Holes in the Roster
1. Lack of a top-line center. Would be beneficial but not an immediate concern, as most fans believe.
2. Need more secondary scoring.
3. More veteran presence needed in the bottom-six forwards and on defense (aka lots of NHL and playoff experience).
4. Upgrade in net needed.
1. Everyone keeps talking about the Leafs' need for a true No. 1 center, but the fact of the matter is Toronto did very well offensively without one. A top-line center would be ideal, but it is not worth overpaying for and depleting the depth that the Leafs have in all other positions.
This hole will likely be filled through trades, seeing as the free-agent crop this year does not possess any viable candidates. As mentioned throughout the article, the Leafs have a lot of pieces that can be used in order to acquire a first-line center. Among those available are Connolly, Lombardi, Armstrong, Kulemin, MacArthur, Kadri, Colborne, Frattin, Bozak, Schenn, Franson, Gunnarsson, Komisarek, as well as their draft picks and other prospects. The Leafs definitely have enough pieces to offer an attractive package.
This is not an immediate need for Toronto and can be handled internally. Grabovski has been improving steadily over the last few years and may be worth a look at the No. 1 slot. The Leafs also have Kadri and Colborne, as well as whomever they may draft with the fifth overall pick—so long as its Grigorenko, Galchenyuk or Faksa—all potential options to be their top-line guy in the future.
2. Unlike with a No. 1 center, more secondary scoring can be added within the Leafs' system.
Toronto has young, talented guys like Kadri, Colborne and Frattin who can provided more scoring for the Leafs in the upcoming season.
There are also plenty of veteran free agents who could help as well like Zach Parise, Alexander Semin, Jaromir Jagr, P.A Parenteau and Shane Doan.
There are also plenty of restricted free-agent options that I believe would be better suited in Toronto's top six like Jakub Voracek, David Perron, Chris Stewart and Alexander Radulov, to name a few. However, trades would be necessary to acquire any one of these players. Secondary scoring is not as hard for Toronto to acquire seeing as there are lots of different routes they can explore.
3. I may have listed veteran presence as a hole in their roster, but it's only a hole that needs to be filled if they hope to be contenders anytime soon. Since Toronto is in no condition to be a contender anytime soon, so they can put off acquiring veteran players for another year, but they would help the development of the younger players on the team.
Players who can be acquired through free agency include Jason Arnott, Chris Kelly, Andrew Brunette, Tomas Holmstrom, Ray Whitney, Travis Moen, Shane Doan, Jamie Langenbrunner and David Jones.
I would prefer to see the Leafs acquire a veteran presence through free agency. There are always options available through free agency, and it doesn't make sense to trade young players and prospects for these pieces.
4. Goaltending, in my opinion, is the first position that needs to be upgraded before next season. While James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have some good upside, neither looks like they will be ready to carry this team in the playoffs any time soon.
Toronto needs a true No. 1 guy to take the reins if they want to be a playoff team next season.
They have two options in how they can go about this: 1) acquire a stopgap for the next few seasons to mentor Reimer and Scrivens or 2) look for a true No. 1 goalie who can lead the team from here on out. Trades seem to be the best option in general, seeing how weak the goaltending free-agency pool is this offseason.
Ideally, this offseason will see Toronto acquire a true first-line center, a veteran No. 1 goaltender to mentor Reimer/Scrivens and give younger players like Kadri, Colborne and Frattin the chance to shine.
Toronto will have to do a lot of retooling this offseason, but they have pieces to get something done. Players I wouldn't mind seeing moved in order to fill the holes would be one of Kulemin/MacArthur, one of Colborne/Frattin/Kadri, one of Gunnarsson/Franson/Schenn and any of their large contracts. Of course, some prospects and draft picks will need to be added, but nothing too extreme.
Toronto is still in good position for the future as bad as it may look now with such a young nucleus of players. Fans have to understand that just because a player may not be performing as well as they would like right now, they still have plenty of time to develop. Who knows? Maybe one day they will be better than anyone thought they would be.
Look forward to reading your comments and hearing your thoughts!