Leafs Will Get Somebody But Definitely Not Everybody
The biggest argument among members of HTR is who will or will not end up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This argument will never die. No matter who the player, they have been rumoured to come to Toronto. And on the flip side, no matter who the player, they have zero chance of ending up with the Leafs.
In reality, the Leafs have only 8 players under contract. They are going to need to fill their roster some how. With limited NHL ready prospects on the horizon, they will need to find players whether it be through trade, free agency or waiver. This means that out of the 700 players in the NHL, and out of the 400 plus free agents out there, a few will be Maple Leafs. Who and how much remains unknown.
Much of it depends on how JFJ decides to tweak his roster. If it remains status quo, and no one gets bought out, and the restricted free agents return, there will be limited room under the cap to do anything significant.
If JFJ decides to buy out/trade some players whether it be:
Owen Nolan and his 5 million injuries and dollars
Ed Belfour and his questionable back
Tomas Kaberle and his indifferent play
Ken Klee who is not worth the 1.9 Million he is due Bryan McCabe whom the Leafs could drop in order to make an upgrade on defence
he will have room to maneuvre with. He could also choose not to qualify any of his restricted free agents giving him the option to use that money on someone else.
There are possibilities out there, some more extreme than others but while we wait until August 1st to happen, everyone is pretty much fair game and with this new CBA, we do not know how the market will be like.
Here is a look at who is available and their chances of ending up in Toronto.
Sergei Fedorov (1%) – Feds would have to take a large paycut to ever end up in Toronto. But him and Sundin are too similar making him redundant.
Martin Gelinas (3%) – He is a UFA who would probably come cheap. Because of his former ties with Pat Quinn among others from Vancouver, Toronto is a remote possibility. But he will go where his family wants him and I beleive they want to stay out west.
Adam Foote (25%) – Foote is from the Toronto area, his family is here. that is something that could draw Foote to come here and finish his career. The Leafs would have to clear the decks to afford a player like this. Since 29 other teams would love to have his services, his value is going to be driven up and he may be priced out of hte Leafs range. it all depends how much cap room the team has. I think to get Foote, Kaberle and Klee would have to go.
Rob Blake (1%) – On the off chance he ever got bought out by the Avs, Blake would have Toronto on his list of teams he would want to go to. But it appears he will stay and probably finish his career as an Av.
Paul Kariya (20%) I think there are a few places interested in Kariya and all have something to offer. I think a team like the Canucks or a team in California would have a greater chance at getting him than the Leafs do. But he has played for Quinn and did fare well so that would be a draw for him to come to Toronto. But i dont think the Leafs will offer him the big money he seeks.
Teemu Selanne (9%) – The Finnish Flash would have to take a big paycut to sign with the Leafs due to their cap issues. I think Teemu would be more satisfied playing at home in Finland and getting ready for the Olympics. He is also a west coast kind of guy.
Peter Forsberg (0.5%) – I cannot see Peter the great in any other uniform besides Colorado or the Tre-Kronar. He is a friend of Sundin’s and certainly would love to play with him. but no team can get the best player in the world at a discount price.
Mike Modano (0%) – I dont think Modano would ever come to Canada but if he did, it would be to play for Bob Gainey again in Montreal. Like Fedorov, the Leafs have no use for him because they already have Sundin a similar player.
Curtis Joseph (40%) – Cujo does not want to venture too far from Ontario. His family is from here and he will do what is best for them at this point in his career. Obviously Belfour would need to get bought out to make this happen. He would come cheaper than the Eagle.
Jason Allison (48%) – His injury problems have tainted his value. Many teams would be interested in Allison because he would come cheap. It will depend on whether he wants to jump into the fire and play in a big market to restart his career so that if he succeeds people will notice. or play in a quiet place to face less scrutiny if he fails to succeed in his comeback. Toronto is a draw for Allison because he was born and raised close to the area.
Mike Rathje (55%) – The Leafs will likely compete hard for his services because he would fill a need. He is one of those 2nd tier players that the Leafs will probably end up with especially if they dont end up with any of the big name talent.
Chris Pronger (3%) – The Blues will likely qualify him and try to trade him to get some value for him or else face losing him for nothing next summer. THe Leafs do not have the resources to make a trade so will likely have to wait until next summer hoping some team doesnt already lock Pronger up long term. He may not be qualified but he would then have to take a significant paycut to play in Toronto next season which is something he will likely NOT do thanks to his injury past. He will want to secure his future with the next contract he gets.
Markus Naslund (10%) – it is no secret that he and SUndin are friends. Sundin is probably trying to convince the Canucks Captain to come to Toronto but it would have to come at lower pay than what he would get from some other teams. I think Naslund will want to hit the homerun on his last NHL contract before retiring in Sweden and unless the leafs dump several players, there is not much of a chance he will get the big payoff in Toronto.
