Leafs empty up the middle

Small piece by small piece, Brian Burke’s Maple Leafs are getting better.

But for every Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong the Leafs add, what becomes more apparent is just how weak this team is at centre, the most important position on a hockey club, other than goaltender.

Who won the last three Stanley Cups?

Teams with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, David Bolland, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at centre?

Even when Burke won he had Andy McDonald, a young Ryan Getzlaf and Sammy Pahlsson (playing WAY over his head) at centre.

Nice kid Tyler Bozak is currently the Leafs top centreman. He wouldn’t even dress for the Blackhawks. Pittsburgh would probablty try and move him to the wing.

And after Bozak, the Leafs have the wayward Mikhail Grabovski with a bad contract, the hope, Nazem Kadri, maybe Christian Hanson and maybe John Mitchell.

Not very encouraging.

The Leafs had no interest in free-agent Matthew Lombardi, whom Burke’s Team USA assistant, David Poile, happily grabbed for Nashville.

And after that, the market is relatively bare.

This and that

Two words for Ilya Kovalchuk if he signs with the Islanders: Rich loser … One word for the Islanders if they pull another Alexei Yashin: Idiots … Never mind Darryl Sutter losing his senses and signing Olli Jokinen. But giving him a no-trade deal? Who does he think he is, John Ferguson Jr.? … Interesting to hear Rick Dudley’s take on the Leafs’ acquiring Versteeg from the Blackhawks. “If he goes into a situation where he’s given a lead role, he might be spectacular,” said Dudley, the former Chicago executive now running the Atlanta Thrashers …. Impressive free-agent period for GM Lou Lamoriello, who added quality backup goalie, Johan Hedberg, to give Martin Brodeur some much-needed rest, along with two defencemen of note, the underappreciated Henrik Tallinder and the very solid Anton Volchenkov … Viktor Stalberg, still learning to play, should fit in nicely with the speedy Blackhawks, without any kind of pressure to perform … From the team that won the Stanley Cup, seven of the 20 dressed players for Chicago are no longer Hawks. If they bury Cristobal Huet in the minors, that will make eight … Surprised that Florida GM Dale Tallon, fully aware of Chicago’s cap problems, didn’t make an offer to restricted free-agent defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson.


73 Responses to Leafs empty up the middle

  1. mojo19 says:

    Paul Ranger would be a nice pick up for sure.

  2. nordiques100 says:

    am i up for review with "coley"?

  3. nordiques100 says:

    yes but have you seen Bolland, Toews, Madden lose puck battles? not really. i think its cause Grabs, and Mitchell and last year with Wallin, we had too many passengers. I personally am not a Mitchell fan cause he just does not use his size at all.

    You're right, they dont need to be big, but i wish there was more fight.

    i at least hope they get a legit faceoff man who can kill penalties. Like Steckel or Gordon from Washington, Belanger if he comes at 1.5 mil or less or heck i'd sign Madden. i know he is old, but still a top checker.

    I know burke wants jobs to be open for the kids, but i still think they need to earn it. Bringing in a vet for a year wouldnt be horrible. I still think they need to improve their PK personnel even with KV, CA and FS up front for the full season.

  4. Kill_Yourself says:

    Bozak is awesome. Lombardi would have been a great signing. Leafs should pick up savard… bozak is the same type of player, savard could teach him a lot. Just fill the wings with strong players that can shoot cause bozak and savard can pass!

  5. Kev_Leafs says:

    It depends who is considered to be in the lineup.

    Projected current Leaf 2010-11 lineup:

    Kadri (.9)(1.72) / Bozak (.875)(3.725) / Kessel (5.4)
    Kulemin (2.35) / Grabovski (2.9) / Versteeg (3.083)
    Sjostrom (.750) / Hanson (RFA est 1?) / Armstrong (3)
    Brown (.5375) / Mitchell (.75) / Orr (1)
    Caputi (.585)(.833) / Irwin (.9)

    Phaneuf (6.5) / Schenn (.875) (2.975)
    Komisarek (4.5) / Kaberle (4.25)
    Beauchemin (3.8) / Gunnarsson (.63)(.8)
    Finger (3.5)

    Giguerre (6)
    Gustavsson (1.35)

    Tucker Buyout (1)
    Cap Penalty (1.4) *Note – I included this into the salary as opposed to deducting it from the 59.4 cap.  Doing so would effect that upper limit of the bonus cushion, thereby lowering it to 62.35, as well as lowering our salary by 1.4.  I'm unsure as to the proper procedure.

    Total salary : 57.836 / 59.4
    With Bonuses : 64.024 / 63.885

    So, with the current Leaf lineup (July 5) as outlined above, they have 1.564 in available cap space.  However, including all potential bonuses the Leafs are actually above the cap by 0.139 (which is against the rules in regular season). 

    If Kadri, Irwin, Hanson, and Caputi (totalling 4.453) were not included in the lineup, then there would be 6.017 in available cap space.  That's likely what the Score has done.

  6. broc says:

    So the Flyers trade Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne for Bernier and Caputi?

    On Mars is where that happens.

