Hope already building for next year for the Leafs

Not that it will ease the considerable angst of a fan base headed for its seventh consecutive year out of the NHL playoffs, but the latest noble-but-doomed effort by the Toronto Maple Leafs showed a team headed in the right direction.

Yes, we know that direction for now is the golf course but bear with us.

If, of course, if the Leafs managed to beat the Detroit Red Wings last Saturday, their 4-3 win Tuesday night over the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres would be real cause for excitement. They are still mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt but sitting five points behind the Sabres with only five games left in the regular season does not leave a lot of room for hope.

Better the fans should turn their gaze to next season (I know, you’ve heard that enough), where the real hope starts.

Leafs general manager Brian Burke may have as much as $25-million (all currency U.S.) to spend if the salary cap gets to $63-million or so and Tuesday night’s win over the Sabres provided the latest evidence where the spending priorities lie.

There are some pending restricted free agents on the roster that Burke has to look after. But only defenceman Luke Schenn will make a sizable dent in the budget. Winger Clarke MacArthur may also cost a couple million and goaltender James Reimer can expect a healthy raise but Carl Gunnarsson and Tyler Bozak will not break the bank. Especially Bozak, whom we’ll get to later.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/david-shoalts/hope-already-building-for-next-year-for-the-leafs/article1962507/


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