Where do we go from here?
Posted 01 March 2012 - 08:51 PM
It's unlikely that if Burke remains, that Wilson will be fired, but it's a possibility that the team will likely at least consider.
If you ask anyone what our personnel problems were this season, one answer stands out as fairly obvious: goaltending. Jonas Gustavsson, despite being the better of two goalies this season, is likely at the end of his tenure with the Leafs. His roster spot, essentially a 1A/1B goalie to battle with Reimer for playing time, will likely be filled by another, higher quality goalie.
The question is: Can Toronto afford it?
According to Capgeek.com, the Leafs are projected to have around $14 million in cap space. Their notable Restricted Free Agents are Matt Frattin, Cody Franson, and Nikolai Kulemin. Their notable Unrestricted Free Agents are the aforementioned Gustavsson, Mikhail Grabovski, and Joey Crabb.
Don't expect Gustavsson to be back. Crabb likely needs to go because the Leafs need to free up roster space for younger players. That leaves Grabovski, Frattin, Franson, and Kulemin.
Using low-end estimates to be nice to Leaf fans, we'll work with Grabovski as a 4.5 million figure. He could command more on the open market but seems to like it in Toronto. Kulemin is a bit of a mystery. He's slumped badly this season but was on the steady climb to be a 30-goal scorer on the Leafs' second line. The resurgence of lupul and kessel may have actually hindered that line's performance, but who knows. Kulemin's slump may end up saving the Leafs on him, but I project him to go for $3 million, similar to MacArthur.
Franson is a toughie. Schenn currently makes 3.6 million, and a very good argument can be made that Franson was just as good if not better than Schenn this season. I don't see him going for any less than 3 million. Frattin hasn't done anything, but is a good young player and will probably get a two-way contract worth about 1-1.5 million.
Add all that up and you have an FA crop that, provided no offer sheets drive up the price, will cost the leafs about 11 million in cap space. This means that the Blue and White have about 3 million to seek help via Free Agency or trades, and they still need to get a goaltender.
Don't be surprised if you hear Brian Burke telling Leaf fans that Reimer is the real deal again, simply because he won't be able to sign anybody else. For the young, up and coming netminders who could solidify this team for a while, expect the top FA targeted to be Josh Harding. Harding likely won't get an offer for more than 3.5-4 million, though, so expect the Leafs to be in the running for his services. Other FA options for younger goalies include Al Montoya and (gasp) Gustavsson, and older options include Nabokov, Biron, Emery, Clemmensen, Vokoun, Sanford, and Conklin. In my opinion, only Harding, Montoya, Emery, and Vokoun would provide a significant upgrade over Gustavsson, and it's unlikely that Vokoun would sign here.
As much as the fanbase have whined, complained, and publicly bashed the efforts of Colby Armstrong, Tim Connolly, and Matthew Lombardi, the fact is that they are unlikely to be moved. It is also the opinion of this writer that they won't be, and could very well surprise next year.
If there's one lesson the Leafs have learned this season, both the easy way and the hard way, it's that a player's health can go a long way towards their performance. Look at Joffrey Lupul, who came in and had a full season (so far) of good health, and turned in a sensational performance. Then look at James Reimer, who went from a 4-0-1 start to a dismal, below-.500 record after his concussion issues.
The point I'm trying to make here is that Connolly, Lombardi, and Armstrong all faced one or two problems. One, they all had to battle injuries, and two, in Lombardi and Connolly's case, it was their first year with a new team. This period of adjustment can be difficult for some players. All three have 40-25 point potential from the third line, which would boost our chances next year considerably if they could rediscover their games
There are some interesting things to come following the conclusion of this year.
Posted 01 March 2012 - 09:06 PM
Posted 01 March 2012 - 09:08 PM
I don't see Frattin, Franson, and Kulemin as easily replacable players. We're talking young and capable. Kulemin is one year removed from a 30-goal season - it would be silly to not give him at least a one-year deal.
the only one realistically worth keeping in Grabo unless he wants too much money then he can walk too. the rest of them are all relaceable players. Lombardi has a better chance of bouncing back than Connolly. I think what you've seen is what you are going to get.
Posted 01 March 2012 - 10:52 PM
But that's mainly due to salary cap.
Call me crazy ( I'm sure some of you will come back with a witty comment) But I actually believe Burke could unload Armstrong,Connolly, and yes, even Lombardi this offseason.
Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:09 AM
MacA (low chance but could create much needed room for youngsters)
Bozak - Let me explain this one before everyone jumps on me. We need a #1 C, everyone knows this, but Bozak could be the added piece in getting one, not the big piece, but the added piece. He is a third line C and we have Colbourne waiting in the AHL for his first shot, either we trade Colbourne or Bozak...one of them needs to go
That will leave Toronto with close to 26 million cap space, enough to sign a good veteran goalie, and go after some big talent. Burke likes Parise, maybe we can sign him, go after Nash again, or maybe even get Staal or Getzlaf, which both are having bad seasons and their teams might want to move away from the cap hit.
Kadri/Frattin both deserve a full season in the NHL finally, and Colbourne and Ashton should have a hard look too. Listening to Tampa fans, some think he would make the squad next season for them, hopefully he gets the same consideration here.
I really don't know how many good goalies there are in UFA this year, hopefully we can snag one.
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