BUT only under the condition that Belfour understands that Tellqvist is going to get AT LEAST 30 starts this year. Belfour would probably want to reach the 500 win plateau but if he cannot accept giving Tellqvist more ice time then this step cannot be taken – and this is where the space between the cap will become tight because the Leafs would then have to go out and get a goalie like a Cujo or Gerber to replace Eddie. Another suggestion is to try and get Eddie to become the leafs goaltending coach after next year. Obviously he will have to retire and then become the most expensive goaltending coach in the NHL. I think Eddie wouldn’t mind fulfilling the mentor role that he experienced with Tretiak. Considering the young goalies that the Leafs have – Rask, Racine, Pogge – considering the possibility of Belfour’s son getting drafted in the next few years, and considering the technically sound style that Belfour has, it would seem he is the best guy to coach these kids. There has been lots of talk about trading Eddie at the deadline but unless a quality goalie is coming back the other way (Raycroft, Noronen/Biron, Roloson/Fernandez, Burke/Grahame) then there is not point in making such a move – especially with the uncertainty of acquiring a free agent goalie in the offseason. Also, the Leafs would probably have to give up a whole lot more than just Belfour in such a deal.
Step Nine: Sign the RFAs – Kyle Wellwood, Matt Stajan, and Carlo Coliacovo
This line-up is assuming that the Leafs acquire a free agent forward and get rid of Antropov via a trade. For the purposes of this article, I am going to suggest that they will acquire RW Jamie Langdenbrunner or RW Anson Carter. I think the Sharks will not let McCauley go and I think that the Leafs have a better shot at acquiring Langdenbrunner over Carter because the Devils will have their work cut out for them in the offseason with their resignings. I don’t think Vancouver wants to see Carter sign elsewhere after his stellar play this year.
The weaknesses on the right are immediately solved with Carter/Langdenbrunner and if you look at the 3rd and 4th line and the 2 extra forwards, this team is not too bad depth-wise. The depth on their defence is still a work in progress – ‘in progress’ because of the growing pains that young defencemen are inevitably going to go through in the NHL. A free agent pick up from any of the defencemen I noted earlier in Step 7 would help here but for now I’ll go with this line-up and the Leafs will have plenty of cap space to make such minor acquisitions.
Departures: Sundin [6.8 million], Czerkawski [500K], Belak [665K], Antropov [1 million], Khavanov [1.25], Berg [1.06 million], Klee [1.9 million]. – total: $13.2 million
Additions: Langdenbrunner/Carter [approx. 2.25 million], Reinprecht [1.44 million], Leopold [$1.05 million], Pohl [450K], Woz [450K], Harrison [450K], Brown [450K], – total: $6.54 million
Returnees: Allison [4 million], Lindros [approx: 2.5 million ], Wellwood [approx: 1.25 million], Tucker [1.6 million], Steen [720K], Kilger [475K], Ponikarovsky [700K], Wilm [450K], Domi [1.25 million], O’Neill [1.5 million], Stajan [approx: 1.25 million], McCabe [approx: 5 million], Kaberle [approx: 3.5 million], Coliacovo [approx: 1 million], Belfour [4.56 million], Tellqvist [450K].
Total: $36.7 million dollars
With the expected hike in the cap next year to about $42-45 million, the leafs will be able to re-sign most of the guys they want (UFAs and RFAs) and have more money left over to get a few more other free agent players as the season progresses and their needs become more evident (Damien Cox has suggested that as the Cap ceiling rises, teams like the Flyers, Wings, and Leafs will regain some of the advantage they once had). If the league minimum goes up it shouldn’t make that much of a difference in the payroll. The Leafs would have some cap room to sign someone during the season when if that is necessary (something that does not exist now).]]>
Step Three: Say Good bye to Czerkawski, Belak, Khavanov, and Berg
If it was possible I would add the one-dimensional O’Neill and Domi to this list but the Leafs are stuck with them. Czerkawski is not even good enough to be a depth player on an NHL team and his $500,000 is too expensive. Aki Berg’s salary is way too expensive for a team that has younger kids who can play as good or better than him and for cheaper too. It’s also time to, FINALLY, say goodbye to Wade F-ing Belak.
Step Four: Resign McCabe, Kaberle, Lindros, Allison
Related to the departure of Klee and Berg is the resigning of McCabe and Kaberle. The savings from letting Khavanov and Berg go ($2.35 million) can go to the raises that Kaberle and McCabe will be looking for (I am estimating that they will be making a combined $2.75 million more then what they are making now). With the loss of Sundin it would seem that Leafs would be compelled to re-sign Lindros and Allison but if the Leafs could try to acquire another free agent Centre like McCauley instead of retaining Lindros that would be a bonus. I would still rather see Allison in a Leaf uniform next year than Lindros (for a lot of obvious reasons that a lot of people don’t seem to understand). However, if the Leafs resign Eric it should be for a two year deal of no more than $2.5 million a season. If Eric doesn’t like it, he – and his perpetually injured body and concussion history – can leave and the Leafs can look elsewhere for a Centre. Furthermore, the Buds are deepest in the Centre position if you look at the entire organization.
Step Five: Keep the Process of Integrating Youth into the Line-Up
The seven players that the Leafs will be keeping the closest eye on when the training camp begins will be Centremen John Pohl, Jeremy Williams and defenceman Jay Harrison, Ian White, Andy Wozniewski, Brendan Bell, and Niklas Kronvall (assuming Kronvall is not traded for Leopold). For the purposes of this article I am going to choose Pohl, Kronvall and Woz to be called up to the team before the season begins. This keeps the payroll down and keeps the line-up young and fresh. Kronvall will already have some NHL experience under his belt and Pohl and Woz both have played a few NHL games. Going into the 2006-2007 season new faces like Pogge, Earl, Vorobiev will be worked into the Marlies roster (Rask will probably be brought over at some point too). Aubin will probably be dropped so that Pogge and Racine will split goaltending duties. Depending on who is called up and who is not the Marlies will still have a strong squad. According to my above estimations, White, Woz, Vorobiev, and Bell will probably be the Marlies’ best D-guys and Earl and Williams their best forwards.
Step Six: Bring up Brown For Depth Purposes
The Leafs are going to have to pick up some depth to replace the poor depth guys they don’t resign (Czerkawski, Belak). Brad Brown is an option to back-up the younger guys on the blue-line and can be resigned for the league minimum. Battaglia is another option and he has had a good year with the Marlies and should at least get a shot at playing with the big club. But the Leafs should first try to get a decent free agent RW (re: Step 7 below), which would move either Domi or O’Neill into the healthy-scratch/‘extra forward’ position on the club.
Step Seven: Pick Up a Free Agent Forward
If possible I would love to see guys like LW Jeff Friesen, C Alyn McCauley, RW Jamie Langdenbrunner, or RW Anson Carter get signed by the Leafs. Friesen will sign for cheap considering the season he has had with the Caps and the recent injuries he has had. I could see him competing with Kilger for the 4th line LW spot. But my preference is for one of the RW mentioned above because that is where the Leafs need some depth. By the way this is the ONLY free agent pick up I am suggesting that JFJ COULD make. However, my suggestion is to save the money for the rest of next season to see which needs they still have. With the cap ceiling going up, there is a strong possibility that the Leafs could add one of the 4 players I mentioned above. Other notable free agents that I would like to see with the Leafs:
D Ruslan Salei, G Martin Gerber (not likely to be let go by the canes – depending on Cam Ward’s play though), G Curtis Joseph, D Phillipe Boucher, D Denis Gauthier, D Jay Pandolfo, D Frantizek Kaberle.]]>