Todd Bertuzzi (4%) – Bert has moved himself back to Ontario. He wants to play here and be close to home. But the Leafs would have to give up the little future they have to get him. The one thing the Leafs have going for them is that Bert will likely be out the first 20 games of the season which is not good for the Canucks. That could force the Canucks hand to move him and get someone who would be around the full season.
Joe Thornton (1%) – If the B’s dont lock him up then they will be forever known in my books as the worst run franchise ever. The only way he ends up in Toronto is this time next year when 29 teams are bidding for his services as an unrestricted free agent thanks to the Bruins stupidity of not signing him to a big deal. But by this time, the Leafs may be in cap trouble (without the option of buyouts either) due to overspending (i.e they did give a huge multi year contract to an often injured 40 year old).
Sergei Gonchar (33%) – if Klee stays, Toronto may be a place Gonchar looks at. The team will likely lose Leetch and will need a replacement. I think they would have to get rid of Kaberle to have that happen as they will need some cap room to bring in a guy who has always been near the top in defenceman scoring. He may be the only really top guy who ends up with the Leafs this summer.
Glen Murray (15%) – Both parties are interest in trying to work something out. The did have some preliminary talks last summer. But he will be on the Bruins priority list, or at least he should be, to keep some of their top players happy. So many teams are interested in Murray that it may drive the Leafs away. there are probably 10 teams at least who are in serious contention to get this guy.
Alex Zhitnik (16%) – He would have to come cheap for him to fit in salary wise with Toronto. He too would fill a need and could be yet another one of those 2nd tier free agents that the team gets after getting shut out by all the big names. He is another candidate to replace Leetch on defence.
Jeff O’Neill (60%) – It will be all a matter of him not getting qualified. He has said he wants to play in Toronto and if he is free, here is one free agent that should be able to work something out with the Buds. It would help further if Roberts returned as well as they are very good friends.
Alexei Kovalev (0.01%) – He would only choose Toronto because he knows he would have freedom on the ice to do whatever he wants in the Pat Quinn system and that includes cherry picking and lazy back checking. Quinn lets his players get away with everything. But the Leafs dont have the kind of money he is looking for. The only way he ends up in Toronto is when his team visits the Leafs. And it may be 4 times a year if he resigns with the Habs.
Scott Niedermayer (25%) – if we see by August 1st that the Leafs have cleared the decks and opened up tons of cap room then this would be the reason why. Nieds is the marquee free agent available and many teams will bid hard for his services. playing for an original 6 team, in Canada, in a place that care about hockey big time unlike New Jersey will be reasons why he chooses the Leafs. Plus the big payoff he gets. But the team will have to make some cuts because him and Sundin alone will probably take up 25% of the cap room.
Eric Lindros (75%) – No matter what the team, the Big E will have to face a significant pay cut. He may be forced to play for the minimum and be subjected to tough bonuses. So the guy mind as well choose a place he wants to play in if he will not get the big payoff as in years past. He has always wanted to be a Leaf and play at home near mommy and daddy so this may be the year it happens.
John Leclair (30%) – now that he is bought out, and that there is a good chance Lindros is coming to Toronto, Leclair may want to join his good friend and reform LOD again. he will have to come much cheaper than the 7 mil he would have gotten to remain a Flyer. due to his age and injury history, he may very well come on the cheap.
Nik Khabibulin (0.000001%) – The Leafs will need to buy out Belfour and offer the Bulin wall a huge contract to convince him to play and live in cold weather Toronto taking him away from Florida or ARizona. Hmm if i had my choice i would stay in the sun to golf every off day and off season.
Gary Roberts (75%) – He wants to stay, he has business here and nearing retirement would probably want to make one last run hear home. At his age, he wont be too expensive and worth every penny spent. The Leafs would be foolish to allow Roberts to walk.
Joe Nieuwendyk (75%) – I think his future is tied to Roberts. He will want to play with his good friend and loved playing for Toronto in his one season here. There is no doubt he is a bigger asset than liability and would help any team. I think he too wants to retire a Leaf and try to go 4 for 4 in terms of teams and cup wins.
Tie Domi (90%) – He may be Crosby/Lemieux’s bodyguard in Pittsburgh but he lives and breathes blue and white. He is one of those players that you cant see playing anywhere else.
Alex Moginly (25%) – Almo would love to stay but he may not be even able to play. The poor guy is on his last legs. Though he said he would take less to play here, this guy is more likely to go somewehre where it is nice and warm and sunny year round.
Right now everything is up in the air. Things are going to get interesting, especially for the Leafs and their problems with Nolan. But by weeks end we will know where the Leafs stand and what they do will spell out how they will proceed. lots of buyouts will mean a possible run at a top name free agent. Some moves but nothing significant outside of Nolan will mean they will go for the 2nd level free agents and leave the star guys to someone else.
My take: Nolan gets bought out and Kaberle traded. Domi, Roberts and Niewy sign 1 year deals,
Antropov, Pony, Kilger and Belak all return for very small deals.
the only big name possible is Gonchar and they end up with Lindros, O’Neill and Rathje for sure.