Leafs Should Pursue Paul Kariya

The free agent market has dwindled to a handful of good players left and should dwindle even further with the expected signings this week of:

Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey
Lee Stempniak – Phoenix

It’s left a few good players around still looking for work with about 3 weeks until the opening of training camp.

Jose Theodore and Antti Niemi are goalies still waiting to be signed.

After Mitchell, there are little to no defensemen left to sign other than several depth guys like Mathieu Schnieder, Jay McKee, Randy Jones, Mike Mottau and Paul Mara.

Up front, the pickings are slim as well.

Mike Comrie, Marek Svatos, Bill Guerin, Clarke MacArthur, Kyle, Wellwood, Patrick O’Sullivan and Fred Modin are a few offensive players left over.

Jay Pandolfo, Scott Walker, Owen Nolan, Jeff Halpern, Brendan Morrison, Tim Kennedy, Adam Mair and Kirk Maltby are a few role players still left over.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, it leaves very little to choose from in their efforts to bolster a forward group they have that still lacks experience, proven offense and depth.

Certainly the improved play of Mikael Grabovski, John Mitchell and Nik Kulemin will help as if their offensive output goes up, it will provide the needed offensive depth to support Phil Kessel.

The acquisitions of Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong along with the hope that Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri are ready for the NHL grind are imperative as well to the overall offensive picture. The team had just 1 player left at the end of the year, after their mid-season roster purge, who scored 20+ goals.

While its great to see the Leafs have some promising players in their lineup and some good youth for a change, leaning on hope or forcing players who aren’t ready to step up and produce as NHL veterans can be a recipe for disaster.

That kind of thinking got them into trouble last year when the team “hoped” Vesa Toskala would return to form or they “hoped” they could survive until the return of Kessel in November. Hoping clearly didn’t work.

Its clear, the Leafs need a proven player up front to help ease the pressure off of the youngsters. While they will likely still be put in positions to play key roles, you still need to put them in a position to succeed.

With the pressure to win immediately on in a big way in Toronto, it would be more hurtful than helpful to force the prospects into this position if they’re not ready.

Thus, to find a player that would both lead and produce and provide excellent support for Kessel would be a huge boon to the team.

The one free agent left over who could help in that regard is Paul Kariya.

Now, as the rumors suggest, Kariya, it says, wants to either stay in a small market or go back to California. Its been said he would like to re-unite with his good friend Teemu Selanne in Anaheim. With the injury setback of forward Jeoffrey Lupul, it seems the door is ajar for Kariya to return to where he started.

Also, based on his age, the fact he isn’t a “Burke type player” and has some injury history, Leaf Nation is probably not fully behind such a signing.

Kariya did not have a great season in St. Louis last year either, so is this player on the decline or just having an off year?

And obviously cost is a concern. He is a 35+ player. So his money/cap hit is guaranteed no matter what happens. He made $6 mil last year, the last of a 3 year deal. How much and how long does this player want to sign for? That is a major question and the Leafs are not a team with a ton of cap space.

But, as we’ve seen this summer, anything can happen.

Kariya would appear to be a good fit in Toronto.

As a former captain, he would provide leadership, especially up front where it is lacking. Would he not be a great mentor to the likes of Bozak, Luca Caputi, Christian Hanson and Kadri?

He is still highly skilled, even if he may have lost a step. With the Leafs owning one of the NHL’s worst powerplays, adding another weapon like Kariya would only help.

He is a terrific playmaker and with him and the returning Tomas Kaberle, that’s two playmakers to set up the likes of Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, their two big PP guns. It would make Toronto less predictable with the man advantage as teams usually guard Phaneuf and Kessel and make the other 3 players beat you.

Kariya is also someone who’s played for Leafs coach Ron Wilson before. He in fact had his most productive season under Wilson. While that was some time ago, he knows what Wilson expects and Wilson would know what Kariya could bring to this team, despite the advanced age.

Wilson employs a more aggressive style offensively than Kariya’s last coach Andy Murray (and Davis Payne) and that may suit Kariya much more than the stifling defensive first approach he played in St Louis. That style could allow Kariya to return to be a creative, dangerous player for maybe a couple more years.

