Without any playoff action to look forward to, the focus in Toronto shifts towards the new faces that will be added in the coming months to bring hope for next year’s campaign.
The 2011-12 version of HMCS Toronto Maple Leafs has officially sunk after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 27th. She was a fine and mighty ship at the beginning, but eventually lost her way and now rests at the depths of the NHL ocean.
However, Leafs fans can be buoyed by the many options available to improve the club for 2012-13.
The Leafs look to be lottery-bound this year, especially when one considers that their remaining five games are against playoff teams with the exception of their final game against the last-place Montreal Canadiens. Ironically enough, it will be the loser of that game that gains the most.
The Leafs only have $1.04 million in cap space right now, which means that there will need to be some big deals at the draft in order to free up room in time for free agency. Look for GM Brian Burke to come out swinging—after all, his hold on his job is tenuous at this point, and he’ll want to make his mark.
However, there is the wild card of the new CBA negotiations that will be taking place in the summer to consider. There’s the possibility that the salary cap may go down and the Leafs will have even less room. There’s also the possibility that the NHL might go the way of the NBA and allow each team to rid themselves of one bad contract. At this point, we don’t know.
What we do know is the list of free agents that will be available in July. Let’s look at four in particular that should be on Burke’s radar.
The comments section of Bleacher Report articles are frequently filled with anonymous anger and hate, but they’re also filled with people who have a great understanding of sports and can provide useful insight themselves.
I have one commenter in particular to thank for making the suggestion that signing George Parros would make a better alternative for the Leafs in the truculence and pugnacity department than re-signing Jay Rosehill. It’s a good move.
If he were to sign with Toronto in the summer, Parros would join the long list of personnel that Brian Burke has plucked from his former Anaheim Ducks.
This isn’t just a move that could reasonably happen—it also makes sense for the well-being of the club. Parros is a fourth liner who plays a tough game and knows how to fight but doesn’t take many dumb penalties, which is exactly what the Leafs need.
If the Leafs really want a true number one center for next year, they’re probably not going to find one through free agency. They’re also going to have to pay a really steep price if they try to pluck one from another team through the trade route.
Instead, I’d argue that a true number one center (at say, Mats Sundin’s caliber) is not necessarily what the Leafs need.
They’ve got Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul to pump in the goals for their top line. What they really need is a big body with some offensive skills who can help those two along the boards on the offensive end, win faceoffs and effectively help out on defense.
Tyler Bozak is great with winning draws but can be easily bodied on both ends of the ice, which is why we’ve seen Kessel and Lupul with almost every other center on the team this year. Jarret Stoll will provide an upgrade.
There will no doubt be people who question this, which is fair. He’s low on the Los Angeles Kings depth chart right now and only has 19 points.
However, consider that the Leafs could obtain him for a good price and that he has received less ice time this year with Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards ahead of him (even though he still has more faceoff wins and a higher faceoff percentage than Bozak).
It’s a gamble for sure, but blowing up the team for a number one center would be a bigger one.
Signing P.A. Parenteau will be a tough task for sure. For one, he expressed his desire this week to stay with the New York Islanders, who have more than enough cap space to get a deal done and would keep him on their first line.
He’ll also be demanding money similar to Mikhail Grabovski, which means that the Leafs would need to make some deals and clear some cap space in order to make a credible offer. Whatever—they’ll have to do that anyways if Burke is serious about a revamp.
Parenteau has 49 assists and 65 points this season playing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. He also has 87 PIMs, meaning that he isn’t a wimp and could fit in well with Randy Carlyle’s team.
It would take a series of unfortunate events from the Islanders’ perspective in order to give the Leafs a chance at Parenteau, but it’s too early to say for certain whether he is or isn’t an option.
The Leafs allow 30.6 shots per game, have trouble with puck possession and are generally full of holes defensively. What kind of goalie do we know who has thrived under these conditions?
He took a pay cut this year to join the Washington Capitals, a team that was poised to be one of the Eastern Conference’s elite at the beginning of the season. That hasn’t panned out too well.
It’ll take an aggressive offer in order to convince Vokoun to come to a team like the Leafs, but if Burke is serious about building from the net out, he’ll make the decision to go with a steady veteran goaltender who can bring some consistency to the position.
Anthony Antonacci is a freelance journalist and published author from Toronto, Ontario who has been following Toronto sports since Doug Gilmour was scoring wraparounds, Joe Carter was touching em’ all and the Raptors were just a logo shaved onto some guy’s head. He has been a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since November 2011 and enjoys talking sports as much as he enjoys writing about them. If you've got something to say, be sure to leave a comment below or follow him on Twitter to join in the conversation.