Possibilities for The Leafs this summer…
I am not here to tell you what the leafs are going to do this summer because pretty much no one out there can predict what such an unpredictable organization is going to do over a summer coming off a disappointing year. I am going to tell you in this article some of the more likely possibilities that actually make sense unlike the ones other people like to ramble on about but have no chance of happening in a life time.
Now in my opinion the reason for such a bad season this year was inconsistency by the team and a lot of times the goaltending. Ed Belfour was not the Eagle we all knew him as in previous years. He had a tough time getting in a groove in the new NHL and couldn’t seem to make the big saves to steal games like he use to. Belfour went 22-22-4 in 49 games this season with a 3.29 GAA and .892 SV%. Some may argue this is because he was playing with the injury all season and finally decided it was too bad to play anymore. I think it was the year off at such a veteran age. Now that Belfour got hurt, the leafs put forth there trust in Mikael Tellqvist. Impressing in his few previous starts in previous years it looked like the shot he was probably looking for was finally here. Only one problem he blew that shot. Failing to win the two most important games of the season for the leafs during crunch time Tellqvist lost back to back contests in Montreal in games he looked terrible in. Tellqvist finished the season with a record of 10-11-0 in 26 games with a GAA of 3.13 and a SV% of .895. So in came a man by the name of Jean Sebastien Aubin and he was brilliant. In fact he was so brilliant he left the leafs only 2 points shy of the 8th and final spot in the eastern conference for the last playoff spot. Aubin went 9-0-0 in 11 games with a GAA of 2.21 and SV% of .924.With that said your looking at your new potential back up next season for the leafs(and you can even add in the fact they re-signed him at the end of the year for 1 more season). Not bad for 11 games everyone’s probably thinking why didn’t he play the whole season for the leafs and that’s something only Pat Quinn and JFJ know. Now u might be wondering why I am only considering him as the back up and not a starter.
Well with the leafs likely to bite into Belfour buyout option and with Tellqvist’s poor play I think all odds point to a free agent signing for the next number one goalie of the leafs. Now you ask well who’s that going to be. I think the answer to that question is a man by the name of Evgeni Nabokov from San Jose. Now I know he didn’t have much of a season this year either but I think there is some key factors you must look at. He is an UFA on July 1 and coming off the poor season he just had with San Jose after the injury and practically losing his number one job to Vesa Toskala he might now exactly be looking at top dollar. He will make $5 375 000 this year but my bet is that coming off that bad season he will likely get signed for about a million less (anywhere from $4 – $4.5) million. Because he can be had for less then he’s already making and everyone has a bad year hear and there is still a lot of potential in this kid and I think teams know that. This is one of the reasons why I think the leafs will take a look at a guy like him. The other reason is his age. He is not old but not young at the same time. Nabokov 30 might be the right fit for these leafs to bring in for the next 3-4 years because in 3-4 years goaltending should not be a problem for the leafs when Pogge and Rask are ready to take centre stage in Toronto. Nabokov would be able to bring these guys in slowly over the next few years and teach them while he still hits his prime years as a goalie himself.
On the scoring front this summer I think u can expect but few changes. Scoring goals did not seem t be a problem for the leafs this year as much as keeping them out was. You can expect a few minor changes to be made with guys like Clarke Wilm, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros all free agents. The only one I can see even getting an offer from the leafs is Lindros strictly cause of his size and power as a forward and the fact that he did stay healthy and by that I mean when he was injured it never had anything to do with previous injuries it was other unlikely injuries you wouldn’t of expected. With this I think you will see some of the young leafs talent get a shot. Guys like John Pohl who put up respectable numbers with the Marlies last year or guys like Ben Ondrus who was used for a good portion of the season. Another possibility is Jeremy Williams who was brought up for the last game of the season and scored a goal. One more player the leafs will have to consider is Alexander Suglobov. Acquired from New Jersey at dead line day for Ken Klee Suglobov contract states he must be given a shot with the big team next year or else he may walk away as a free agent or have the right to ask to be traded. If when all is said and done and for the right price and there is money left over then sure I think u will see take a run for the probably this year’s biggest free agent Patrik Elias who will likely get close to the max. The only other guy I can see the leafs taking a stab at is Jason Arnott. This is because he might be a prime fit for Toronto. Bringing leadership and consistency to a team that didn’t seem to have much last year for likely around $3.5 million might just be a fit for the leafs.
With Aki Berg already on his way back to Finland next year and the unknown status on where and what McCabe will decide to go or do the leafs may be looking at a few holes to fill on defense this summer. To add even more sub tractions to that Luke Richardson and Alexander Khavanov are both free agents as well and I cant see neither get re-singed possibly Richardson as a 7th defenseman with experience. The leaves three possibly four holes on defense. If McCabe leaves Toronto for better money your best bet is to see Toronto go out and sign either Wade Redden or Zdeno Chara most likely Redden. I say most likely Redden because I think Ottawa will make a bigger pitch to keep the big Chara who is a steady defenseman like Redden but has a little more goal scoring touch in my opinion. Redden can likely be had for $4.5 million at the most and considering this is what the leafs were willing to pay McCabe the leafs will likely be taking a hard look at getting him if they can’t re-sign McCabe. As for the other two open spots there are many candidates for them. Just to mention I don’t think Wade Belak is on that candidate list as he is only ever called upon in desperate time anyways look for him to be dealt or let go. Now back to the other two open spots I think the best bets for these spots are some of the leafs younger talent. If Carlo Colaiacovo gets healthy this summer id have to believe this would be the year he crack the leaf line-up. After failing to do so two previous training camps Colaiacovo looked good with the leafs this year until he suffered yet another concussion. The last and final spot may be tough to say who get it. Four kids who all played for the leafs this year on call up stints from the minors and all impressed the management staff in Toronto and certainly the fans have a good shot at the last spot. These four rookies I am referring to are Staffan Kronvall , Jay Harrison, Ian White, and Brendan Bell. Since Staffan Kronvall, Jay Harrison and Ian White played the most and in my opinion impressed people the most one of these three has the best shot at making it.
With a much younger team with a lot more speed expected to be put together this summer as u can see the leafs have some big decisions to make and how to solve them. For anyone who took the time to read my very first column on this site I appreciate it and from one leaf fan to another I look forward to seeing what the leafs do this summer. Comments on your opinions are greatly welcome so feel free and leave one.