Can the Leafs be contenders next season? Sure, why not?
With the regular season winding down, and a post season that barring a very hot Leafs team, won’t include the buds for the first time in 7 years, JFJ has EVERY opportunity to turn this team into a winner in the off season. We’ll start with the players that are under contract past this season, that should be locks heading into next season.
Mats Sundin 35, 6.89 mil (Top 5% in centers in the league. Money in the bank with wingers, great captain, he stays)
Darcy Tucker 30, 1.596 mil (Best bargain in the league, warrior, 29 other GMs want him, he stays)
Tomas Kaberle 28, 4.25 mil (Great skater, puck mover, ideal defenseman for new NHL, he stays)
Jeff O’Neill 30, 1.5 mil (Iffy, a lot of baggage, can score on any given night, maybe a paul maurice reunion will help, he stays.. barely)
Alexei Ponikarovsky 26, .45 mil (Really developed into a player this season, can skate, hit, deke, and kill penalties, he stays)
Wade Belak 29, .665 mil (Not a bad deal for one of the toughest fighers in the league. Good 13th forward, or 8th defenseman, he can stay.)
Alex Steen 22, .720 mil (Going to be a solid NHLer, easily one of the Leafs best players on a nightly basis, the futures up, he stays with a bullet)
Players under contract for next season that should go.
Tie Domi 36, 1.25 mil (Good career, surprise he lasted as long as he did. He’s overpaid greatly, the money spent on Domi could of brought back Roberts and Niewendyk who were invaluable to this team. Time to go, waive him)
Players that should and should not be brought back with projected salary.
Jason Allison 30 (produced this year, he’s bonus’s made him overpaid, to slow for this new NHL, he goes)
Eric Lindros 33, .550 to 1 mil ( Good guy, loves Toronto, could do damage if healthy, on a line with Sundin, he should stay)
Chad Kilger 29, .500 mil to .750 mil ( Grinder with wheels and a big shot. Good 3rd/4th line guy, he should stay)
Alexander Khavanov 30 (waste of 1.5 mil, inconsistent, easily replaceable, he should go)
Aki Berg 28 ( too much of a liability, take a roster spot that good go to a developing prospect, he should go)
Karel Pilar 28 .450 mil to .450 mil (If healthy has the game for this new NHL. Good 4/7 defenseman.. if healthy)
Carlo Colaiacovo 23 .850 mil to 1 mil ( Good wheels, good hitter *see Todd Bertuzzi, could shape into a solid NHL defenseman)
Kyle Wellwood 22, .600 mil to 850 mil ( Good speed, very crafty, a bit small, my money has him having a big year next season)
Matt Stajan 23, .850 mil (good effort night in and night out, kills penalties, needs to produce more, still young)
Mikael Tellqvist 26, 1 mil to 1.5 mil (Good goalie, finally Americanized, will start next season, he’s job too lose)
Luke Richardson 36, .75 to 1 mil (Solid veteran, adds an edge to the defense, good mentor for prospects. He should be brought back)
Nik Antropov 26 (Overpaid, often injured, too slow for this new game)
Clarke Wilm 29, .450 mil to 600 mil (prototypical 4th line energy guy)
Ben Ondrus 23, .450 mil to .600 mil (great worker, energy guy, gets under players skin, 4th liner)
Now with Belfour and McCabe
Bryan McCabe 30 (solid top tier defenseman in this league, good shot, good speed. However, is asking too much with 5.5mil, it would be wise to spend that money else were. reluctantly he goes)
Ed Belfour 41 1.5 mil (Hall of Fame career, has slipped this year. Will almost certainly be bought out, for 1.5 mil counting against the cap)
Now with the players kept and released the pay room should now be between 24 mil to 26 mil.
Lets pretend the cap goes up too say 46 million like Bob McKenzie said, and the leafs have give or take 25 million committed in salary. That’s 21 million dollars to spend.
First line of duty, back up goalie.
Curtis Joseph 38, 1 mil to 2.0 mil ( Still has something to offer, good relief if Telliquist doesn’t have it)
Defense, they should invest at least 10 million on improving the defense.
Rob Blake 36, 3.5 mil to 4.5 mil ( Still a premier defenseman in the NHL, as solid as anyone in the league)
Pavel Kubina 28, 3 mil to 4 mil ( Can log tons of minutes, great chemistry with Kaberle)
Kenny Jonsson 31 1.5 to 2.5 mil (Good skating first pass defenseman, ideal for this game, played tremendous at the Olympics)
Signing these 4 players will cost the leafs anywhere between 9 mil to 13 mil. Say it cost them 11 mil, the leafs will now have 10 million dollars to spend.
Forwards, they need a second line center, and a second line scorer.
Jason Arnott 31, 3.5mil to 4 mil (good size, heavy shot, money in the playoffs, typical second line center)
Kyle Calder 27, 2mil to 2.5 mil (still young, good energy, still has upside)
Peter Bondra 38, 1mil to 2 mil (still has good speed, offensive minded player to would excel playing with Sundin)
Signing these players will cost between 6.5mil to 8.5 mil, lets say it cost 7.5mil … That leaved the Leafs with 2.5 mil in cap room. This money will be spent on signing prospect and 2 way minor league deals, most notably, Kronwall, Harrison, Ian White and Wozniewski, Andy.
So here are the lines.
Extras Belak, Ondrus Minors/Big club, Wilm
I am completely expecting Quinn to get canned by the end of the season, with Paul Maurice getting promoted. So there you have you have it this line up has, skill, toughest, and grit, and will destroy teams on the power play. I don’t expect this to be the exact team, but I do at least expect a contender next season with the money JFJ will have to spend.