We’ve seen his friend Selanne undergo a renaissance in old age and Kariya could find that last gear to his career before he calls it quits.

Is it a risk? Yes. Are the chances of this happening excellent? Probably not. But, Burke would be foolish to not look into this acquisition.

Right now, his trade avenues have dried up with Kaberle back and his NTC back in force. He has no 1st rounder to move and is likely and hopefully frowning upon moving a Bozak or Kadri or Luke Schenn for help now up front.

Sure, a Bobby Ryan or Jeff Carter would be fabulous for Toronto. But it will cost them something significant. A large piece of their current building process and to many, that’s potentially a setback to all the work Burke has done the last 2 years. Its likely too many in Leaf Nation are sick and tired of seeing good young players moved out of the Leaf organization and succeeding elsewhere.

Kariya will cost them nothing but money and term. The team has about 2 mil in cap space to use and likely more if they do the expected and bury Jeff Finger in the minors.

Kariya has been a hero to Canadian hockey at the Worlds and the Olympics and it would be just great to see him don the Maple Leaf once more, even if the colours are Blue and White.

Right now, the options are slim to none. Kariya though is a legit option available and if the Leafs are smart, they’d pursue in earnest. If not, its their loss.


94 Responses to Leafs Should Pursue Paul Kariya

  1. nordiques100 says:

    the trade was mainly to resolve the fact the Leafs had 49 contracts with Hanson to still sign. 50 i believe is the max you can have.

    now, trading 2 contracts for one, it opens up another organization spot on the team.

    it will allow them to perhaps be flexible in camp and invite a player or two on a tryout.

    i think this is all this trade was for.

    this problem that burke has now solved was one of the reasons why he probably lost out on torres.

    now, with some flexibility, he maybe now can look into a free agent or offer tryouts.

    good move here by burke.

  2. leafstime says:

    Get Kaberle to waive his no refunds clause.

    Trade Kaberle, Grabovski, Hanson, and Mike Brown and a third to Atlanta for Evander Kane and a fourth and fifth pick.

    Atlanta wants to win now. Can't wait for Kane. Leafs get center they want. Do it.

  3. frankinboltonleafs says:

    Apparently not. I'm guessing Guerin still does though.

  4. coyotes_bettman says:

    just curious was this a real offer or were you trying to make a joke?

  5. reinjosh says:

    Pay no attention to leafstime. He isn't exactly the model Leafs fan.

  6. leafstime says:

    A real trade offer. Why you don't think it's good? The Thrashers get 4 players in the deal. Kaberle an all star D and two scoring forwards and toughness with Brown.

    The Thrashers have to sell tickets or their another Phoenix. Close to moving. Kane is still away from being good. Fair even trade.

    I was the guy who said the Leafs should get Phaneuf and everybody laughed. Then I showed I was right.

  7. leafstime says:

    I have the best trade ideas here. Why don't other fans come up with better trades then me?

  8. Leafs_the_word says:

    One Atlanta is going to take on all those contracts and give up the next elite power forward in the league.

    Two Grabovski doesn't sell tickets, no way Kaberle re-ups in Atlanta who aren't going to the playoffs this year so Kaberle doesn't make them any money after he walks.

    Three, Kane's style of play (hitting, fighting and scoring) will pack more seats than anything we'd be shipping their way.  To put it in perspective Kane has the potential to be his franchise's Wendal Clark.

    Four, we landed Phaneuf because the Flames wanted to move 6 million off their blueline, Atlanta has no motivation to move Kane.

  9. mojo19 says:

    Ya strange turn of events. I love Billy Guerin, but i doubt he would come to a young, rebuilding team at this stage in his career, especially after wasting a couple seasons with the Islanders.

    I think Guerin would be perfect for the Sharks. He was good in his brief time in San Jose before, and he could be a 25 goal man on a good team.

  10. leafit2me says:

    Can't shake the feeling that BB is laying the ground work for another Phaneuf-like trade. He's stacking up on D-men and will spend the season scouting college talent once again. Come January 2011 when there are about 25-30 or so games to be played BB will pounce on a struggling team again. Next summer's UFA market is going to insanely loaded with name players and the Leafs will be players to a large extent. KEEP THE FAITH LEAF FANS.

