    Belak .798 (YIKES!)

    Kilger .475

    Kaberle 2.28

    McCabe 3.5

    Klee 1.9

    Pilar .45

    Berg 1.1 (YIKES!)

    Belfour 4.56

    Tellqvist .45

    Assuming Colaiacovo .859

    That is 17 players… 28.48 million. so 7.5-8.5 for the last 6 players.

    I have Belfour listed as 4.56. I think “92-93” has him listed as 5.6 million?

    Yup… a pretty craptastic team right there.

    All this adds up to the Leafs being one of the teams who waits and sees and tries to scoop some bargains, or vets they can sign for one year only.

  13. Aetherial says:

    No way in hell we can afford him.

  14. tml87 says:

    if theyre at just under 23, then the leafs arent really in that bad shape…. i mean thats still 16-17 million to work with

  15. Blueandwhite says:

    apparnelty MOJO radio in toronto is reporting it

  16. nordiques100 says:

    i was including all the qualifying offers they made to antropov, pony, belak, kilger, perrott, berg that would eat up much of if not all the room made when the leafs got rid of nolan. it is very likely that all players will be accepting their qualifiers. that would push them near 28 million leaving aroudn 10 mil to spend.

  17. Minky says:

    The leage has allowed Nolan’s contract to not count against the salary cap while it is ‘in dispute’.

  18. Minky says:

    whoops, like 3 posts came up as i was posting this

  19. Minky says:

    Yeah, we’ll wait to see how New York does.

  20. tml28 says:

    First of All its only the 2nd day of Free Agency, everybody is panicing. Ferguson is a GM he’ll get the job done. There is still plenty of time left in the FA period. Allison just signed he is better then nieuwendyk, isn’t that a smart move. Jeff O’neill came cheap, he will be more productive then roberts and less injury prone. Trust me JFJ knows what he is doing, everybody stop over exaggerating right now were fine, were better off then many other teams so just let JFJ do his work.

    SO FAR:





    McCabe/Kaberle–Gonchar-highlyDoubtful or Berard




    Of Course they could do better but then again FA period is not yet over so we will have to wait until then i trust JFJ hes a smart man. I Hope Berard comes back to TO Berard is very underrated and wpuld fit in very well.

    TML28 is BACK

  21. TheCoach says:

    I predict that the Leafs will be in the thick of the race.

    The race for Phil Kessel that is.

  22. Tweek says:

    funny! talk to me when hasek gets a groin pull

  23. Tweek says:

    i dont what to say except thats the stupidest leaf lineup ive seen so far! god, people like you make feel shame for being a leaf fan sometimes

  24. wingerxxx says:

    Lindros is not a left winger…he can barely play right wing. IF they do sign him, he’ll be playing center. But if they sign Allison, they would be nuts to sign Lindros. On their own, Sundin, O’Neill, Allison, Tucker, Antropov, and Stajan will give this team plenty of jump offensively.

    They should look into a more stable defenseman than Berard. I love Berard, but he is never going to be a great defensive defender. He is a rusher and the Leafs have more than enough offense from the blueline. Gonchar is a little better defensively, but not much.

  25. Aetherial says:

    Nolan’s contract does not count regardless of the outcome. The Leafs have been relieved of his salary obligation until the grievance has been decided. At that point, the Leafs may owe him nothing or they may owe him the full 12.5 million or whatever was left.

  26. samcal17 says:

    yeah sry i went out. it was reported on leafs lunch on the radio. From what I have heard the signing is done but for some reason they havent announced it yet.

  27. Aetherial says:

    Not agreeing with you much these days wingerxxx 🙂

    Gonchar is HORRIBLE defensively, he is excellent offensively.

    He is also way out of the price range.

  28. Aetherial says:





    Plus 2 more players to round out a 23 man roster.

    How exactly do they make these signings for about 7 million? Satan alone is going to command about 3 million, judging from the numbers so far.

    Lindros is a center. You also don’t sign him if you are signing Allison (unless you want to take a HUGE gamble)

    I think it is more reasonable to expect Wellwood or Ling, instead of Steen and *maybe* one of Bell or White gets called up also as a 7th D-man.

  29. Aetherial says:

    Better still… talk to us when the cap comes back to bite Ottawa in the ass in the next couple years.

    Phillips, Redden, Chara, Alfredsson, Hossa, Havlat…

    They won’t be able to keep them all.

  30. BreathHockey says:

    Despite the new CBA, the Leafs are still a big market team that has a track record of spending the money and getting the players it needs to be a competitive team. Watch, JFJ will go out and get the talent we need to win. If he IS waiting for next years crop of young talent to add a few more corner stones to the team then GREAT! But I doubt that they Leafs will sacrifice the first season back after the lockout to get better picks and better Free Agents.

  31. Marky2Fresh says:

    Why should I trust Ferguson?

  32. Leafs88 says:

    The deal is likely to be paying Allison the league min., with plenty of bonuses in the contract that don’t count agaisnt the cap!

  33. 92-93 says:

    “Their major weakness though is defence and while we have seen many of the top blueliners go off the market, the Leafs may still target a top guy like a Gonchar or Hamrlik but unlikely. They may simply add a guy like Numminen or bring back Leetch to bridge the gap until next season and hope for the best.”

    Just as I was dumbfounded about why the JFJ would possibly sign Lindros over Allison (which hopefully won’t happen now), I do not understand how Leaf fans think they need another offensive D-guy? we have McCabe and Kaberle. why do we need another? if they cannot get Rafalski this year, go after a Gautier next year. Also, I understand the hype about Prusek (especially compared to Tellqvist) but if the Leafs can’t get him, why not sign the older Corey Schwab?

    as for the facts and figures on where the leafs stand, this is an article from a day ago in the Star (pre-Allison figures):

    That has not appeared to faze Ferguson, who reportedly has placed a value on each of the players and is prepared to see any or all of them leave rather than pay them more than what he thinks they are worth. That amount is reportedly in the $1.5 million range for Roberts and Nieuwendyk and under $1 million for Domi.

    Meanwhile, the Leafs roster took a big step toward being completed with yesterday’s qualifying offers. As it stands now, the Maple Leafs look as though they have 16 players under contract at a total salary of $28.7 million, which leaves them with $10.3 million to sign seven more players, assuming all the players accept their qualifying offers and the Leafs go with a 23-man roster.

    Goalies Ed Belfour ($5.6 million) and Mikael Tellqvist ($450,000) are under contract, as will be defencemen Bryan McCabe ($3.5 million), Tomas Kaberle ($2.28 million), Ken Klee ($1.9 million), Berg ($1.1 million) and Pilar ($450,000). The Leafs could also add Carlo Colaiacovo at a cost of $859,000.

    Up front, the Leafs have Mats Sundin (making $6.8 million, but accounting for $6.3 million under the salary cap), Darcy Tucker ($1.6 million), Jeff O’Neill ($1.5 million), Antropov ($1 million), Matt Stajan (805,000), Belak ($798,000), Kilger ($475,000), Ponikarovsky ($450,000) and Perrott ($450,000).”

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