Keep the Tweaking Going
Keeping with tradition, I would like to submit my opinions for some possible tweaks that the Toronto Maple Leafs could do this upcoming season.
First off, I will try to be realistic in my opinion of players and of possible deals to be made, so please feel free to comment with your own suggestions.
1. FA acquisitions. The signing of Niewendyk and Roberts I felt was not a bad decision by JFJ. Niewendyk was a great influence to the younger players on team. You could see Poni and Antro listen to his every word when they were on the bench. Also Stajan was his room mate so you know that Niewendyk had to have taught him somethings about the game.
The resigning of Belfour was the smart thing to do, but at that price I think that Bellfour had them over a barrel. I also think that JFJ did not want a carbon copy of the cujo situation, especially since the leafs had very little options available as a back up. Plus you know that Clarke would have signed him to a one year deal with crazy incentives.
Now, for who they should go for as FA’s
First, I really think that they leafs will land Paul Kariya. The rumours are that Kariya is being courted by Detroit and LA, but I really think that Detroit will not go for another skilled winger. Yzerman himself said that they had too many skilled players and not enough bangers and grinders to make it to the finals. Therefore I think that Detroit will win the Glen Murray sweepstakes and will leave Kariya to sign with the leafs.
Kariya will ask for the 6 million but I believe that playing for the league minimum last year and being injured for most of the season has really hurt his bargaining power. I see Kariya signing for 2 years at about 3.5-4 million a season, with incentives. ( First line winger for Sundin)
Second acquisition will be a third line centre. Therefore bring in Eric Lindros. I think that Lindros realizes that he has to prove himself, and therefore will take a lesser role with the organization. I think that being a third line centre may benefit his style of play allowing him to play against the other teams 3rd defensive pairing and weaker forwards. Put him on a line with some skill and a power forward and you may have something.
Third acquisition. A Utility defenseman that will play well in his own end. Bring in Dimitry Yushkevich. We all remember the problems when Yushkevich left, but those were said out of being hurt. He has recently stated that he would love to return to Toronto and JFJ has held talks with his agent. After playing 1 year in Russia, he would be glad to come back. Also the team loved him and he would fit in like a glove. Kaberle in particular has never played better then with Yushkevich (two year deal 1.5-2 million a season)
And Lastly the biggest idea of them all, a trade. (This is where some people may criticize fully but read on and at least ponder the idea)
The Leafs have yet to qualify Brian Mcabe to an offer. Mcabe is looking at a pay increase in the 4 million a season range a la Wade Redden. Is this fair?? maybe, however I believe JFJ may not want to pay that. There is another team that has failed to qualify their star defenseman and still have until July 30th to do so but may or may not. I am talking about Chris Pronger.
The deal with Pronger could be a sign and trade type of deal that would help out both teams. Mcabe could be signed for the 4 million a season and packaged with Karel Pilar in exchange for Pronger who would not be qualied for the 9.5 million but instead traded to the leafs where he would sign a new contract for a little less money but for a longer term.
I believe that players are realizing that they will not be able to make the 9 million a season anymore and therefore would lower it to about 6 million (which seems like the new ceiling for star players) but for 4-5 years.
In this trade St Louis gets two decent defenseman for a relatively low price to help them deal with the devastating loss of Jackman, and Macinnis last year. The leafs finally get the stud defenseman they have been looking for and with JFJ’s connections to St Louis the deal could happen alot smoother then with another team.
Again this is only if Pronger decides that even if he is qualified by St. Louis that he may still want to play somewhere else. Since it looks like St Louis will not have a strong head coach, will not have a first star goalie (Osgood has lost it) and ST louis will be trying to trade away as many contract as possible. Making it an ugly situation to maybe stick around.
Also with Pronger at 6.5, but Mcabe gone, and Pilar then the salary thing for the leafs wouldn’t go as high as expected.
In the end the Leafs would finally get the few things that they have always needed yet never seem to address. 1. A left winger to play with Sundin on the top line. 2. A solid third line centre that could contribute (granted he doesn’t get hurt)
and 3. The stud defenseman along with more solid 4 and fifth tandem.
Kariya Sundin Roberts
Poni Niewendyk Nolan
Tucker Lindros Kilger
Antropov Stajan Domi
Coliacovo will be the permanent 7th man