The Leafs 2007-08 Team, with a good GM
The leafs have 12 players (including Belak) under contract for next year with a cap hit of $27.55 Million. We would all expect to see Antropov and Poni resigned as well as Colaiacovo and White. So lets say together they’ll be making about $5 mill. So this brings the salary up to $32.55 million.
The Leafs want Sundin back, and they also want their scoring winger and some depth on the second line. In this day of the salary cap, where buying you team is no longer possible it takes a shrewd GM to swallow his pride and make some important and sly moves.
Here are some salary clearing / player possibilities
Part 1 Defense
Bite the bullet, and send Pavel Kubina down to the minors, taking his 5 mill off the books. Now don’t get me wrong, Pavel is a great 3rd D man, but he’s worth more like $2.5 million (about Joe Corvo money level). Bold and drastic move, but if Pittsburg can send NHL legend John Leclair to the minors we can send Kubina down.
Possible replacements are Greg De Vries, or Danny Markov. They are both solid, hard nosed D, which would be great 3rd stringers. They will be paid about $2.5 million respectively. Markov is younger, so lets just say based on that factor we’ll go with Markov. Salary now $30.05 million. This is $2.5 million in savings.
Part 2 Sundin
He may not take the Selanne 3.5 million dollar deal, but maybe $4.5. That would provide some room. But does this still help them that much??
Now to look outside the box again, and do what a GM should do, GET CREATIVE!! The Leafs should look at the fact that the salary cap averages a salary over the life of the contract. So I say the Leafs sign Mats to a 3 year deal, with an average salary of $3.33 million. First year paying $6 million, second year $3 million, and the final year $1 million. This creates a very small cap hit, and allows the Leafs the possibility of either keeping him for all three or buying him out the last year. Pretty good! With this $3.33 leafs salary up to $33.38 million.
Part 3 Getting players
The big free agents on the Leafs wish list this summer as we know are Briere, Drury and Smyth (Blake is too old). All 3 of these guys are very good, but are they superstars, maybe… But they all are going to get more money then they are worth. Both Briere and Drury are on a team that gets a lot of points, so if we put points to dollars them Jason Pominville would be one of the highest paid players in the league. They are going to see about $1-2 million more more money then they would in a more saturated free agent pool. As for Smyth, good hard nosed guy, and I see the ceiling on him being about $5 million, for a team like the leafs. They cant afford more for a player of his level. He’s getting older, and hes gonna want a long contract. Not the big money players thats going to save the Leafs.
So here is what I suggest, with 2 years of big free agency coming up, with the likes of Iginla, Heatly, Thornton and Marleau showing up, the Leafs should put their “buy a cup” dreams on hold until they can get those guys, and sign the guys who wont demand too many years this summer. So I suggest signing Paul Kariya, 2 years $4 a year. Gary Robers, 1 year $1 million. And Brian Smolinski (or a Center of this caliber and price), 2 years $1.5 million dollars / year. These three guys bring the salary to just under $40 million.
Part 4 In net
I’ll keep this short. If you cant get Backstrom, sign CUJO or any other viable backup, possibly Mikka Noronen (if the rumors live up). With Backstrom, he’ll probably get about $3 million, or the others about $1 million. So max salary is $43 million.
Kariya – Sundin – Wellwood–> passing & scoring wingers, & a Hall of famer in between
Roberts – Stajan – Tucker –> Grit, power, some nice dirty goals
Poni – Smolinski – Antropov –> Big aggressive checking line (long names)
Kilger – Pohl – Steen –> Looks like a pretty good 4th line
(Hard to distinguish the skill difference from the 2nd to the 4th line, all solid)
Kaberle – Markov
Gill – White
1. Backstrom / Raycroft
2. Raycroft / CUJO
Newbury + Williams + Woz = $1.5 million
Total Final Salary $44.5. So even if one of my two GM ideas doesn’t work (Sundin / Kubina), salary would only go up $2.5 million, brining it up to $47 million, the probably salary cap.
A much better team then this past year, and it still allows the team to plan for their future.