  7. DLHLeafs says:
    If Gagne doesn't get traded, he'd likely be done with Philly after next season.  He's also been injury-riddled for the last couple years, which has eroded his value a lot.  Don't get me wrong – he's productive when healthy. But right now in their situation his cap space is more of a liability than an asset.  Carter has been in the rumour mill for what seems like 3 years. He's really their only tradable asset at forward – no is going to touch Briere or Hartnell.  It's not a secret that Philly is right up against the cap – other GMs know this and are going to exploit it.  
    Looking at Philly's situation as a whole, they can try to squeeze one more year out of their current roster, but will likely fail for the same reasons as last year. Or they can try to start moving the right pieces to remain competitive for years to come.  If they wait until next year, they will be in a situation much like Chicago is this summer.   

    Also, Bernier is one of the best goaltending prospects in the league. He has Rask-like potential.  LA is not going to just give him away…

  8. mojo19 says:

    Cam, be fair. Sam Gagner is a decent young player with a lot of upside, he could turn into a real player still. Langkow is definitely worthless with his current contract but Connolly is not.

  9. mojo19 says:

    Bozak can definitely skate, no one will dispute that, and ya he's got some pretty deadly hands on him too.

  10. mojo19 says:

    I read something along the lines of what you guys were talking about earlier, with regards to Burke reportedly looking for some depth on the blueline. I think that's surprising considering even if Kaberle was traded our D would be: Phaneuf, Schenn, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Gunnarsson, Finger.

    But I guess if you anticipate Finger being sent down and Kaberle being traded it would make sense to go after a defensman.

    Personally I like Willie Mitchell. I know he's coming off an injury plagued season, so maybe his value is down, I wonder if it would be a possibility to see if he'd go for a 1 year deal at a reasonable rate, say $2-2.5 mil range. He could be a good pickup.

  11. mojo19 says:

    If we did that, we'd have something like this, I'm gonna put in David Backes as an example as a return for Kaberle.

    David Backes – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
    Nikolai Kulemin – Nazem Kadri – Kris Versteeg
    Luca Caputi – Mikhail Grabovski – Colby Armstrong
    Mike Brown – Christian Hanson – Colton Orr
    x – Freddy Sjostrom, John Mitchell

    Dion Phaneuf – Luke Schenn
    Carl Gunnarsson – Mike Komisarek
    Frank Beauchemin – Willie Mitchell

    Still a little lacking at centre, but that could be a playoff team

  12. mojo19 says:

    Good call. I liked big Irwin, he's a huge, lanky guy and he played well in his few games, but he's far from a lock to make the team as of right now.

    Think Greg McKegg steps right in and takes a spot??? I know its a stretch cuz 3rd round picks almost never do that, but there were some surprise young guys in Colorado last year who made that team, and made that team very competitive! 

  13. leafmeister says:

    Yeah if necessary Backes can play center as well. That would help solve the size issue at center.

  14. Kev_Leafs says:

    Versteeg has also played centre.  Not that it would change much, but if Grabovski is gone and people don't seem to like Hanson at centre, there could be a few games where Versteeg lines up there.

  15. Kev_Leafs says:

    Irwin and Caputi are listed as 13th/14th forwards as replacements for potential injuries to the forward lineup – assuming they're not of the long term variety.

    It's more likely that someone like the recently signed Crabb will sit in the press box as the 13th forward.  He makes league minimum on a two-way contract.  It'd be better to have him sitting every game than having Caputi sit because he's better off getting playing time in the AHL if he isn't suiting up for the Leafs.

  16. HABSSTAR says:

    Nah, that's only for hits to the head that cause damage.  After reading about Flames recycling those two I'm sure no one will accuse you of causing any damage to Sutter's brain.

    What was more brutal then the signings was him trying to justify them… Christ I'm glad I'm not a Flames fan. 

  17. mojo19 says:

    hell, if he were in shape and would play cheap I'd take him for a year, look at Recchi still chipping in with Boston. But Mats is not coming out of retirement, no chance.

  18. mojo19 says:

    Caputi has got good hands. I hope Caputi can prove himself in camp that he deserves at least 2nd-3rd line ice time and he can come in and make the team as a regular. There is potential for that to happen.

  19. mojo19 says:

    Personally I'm the other way around. I like Hanson at centre because he's a good draw guy and much better defensively than Johnny Mitchell. I always liked Mitchell much better on the wing, because I think he used his size more there, like along the boards.

    I'd keep trying Hanson at centre, there is hope that he can develop into that gritty 3rd line centre we crave.

  20. TmLeafan says:

    I agree, Hanson really impressed me the last 10-15 games of the season and was probably our best player the last 5 games.  He is a good skater and seems to have a lot of jump.  I think he needs to focus on being more of an impact player and taking it up a notch heading into next season. 

    I am excited to see how Versteeg does he should get plenty of opportunities and ice time.
  21. glotz_99 says:

    The latest I've heard is the Kings are interested in Kaberle and are offering a package that includes Wayne Simmonds and propects/draft picks.

    Simmonds had 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 pts and 116 PIM last season and was an impressive +22. 

  22. LeafsLegacy says:

    That would be awesome. Toronto really needs offensive men that are also reliable defensively. He looks like a good investment. (I've never really seen him play, but his stats are impressive)

  23. Kev_Leafs says:

    Eklund didn't say the Kings were offering that deal.  He said that that is what he was hearing (which means anyone could have said it, not necessarily anyone from the Kings or Leafs organization).

    Again, the book on Simmonds is that he doesn't have the creativity for a top-six role.  I like him as a player, and he would be given that role with the Leafs, but we'd have to lower our expectations of offensive output, that;s not to say he can't put up 25 goals; it's just in two full seasons he hasn't eclipsed 20.  He wasn't given any PP time over there, however.

Leave a Reply