  11. JoelJoel says:

    a couple?…

  12. nordiques100 says:

    i guess i should specify that size in terms of body and spirit.

    i think what you're describing is the leafs lacking the kind of heart to actually give it that extra whatever to make a play.

    honestly, the way they were playing, it was like they were scared. as in shitting my pants scared.

    playing and feeling like that led to the scrambling and panic moves on the ice.

    it certainly did seem like chaos. bozak though helped. so did kessel of course.

    will versteeg and armstrong? to some degree yes. but clearly, the leafs DO need a Jeff Carter, aka a big centre. or definitely someone to supplement Kessel.

    but your thoughts make sense. a player who will go "hey, i have the puck, let me do something positive with it".

  13. palindrom says:

    well, evender kane is exactly the kind of players who can help them to wins now:)

  14. Leafs_the_word says:

    He couldn't even move Kaberle and you think he's artitect of another Phaneuf deal months in advance?  Phaneuf played himself out of Calgary and Burke was savvy enough to be oppertunistic, those aren't the types of deals you prepare for months in advance.

  15. Leafs_the_word says:

    No, we poked our head above water with sheer heart (I keep thinking of our 1st game against the Canucks last season where we played on sheer will).  We lack talent, so I don't care if Riberio and Savard have me first attitudes and Armstrong is a good ol' boy Armstrong doesn't help us win if he'd ask to play beyond his role (i.e. being forced to be a top six player).  We need talent to create time and space for other players.  How can I put this… we a pucking moving center, I'm not sold that Bozak is that player yet nor do I expect Kadri to fill that role.

  16. reinjosh says:

    Well I agree with you, according to some sources, Nonis was laying the groundwork for that deal for a while apparently starting in December.

  17. reinjosh says:

    Which is exactly what I said

  18. mapleleafsfan says:

    Forget all these dusters, our scoring woes are solved. Clarke Macarthur was the missing piece. 

  19. reinjosh says:

    I'm not a fan. I guess his 16 goals will be a nice help and add to the "score by committee" mantra the Leafs are going to need to employ. Bur Burke's words on him were weird. "I'm pleased to add a guy with size and some touch". WTF? He's 5'11. 

  20. assman says:

    who is this douglas macarthur? more real scoring, thats whats needed. not more stajan, hangman contracts. get real. make the moves to win, score more. not less. need more scorers, not john pohl

  21. Leafs_the_word says:

    Hagman (Fletcher), Mayers (Fletcher), Stajan (Quinn) and White (Quinn).

    Where is the Nonis deal that lay the groundwork? Point being that the Burke's management didn't make a deal to help facilitate the Phaneuf trade.

  22. reinjosh says:

    Ah I see what your getting at. Nevermind my comment, it was based on actually talks not deals prior to to the deal.

  23. Leafs_the_word says:

    Yeah, I chuckled when I read he Lashoff deal because I knew someone was going to Eklund it by saying we're making room for another contract as a prelude for a big trade.

  24. mojo19 says:

    Clark MacArthur, another 25 year old wild card. Almost all our forwards fit that description. I guess the hope is that 1 or 2 of them can break out and the rest can at least pull their own weight.

    Something like this now:

    Kulemin – Bozak – Kessel
    Versteeg – Kadri – Armstrong
    Caputi – Grabovski – MacArthur
    Sjostrom – Mitchell – Orr

    Mueller, Hanson, D'Amigo, Brown, Irwin

    Should be some good competition at camp, lots of guys have an equal chance to fight for 2nd line minutes here. I think the most likely to have a "breakout year" and score up over 20 or 25 goals would be Kulemin and Grabovski (assume that Versteeg and Kessel are a given), and then I would say Bozak, Kadri, and Caputi all have the skills to do it. Hopefully we get the most out of this group and who knows, we could be in the playoff mix late in the year.

