Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Leafs and UFA Season: Day One

So this is what Brian Burke meant when he said "truculent."

On the first day of NHL free agency the Leafs acquired heavyweight RW Colton Orr (4 years/ $1M per) and D Mike Komisarek (5 years/ $4.25M per).

The Leafs also traded D Pavel Kubina to Atlanta along with AHLer Tim Stapleton for D Garnet Exelby and AHLer Mark Stuart. The deal freed up $3M in cap space for the Leafs.

The Roster

The Leafs may have added some toughness to the roster, but I have to think more changes are coming to address their weakness down the middle, to replace some of the offense that was lost with the departures of Moore, Antropov and Kubina, and to clear the log jam on D (by my count, there are nine NHL ready bodies back there).

Here's a look at where the Leafs currently stand in terms of bodies and cap hits:


  1. Mikhail Grabovski (RFA)
  2. Matt Stajan
  3. Jiri Tlusty
  4. John Mitchell
  5. Tyler Bozak
  6. Christian Hanson
There's no way to get around this, that's one thin, soft, inexperienced group of pivots. The Leafs really don't have a centre that can log the tough minutes against top competition.

There's only three legit NHL players on that list, one of whom hasn't signed a contract with the Leafs (Grabovski) another disappeared for the second half of the season and is about as physical as a ghost (Stajan) and a third who demonstrated he's a solid #4 centre that might have the jam to play in the #3 slot (Mitchell).

Tlusty put up some nice numbers with the Marlies but hasn't done anything to show he can stick in the bigs and Bozak and Hanson, late season signings out of the NCAA, have games that are completely unknown at the pro level.

Left Wing
  1. Niklas Hagman
  2. Nikolai Kulemin
  3. Jason Blake
  4. Alexi Ponikarovski

One of the few positions where the Leafs have a bit of depth, although this doesn't exactly line-up with Burke's notion of a top six that can skate and score and a bottom six that can crash and bang. It also isn't the most physical or compelling group of forwards. Still, they're all a threat to cash in 20 goals and they're all good skaters with pretty good speed.

Right Wing

  1. Lee Stempniak
  2. Jamal Mayers
  3. Colton Orr

Yeah, this isn't pretty is it?

At best (and that's being kind) this is a 2,3,4 collection of skaters, if not flat out 3rd and 4th line talent.

One of Kulemin or Hagman will likely play the right side, pushing this group down to the 2,3,4 slots with one of the additional centres picking up time on the left wing.

Clearly the Leafs need some help on the right-side.


  1. Michael Komisarek
  2. Tomas Kaberle
  3. Garnet Exelby
  4. Luke Schenn
  5. Jeff Finger
  6. Mike Van Ryn
  7. Jonas Frogren
  8. Ian White
  9. Anton Stralman

The big change here might not be the Kubina deal or the acquisition of Komisarek, it might just be the loss of waiver exemptions. Unlike last season, if the Leafs need to move Frogren or Stralman between the Leafs and Marlies they'll have to expose them to waivers and risk losing them to another club.

I could see the Leafs going with a 23 man roster and carrying 8 D, but even at that one more of these guys has to go (or they wait for game four or five by which time Van Ryn should be on the IR).

The Cap

By my math, the Leafs have $20,560,833 tied up in this group of forwards, $22,163,334 committed to D (though it will be anywhere from $731K to $4M lower once one of these bodies are shipped out of town) and $4M tied up in Toskala.

That's good for a $46,725 million cap hit, although the Leafs need to sign someone to back-up Toskala and they need to determine remuneration for Grabovski. Call it $50M once those two accounts are settled.

Balancing the Roster

The Leafs should have $5M+ remaining to secure a more solid presence up the middle and/or some talent on the right hand side that can score.

I suspect the issue at forward will be partially addressed through a UFA signing and by trading one of the excess parts on D.

Should be interesting to see what else Burke and the Leafs are up to over the next few days.


  1. You know who'd look great up the middle? Some guy named Mats Sundin.

  2. eyebleaf is preceding me everywhere cheering on Mats.....good to see some things that me smile never change.

  3. Anonymous5:05 pm

    Mats? Are you kidding. please no. Also minor point, Leafs got back Colin Stuart from Atlanta, not his brother Mark.