Leafs Looking At their Options!

The Leafs are tied with the Avs for first place overall. They are doing this without four of their best players. Rumors are swirling around this team, and players like Jeff O’Neil, Roman Hamerlik, Janne Ninamma, and Sergi Gonchar are being linked are said to be potential targets for the Leafs. And then there’s the media…. The Leafs will probably be very careful this year. They want to spend their money the right way. The lockout is looming a head, and the Leafs will likely stick to their off-season strategy: Spending the money wisely. After all, they have made the best pick up of the off-season (Ken Klee). Don’t get me wrong, they will spend some money, but don’t expect them to go after Jagr and Fedorov (should he become available). Defense tops the Leafs wishing list, and there’s plenty of it on the market. The Leafs will also like to add another scoring forward as 3 of their top guns are on the IL. Mogliny and Nolan are expected back soon, but Tucker is out indefinitely. Let’s take a look at players the Leafs might be interested in:

1. Sergei Gonchar: The Leafs have been interested in the 29-year old defenseman for some time. Gonchar is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. The Russian defenseman has 5 goals, 38 assists, and 43 points in 48 games played this season. He is -22 this season. His offensive stats have been improving every year since the 1997-98 season. He collected 67 points last year. Although the Leafs are looking for defensive minded defenseman, the addition of Gonchar would mean that the Leafs will finally have a true No.1 defenseman on their blue line. Gonchar’s current salary seems to be a bargain compared to the stats that he is putting up, but he is eligible for arbitration this summer. He is making $3.65 million this season. Word has it that the Leafs have been interested in him since September.

Possibility: There’s a good chance that this might happen. The Leafs have a great chance of winning the Cup this year, and they won’t waste it.

Price: Karel Pilar, Nik Antropov, and a high draft pick.

Jeff O’Neill: The 27-year old center has been struggling greatly this season. He has 10 goals, 17 assists, and 27 points for the Hurricanes this season. He is -10 this season. The Ontario native has reached the 60 point total the past three seasons, and has scored at least 30 goals in each of them. But the Canes have decided to rebuild, and have sent away a lot of talent. O’Neill has been playing much better lately. O’Neill adds a lot of grit to any team that acquires him. He is also very young. His contract expires at the end of the season, and is eligible for arbitration. He is making something around $3.50 million.

Possibility: Newspapers in Toronto persist that the Leafs are very much in the running for O’Neill. The Tucker injury makes the possibility even more real.

Price: A prospect and a draft pick.

Roman Hamrlik: Hamrlik, 29, is another offensive minded defenseman. He has scored only one goal, and has added 14 assists. He is +5 this season. He is more physical than Gonchar, but Gonchar is much better offensively. Hamrlik had 41 points last year. He was acquired by the Islanders from the Oilers for Eric Brewer, Josh Green and a draft pick in 2000. He has become the Islander’s No.1 defenseman.

Possibility: Highly unlikely! The Islanders wouldn’t trade with their Conference rivals, espically when they are in the playoff race.

Price: Berg + Prospect / high draft pick

4. Brett Hedican: The 33-year old defenseman is very physical. His speed is extremely underrated. He has 2 goals and 9 assists for the Hurricanes this season. He is a -1 on the season. He has slowly become one of the league’s best defenseman. His stats have decreased ever since he joined the Hurricanes in the 2001-02 season. He has also played for the Panthers, Canucks, and the Blues. He was signed by the Hurricanes to a six-year deal is 2002.

Possibility: Very slim as he has 3+ years on his contract.

*Price: Berg + Prospect + Draft Pick

* The Canes would have to pay part of he money that Hedican is owed.

Glen Wesley: The 35-year old defenseman has been known for the accuracy of both his wrist shot and his slap shot. He has been a key fixture of the Hurricane power play. Most of his offensive skills have diminished (only 5 assists this year), but he has developed the physical aspect of his game. He is one of the better defensive minded defenseman in the league. He would be a solid addition to an team. He was the Leafs’ best defenseman in last year’s playoffs. He was the only one who showed up to Game 7 of the first round playoff series against the Flyers.

Possibility: A lot of teams would like to obtain the veteran defenseman so I can’t really predict which team is the front runner.

Price: 3rd round draft pick.

* The price that I have put in is not necessarily right. It just means how much talent the Leafs GM has to give up obtaining the player.

I’m sure that John Ferguson Jr. is looking at some other players, but the players I have mentioned have been linked to the Leafs for some time now. I just hope that the Leafs will be able to keep up the pace with Sens and the Flyers, and end that dreadful curse.