  25. nordiques100 says:

    if kadri makes it, i have to think grabs is good as gone.

    he doesnt fit well as a 3rd liner nor can he play the wing. he cant win draws, cant check, takes too many nights off and isnt big or physical enough to handle that role.

    i hope too that just cause kads can be sent down and makes less money than grabs, he doesnt get sent down for those reasons. if he earns it. he should stay and grabs should be dumped.

    i think that is why C-mac was brought in. he can play centre and wing, if kads doesnt make it right away, they will slide grabs as 2 and mac as 3rd centre.

    i would prefer Hanson getting the 3rd line minutes. if he improves faceoffs he can be our version of a Zubrus or a Holik or like the Yotes Hanzal. just less physical.

    i think he can do the job, especially  if armstrong and sjostrom are his wingers. i think that is the checking line we need.

    i just hope this signing means no big minutes to mitchell. though wilson is a big big fan. i think that's why i want him fired.

    I do believe as well a guy like mike zigomanis, who is good on draws, has a shot at the 4th line centre role.

    and i wonder who would be the camp invitees. remember Allison from last year? i think burke could invite a couple of players.

    btw, burke sounded kinda dumb for saying we added a player with size. mac is what 5'11?

  26. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I like this deal! Is there a Sutter in the Thrashers org.?

  27. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I've read Clarke MacArthur's height range from 6'2 down to 5'10. Nice trick! Kadri is listed at 6'0 on hockeydb….hmmmm. Domi was 6'3 when he played for the Petes right? I'm guessing all the plane flights compressed his vertebrae? Yeah…that's it…yeah. 

  28. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I wish everyone would stop pencilling in Bozak and Kadri as first & second line C's. Bozak came off of a fairly successful kinda half season and Kadri played one token game and the rest in junior. Like it or not Grabovski is the closest thing we have to a first line C. He'll get those minutes…his contract/expectations dictate it. Even if Kadri makes it Grabo will still be our first line C unless we trade him for a real first line C…which won't happen, (without Kaberle as part of it). Why would anyone want to throw Bozak and Kadri under the bus as first line C? (they are kids)….it's Grabo's to take or lose. If he he gets run over by the bus…Bozak/Kadri/whoever can fill in temporarily till Burke fixes the issue…Burkie knows this. A trade is coming with Kaberle in it.

  29. leafit2me says:

    How exactly does stating that the Leafs could be stocking up for a trade get construed as an Eklund rumour? I don't recall saying that this was fact nor did I claim to have some secret sources. In fact all I said is that I had a feeling. This is a rumour website right or are we just discussing sure fire NHL transactions that are imminent? When did any of you become experts? If you ask me you the one thats Eklundesque, thinking you are the only one speaking fact.

    And quit this stupid talk about trying to differentiate what was Nonis's deal or Burke's deal. Toronto Maple Leaf signings and trades DO NOT take place unless BB gives the green light to Nonis or Fletcher. Steven Jobs didn't build the iPod or the iPhone but he is credited for Apple's resurgence. Its called management by delegation and thats how effective CEO's and presidents of large organizations work. BB is a class act, he knows this but still gives credit where its due. He never took credit for the Phaneuf trade in spite of the media always referring to it as an example of Burke's trading record, he praised Fergueson for the way the Kaberle contract was structured or whenever someone praised a player that wasn't his pick(Ian White).
  30. nordiques100 says:

    i really thing though we either have players who panic too much or are just too afraid to make a play.

    they handle the puck like a grenade. We definitely need someone who can carry it up and make something happen with it.

    too often its dump it in, or put it on goal…without anyone there going for rebounds.

    and when there is time, its a panic play. honestly only kaberle doesnt panic in the offensive end. he really makes good plays. ha, play him at centre to ease the logjam on D!

    i dont give a crap about attitude. we have grabovski. he fought with blake…another hot head. the guys you mentioned. people make them out ot be cancers. riberio and savard both had problems like that…well early in their careers. they're not really at all detrimental to the team's room.

  31. Leafs_the_word says:

    A thin justification to speculate on a big trade, it's an Eklund trope.  He doesn't post facts eithers, no one is demanding facts, your rumor follow a predictable pattern, are we allowed to laugh on this site? 

    I didn't 'differentiate' Burke's deal from Nonis's.  I pointed out that there wasn't a deal made specifically as a precusor to the Phaneuf deal.  Every player we gave up was aquired before Burke and Nonis arrived. 

    I'm confused, I thought you were taking credit for Phaneuf deal?

    Anyways thanks for explaining to me how the corporate world works.

