Leafs Off-Season Wishlist/Good News, Bad News Scenerios

Yes I know, the season isn’t over, the Leafs can still make a miraculous run to the playoffs and end the 40 year drought, yeah yeah yeah. Anyone who has watched this team without Leaf goggles on knows that they are absolutely hopeless. The goal scoring this year has been decent, the defense has been improving, and the goaltending has been horrendous. Gustovsson plays respectably, but he is not good enough to make this team respectable. Toskala has been terrible, no other word for it, we can usually count on him for one weak goal per game if not more. But with every problem comes a solution, and whadda ya know? Another Leaf article giving one.

Anyways, the Leafs off-season wish list is long, and it will take a lot of signings or trades to get it done. Assuming they don’t resign any UFAs here is what they need.
Forwards

1st line center
1st line Left Wing
2nd line Center
2nd line Right wing
Considering the Leafs are a team of 3rd and 4th liners, they should be able to fill the rest of the bottom 6

Now a few of those roles should be filled by rookies and youngsters, as I have not yet taken them into consideration.

Surprisingly, the Leafs defensive core does not need too much improvement, as of now, all of the roles are filled by good defensemen. However over the off-season, I feel that a Tomas Kaberle deal is imminent, so of course that changes.

Goaltending is another story. I believe that they should resign Gustovsson, as on a good team, he would be a damn fine tender. However they need someone competent, in case Gustovsson does not pan out. They cannot afford another terrible season without a pick.

Fortunately, half of this roster is going into UFA status, which is an absolute blessing. Burke will be able to totally retool the forward core and grab a starting goalie.

Here are some UFAs that could fill the roles:

1st line center:

Patrick Marleau – I would love to have him on the team, with the proper ice time, playing with Phil Kessel, he could really step up and be an offensive force. He does have a not so nice history with Wilson though. Price: 6.5-7.5 mil.

Olli Jokinen – Less ideal, as he is a goal scorer, and the Leafs should be looking for a play maker, but if signed to 4 years or less he could be a good temporary replacement until someone else is available. Price: 5-6.5 mil

1st line left wing:

Alex Frolov: He is a bit erratic, but if given the ice time with quality players he could be a nice 30 goal 70 point guy. Price: 4-5 mil.

Paul Kariya: Not ideal, he is old, but is an excellent playmaker who could find chemistry with Kessel. Price: 4-5 mil.

2nd line center:
Here are some UFA options, but this solution could very well come from within.

Matthew Lombardi: Blazing speed, decent player, should come fairly cheap. Price: 2.4-4 mil.

Chris Higgins: Struggling in New York, but he has shown good upside and could be a nice addition. Price: 2 mil.

2nd line right wing: It is a very weak crop of RW UFAs, with possibly the best option being resigning Lee Stempniak.

Goaltender: The Leafs have a few options here, they could go for the experienced, proven winner, or the young, but skilled 1A goalie. Considering Toronto’s market, I would go with the 1st one.

Marty Turco: He is old, but goalies can play well until late in their careers. If he plays up to his potential, the Leafs should be ok. Price: 5 mil.

Evgeni Nabokov: He is very talented, but will come at a high price, and will probably be resigned.

If they choose to go with the 2nd option they could go for Ellis, Hiller, or possibly Rinne.

Now of course the Leafs do have some trade options out their. Here are some potential trades Toronto could make.

To SJS: Ian White, negotiating rights to Matt Stajan, Phil Oresovich
To Tor: Joe Pavelski

Toronto gets a guy who could be a 1st line center, but with the situation in SJ, he may not even make it past a 3rd. Toronto gets a guy who will play with Kessel at the Olympics, and has shown a good all-around game.

San Jose gets a very versatile, hard working puck mover who can score, and fill in at the wing. They get the negotiating rights to Stajan, to replace the 3rd line center. They also get a young, physical, hard working 3rd pairing d-man, who if nothing else can be a tough guy.

That trade would only go down if San Jose resigns, Marleau and Setoguchi and Pavelski proves too expensive to sign.

They could do that trade, although Pavelski remains unproven at a 1st line role.

Another potential option would be this:

To DAL: Kaberle
To TOR: Richards

Fairly simple deal, Toronto gets a 1st line center, Dallas gets a high end puck mover, and loses 3.6 mil of salary.

I would not like that too much, because Richards is expensive and inconsistent.

Now if it were me in charge, I would use the free agent market to fill in the 1st line, but fill the other lines internally. Kadri could be a 2nd line center next year, and Stalberg could well be a 2nd line winger.

Here are some hypothetical line ups that the Leafs could ice:

Idealy

At the deadline.Trade Ponikarovsky, and Stajan to Pittsburgh for their 2010 1st. It will be late, and Pittsburgh gets two serviceable guys for the playoffs, who are not under contract for next year.

Say that pick is 25th overall, the Leafs could grab Jake Campbell.

Bury Jason Blake, Jeff Finger. Resign Kulemin, John Mitchell and Ian White
Sign Kariya 2 years, 8 mil, sign Marleau, 5 years 35 mil. Sign Marty Turco 2 years, 10 mil.

Kariya(4)-Marleau(7)-Kessel(5.4)
Hagman(3)-Kadri(.85)-Stalberg(.85)
Kulemin(2)-Bozak(.85)-Hanson(.85)
Orr(1)-Mitchell(.8)-Rosehill(.85)

Kaberle(4.2)-Komisarek(4.5)
White(3)-Beauchemin(3.8)
Schenn(.85)-Gunnarson(.85)

Turco(5)
Gustovsson(2)

That scenario leaves the Leafs with a 1st rounder, and they grab a goalie, they get a 1st line center, without giving up too much, they get an old, but serviceable 1st line play maker. That roster would be playoff bound, and with a few years experience, they could go for the cup.

Now as the title suggests, I will list some good news, bad news aspects of this season.

Good news: When he is on his game, Kessel proved an ability to carry the team on his back, when he was hot in December, this team could play against anyone. They almost were in position to jump into the playoffs.

Bad news: Kessel is streaky, and when he disappears, he really disappears, he looks like his coming out of his slump now, but he really needs to work on that.

Good news: The Leafs will have plenty of cap space to work with this off-season.

Bad news: It is a relatively poor crop of free agents.

Good news: With a few key pieces in place, UFA’s will consider Toronto to be a good destination.

Bad news: The Leafs have very few key pieces in place.

Anyways, this season is lost, the most I hope for is that Boston does not get a lottery pick.

Here is hoping for a return to respectability in 2011. Sigh.