Monday, June 29, 2009

NHL UFA Season Begins: Do YouThink You Made the Right Decision This Time?

One day to go until NHL free agency season opens. One day until we find out which NHL GMs are crazy with the cash.

I'd like to think that this year's free agency period will reveal a more rational market but I'm sure Sather will prove me wrong with an eleventy-billion dollar offer to Cammalleri only to be outdone by a lifetime contract for Gaborik from Charles Wang.

There are a few big name players out there who may generate pre-lockout Tkachuk money, but aside from Bouwmeester, Marian "exploding groin" Gaborik, the Sedins and I guess Mike Cammelleri, it's certainly not a very impactful group of free agents.

Leafs and the Cap

The Leafs have committed about $18.4 million to 11 forwards (not including Grabovski who's a RFA). Seven d-men take up a further $19.875 and $4 million goes to Toskala.

That adds up to a $42.275 cap hit for 19 roster spots, leaving Burke with loads of flexibility - about $13 million worth - for two forwards and a back-up goalie.

If you're keeping score at home, that's about $5M per forward with a $1M deal for a back-up or what Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette terms "Up Against the Cap"

The challenge in allocating that $13+ million in cap space is keeping an eye on salary commitments over the next few years when the cap is expected to decrease.

Roster Review

Let me be perfectly clear here: I have no idea what Brian Burke is going to do. I have no sense of which players are on the trading block, which players - if any - are at risk of being waived and which players - other than Schenn - are untouchable.

But why let something minor like facts get in the way?

Part of the Leafs' UFA activities are likely to be driven by Grabovski. If he can't be signed to a reasonable contract or in the event he wins an arbitration case against the Leafs, I'm certain he'll be gone.

The Leafs do have plenty of centres, but without Grabovski they will be running Stajan, Bozak, Hanson, Mitchell as their top four. A softy, two rookies and sophomore 4th liner. This is not the stuff dreams, or anything other than mediocre hockey teams, are made of.

The Leafs are also rather shallow down the right side. Mayers and Stempniak are the only two RWs on the team. FML.

On D, the Leafs appear to have a full set; however, the only real assets this team can move are Kaberle and Kubina. I fully expect at least one, if not both of them to be traded.

Balancing the Roster: Prediction Time

With those potential roster changes and limitations in mind, here's my best, uniformed, unimaginative guess as to what UFA season will mean for the beloved Blue and White.

The Leafs will target a veteran centre for a two year deal to provide some on-ice leadership and show Hanson and Bozak how it's done (while also sheltering the kids from the tough minutes). I'd guess one of Marchant, Morrison, Moen, or Pahlsson will be in the Blue and White. Pahlsson, given his age (31) and success with the Hawks is the least likely of this group to be signed.

There are very few UFA options at right wing. I wouldn't be surprised if Burke brings in Bertuzzi for one last kick at the can (resulting in about 302,849 people threatening to quit cheering for the Leafs, 19,283 "threw up in my mouth" remarks and 4,741 conspiracy theories involving Dominic Moore being traded last spring).

I also suspect Burke will target a RW with a mean streak who can address Burke's concerns about the Leafs being push-overs. Colton Orr is a UFA RW who might not need much of a bump on his $550K salary to land with the Leafs. Chris Neil might be another option, but he has a tendency of not wanting to fight when playing in the ACC.

If Kaberle or Kubina are traded, I'll go out on a limb and suggest that Burke will pursue Francois Beauchemin with a substantial contract or offer a vet like Brett Hedican a short-term deal to bring in a veteran presence who can be dumped once some of the younger Leaf D (Stralman, Gunnarson) have shown they can make the jump to the NHL in a year or two.

To provide veteran guidance on D, I'd also love to see Chris Chelios join the Leafs on one big condition: Chelios and Burke have to co-host a weekly televised media scrum/ panel discussion each and every week. I'd sign Chelios to Jason Blake like numbers to make that happen.

In nets, if Jonas Gustafsson signs elsewhere, I have no freakin clue what the Leafs will do. I have no idea if they'll pursue a back-up via free agency, trade, or an RFA sheet to Josh Harding.

24 hours to go...can't wait for the Leafs' inactivity to begin.


  1. Blog is interesting and motivated me a lot!! thanks

  2. I'd love to see Malhotra added as a centre. He could provide on-ice and off-ice leadership, and he's a solid two-way player. He's also a local product. And I'd love for the league's one Indian dude to be playing on the Leafs.

    I too am looking forward to tomorrow. Good times, good times.

  3. blindfolded tank driver9:22 a.m.

    You are likely right about inactivity, not getting my hopes up for lots of moves. That way I'll enjoy anything we do, and the mistakes we avoid.

  4. Can't wait to see what happens. I'm guessing Orr or Boogaard as the heavy, perhaps Camarelli(sp), get's one of the big contracts, as for veteran on the D, McKee was just bought out by the Blues, injury prone, but he's all balls and block shots like crazy. But there are better choices. Wtf in the Monster waiting for!