  32. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    Bozak's 24 and grabovski is 26.. like it or not grabovski doesnt have much potential and will never be a first line centre maybe a 2nd line centre, Bozak was in the AHL and proved he could play in the NHL then when given the shot he played his best everynight and competed hard, an offseason of getting better and last year of getting used to the schedule and playing more will work wonders, bozaks 24 you cant treat him as a 19 year old rookie he's ready too play with the big boys, and unlike grabovski he can be a first line centre in the very near future, besides that bozak played 22 less games then grabovski and had only 8 less points, and will hopefully be a point a game type of player nobody's penciling kadri in the 2nd line centre..  were just praying that he does make the team and takes over the 2nd line cause kadri has a billion times more upside then grabovski, were just keeping grabovski incase kadri needs time in the marlies too get used to the traveling and playing alot more games without getting worn out then we'll put in grabovski instead of like the next best thing "mitchel or hanson" not a big fan of grabovski but he's a way better scorer then any other of our centres  

  33. DannyLeafs says:

    No offense but that trade would have no appeal to Atlanta. Kane is not a player they have to do much "waiting for" to be a big ticket draw. The kid was already one of their more entertaining forwards to watch, and he will likely be even better next year. I would be willing to be that Kane will outscore any of the players the Leafs are offering up in that deal as soon as next year, and they really don't need an all-star defensemen with the group of talented young D-men they have. I think you are severly undervaluing Kane in this deal.

    Kane has every bit as much upside (possibly even more) then Taylor Hall. They are the same age (Kane is just 3 months older) have played hockey at the same level all the way up through until last year, and Kane was the better player of the two during his last year of Junior. Kane also did a good job of adjusting to the NHL last year, and has all the skill to be a big time scoring forward in the league.

  34. 911Flyers says:

    Every team needs secondary scoring and Hagman and Stajan aren't bad in that regard, it's just they're not first line players. Hagman has scored 22 or more goals in his last 3 seasons and put up 6 points in 6 games for Finland in the Olympics. Stajan is primarily a playmaker and was one goal away from 20 last year. 

    The Chicago Blackhawks won a Cup in a series where their MVP, Toews did not score and Kane was held off the scoresheet several times, yet they won because of players like Sharp, Versteeg, Bolland and Brouwer. 
    Philadelphia put up a great fight since even though Mike Richards and Jeff Carter combined for 2 goals, Danny Briere's line with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino was brilliant and Claude Giroux provided clutch goals.
    Even when Pittsburgh won last year with Crosby on the bench for Game 7, they won off of 2 goals from Max Talbot.
    Every good team has depth and these types of moves are necessary and $1.1 million for a 16 goal scorer is not bad at all.
  35. frankinboltonleafs says:

    You're dreaming. And re "nobodies pencilling in Kadri as second line C"….you just commented on a thread where the guy pencilled in Kadri as second line C….look up.

  36. reinjosh says:

    The reason everyone is penciling in Bozak as the number one guy is because he has the best chemistry with Kessel. Seeing as Kessel is our top forward, that makes Bozak our top center. Breaking up that chemistry would be a stupid idea. Otherwise we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

    Kadri play really well last year in the preseason and barely missed out on the team. Considering he bulked up, its expected he will make the team. Burke and Wilson both said Kadri only makes the team as a top two center. Assuming Bozak is the top line center (as stated above) that leaves Kadri to the two spot if he makes it. That leaves Grabovksi as the three guy. Now if Kadri can't make the team (which is a likely possibility) than we have no problem.

    Thats why everyone is penciling in the two as the top two centers. We don't exactly have many better options.

  37. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I'm not trying to be argumentative…really…just the facts. There's a great article right now on the Leafs rebuild on NHL.com. Kadri is mentioned as an up and coming prospect. And that's perfect…and I get everyones dreaming about his position. How can I make this brief? We sucked last year…lots of reasons (for me it was Toskala). Alot of guys had bad seasons because of that. Stempy did pretty well when he left eh? Grabovski was hurt…he's not a write-off. Seems Versteeg can play C as well, (there's an option?). I don't care what Wilson says about Kadri. Wilson wanted Finger because he could shut down Joe Thornton. My 9 yr old nephew could shut down Thornton. Finger wasn't Fletchers fault…it was Wilson's. I just don't want to read in December how bad Kadri sucks and "how in the hell did we draft this guy?". I like Kadri…just don't think he's up to it yet and Grabovski is being knocked unfairly. As for Bozak we're asking him to step in for Sundin/Gilmour, (yeah that's fair!). I guess my point is let's not talk about 1st /2nd lines. We'll just ice some lines and see what happens. I really want us to make the playoffs this year. 

  38. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    He's just expecting him too be there at the start of the season,,  burke and kadri and everyone knows he still has to prove to everyone he should be on the team and theres still a possibility that he could be going to the AHL at the start of the season and get used to the schedule before coming up later in the season when hes more confident and nhl ready. saying that,, if i made a roster right now id put him on the second line too because i think personally he's gonna do way better then grabo, and hes gonna be a gonner by next season once kadri and bozak are comfortable and were not worrying about them not being able too handle it anymore.

  39. mojo19 says:

    Well Frank, the reason I put Kadri in at the #2 spot is because *If* he's going to make the team they are going to play him, and not pull a Barry Melrose – Steven Stamkos. So if he makes the team, he's getting 2nd line minutes. If he doesn't make it you can move things around, I also provided a list of 17 forwards, so there are some interchangeables, this is obviously not written in stone, and definitely not something to freak out about like you have.

  40. frankinboltonleafs says:

    I'm not freaking out at all…just trying to spell out facts. You're comparing the Kadri situation to Stamkos? I'm pushing 50 and have seen a ton of kids pushed under the "Leaf bus". Melrose was right, Stamkos sucked in the beginning and needed to learn. Kadri is hardly Stamkos but shares one thing: he needs to learn as well. You could've picked four other centers as I stated with Versteeg as an option. But you wrote off Grabovski and pencilled in a kid with one token games experience? Just seems a curious decision on your's..and other's part. It's why people laugh at leaf fans…I'm a leaf fan….and I cringe when I read this stuff. And I'll cringe when I hear derogatory comments about Kadri on the Andy Frost show when we lose with those "second line minutes". Give the kid a break…and Grabovski.

  41. reinjosh says:

    Melrose was a moron. The reason Stamkos didn't do well was because Melrose was giving the kid like 5 – 10 minutes enough. He didn't do any development. It was actually an incredibly stupid thing of Melrose to do. He actually almost caused the kid to get trade.

    I am one of Grabovksi's biggest defenders, but if Kadri is ready (I , Mojo and most of the smart fans on here understand its a possibility only) than he makes it as the 2nd center, not the third. He almost made the team last year and only gained weigh and experience through the last year. Its a good possibility he makes it this year.

    Now no one is basing this off of one token game, as you keep pointing out. Were basing it on the way his game his improved. You have to understand their is a reason everyone is saying he might make the team. its because he is almost ready. If the coaching staff don't think he can make it than he won't. But if he does he isn't going to be behind Kadri.

  42. mojo19 says:

    The reason some people laugh at Leaf fans is because guys like Franky up in Bolton say that Grabovski is close to being a first line centre. These are the facts. Grabovski is a 2nd-3rd line centre and has no potential to be a first liner, where as Kadri does. We're not winning the cup next year so I don't mind losing a couple games if it means giving more ice time to a kid who needs to develop rather than letting him rot on the bench to give more ice time to Grabovski whose ceiling is a lot lower.

  43. b_devils says:

    Just read on a Toronto Star article that Kadri is up to 185 – 187lbs! He wants to be 190 at season start. Physically I think that is amazing, and he already weighs more than Grabo. 

    The article also said that Burke has Kadri "penciled" in for the first 20 games or so. To see if he can make it or if he needs some in the AHL. 
    Also watch out for Marcel Muller! 6'4, 222lbs. He just has to get used to the North American game, so maybe next year he can play regularly. 
    I like how Burke is building the top six. No need to bring in an expensive player, just let the players grow together. 
    I see the future forwards as 
    Kessel Boak muller
    D'Amigo Kadri Versteeg (maybe switch Muller here to add some size)
    Capputi Hanson Armstrong
    None of them are over  30! 
  44. toronto77 says:

    No way this guy makes the team, especially with all the potential we have in our young guys

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