Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Cheap Free-Agent Options to Consider
That's probably good news—the club could use more grit, experience and leadership.
With young wingers Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin ready to take on full-time NHL duties and the addition of top-six winger James van Riemsdyk via trade, the Leafs now have a number of expendable forwards.
Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel are pretty much a lock for the top line.
That leaves Kadri, Frattin and van Riemsdyk along with Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi—seven players in total—fighting for four precious winger positions on the second and third lines.
Hypothetically, if Burke pulls a couple miracles out of his hat by making a blockbuster trade and/or dumping a couple bad contracts, it will open up one or two spots in the bottom six.
With regards to the defense, nothing appears to be changing unless Cody Franson and the Leafs give up on each other.
Lastly, with Martin Brodeur's re-signing, you'd think there wouldn't be any interesting goalies left on the market.
That brings us to slide number one.
G Cristobal Huet
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This has a chance of happening if:
1. The Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks fail to agree on a price for goalie Roberto Luongo.
2. The Leafs don't feel comfortable going forward with two young, unproven goalies.
We are, of course, assuming that Huet desires a return to the NHL.
The French netminder was essentially exiled to Switzerland prior to the start of the 2010-11 season by the Chicago Blackhawks for salary cap reasons.
At the time, he had two years remaining on a contract that carried an annual cap hit of $5.625 million.
If he returns to the NHL, he'll have to settle for a significant pay cut.
At 36 years of age and having spent two years away from the NHL, he may not be the ideal choice for the Leafs even as a backup, but he brings experience and a Stanley Cup ring (2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks).
He barely played during those 2009-10 playoffs, but he did play 48 regular season games that year, posting a 26-14-4 record with a save percentage of .895 and a goals against average of 2.50.
Given the two "ifs", and also given the alternatives (Dan Ellis, Ty Conklin), Huet might be a decent pickup, especially if he agrees to a cheap, short-term deal.
RW Jamie Langenbrunner
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The 36-year-old had only six goals and 24 points in 70 games for the St. Louis Blues last season, but can still be a valuable role player and voice of experience for a young team like Toronto.
He also brings plenty of playoff experience, having posted 34 goals and 87 points in 146 career postseason games.
His one-year contract with the Blues paid him $2.75 million.
Given his age and his diminishing point production, a slight dip in salary should be expected.
If the Leafs can get him for around $2 million, it would be a good deal for what he brings.
LW Wojtek Wolski
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Wojtek Wolski has never been able to replicate the success of his rookie year with the Colorado Avalanche, when he posted 22 goals and 50 points in 76 games played.
Since then, his points have steadily dropped and he has, not surprisingly, bounced around the league since leaving Colorado in early 2010.
Perhaps a return to his hometown will do him some good.
Not many people believe in him right now and he definitely hasn't lived up to the expectations that come with being picked 21st overall (2004).
That means he'll come cheap and hopefully with a chip on his shoulder as well.
It seems like Wolski's been in the league for a long time, but it's easy to forget he's only 26 years of age. There's still plenty of time for him to rediscover his game.
F Peter Mueller
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Peter Mueller had a great rookie season in the NHL, posting 22 goals and 54 points in 81 games for the Phoenix Coyotes back in 2007-08.
Since then, his point production has steadily declined (something of a trend in this slideshow).
He suffered concussions and other health-related issues and as a result, hasn't lived up to the expectations that come with being an eighth overall pick (2006).
As such, the Colorado Avalanche weren't willing to extend a qualifying offer to him by July 1, making the 24-year-old an unrestricted free agent.
As noted by humour/humor blogger Down Goes Brown, the Leafs have a lot of former first-round picks in their organization.
Joffrey Lupul is proof that taking a risk on a former first-rounder with a history of injuries can pay off.
If there's room in the lineup, why not take a flyer on this guy?
Give him a one-year, $1 million contract.
Let the kid prove he's past his injuries and that his rookie season wasn't a flash in the pan.
LW Kristian Huselius
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In his first two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Kristian Huselius played in 74 games each, posting 56 and 63 points, respectively.
He's been injury plagued for the last two years, so it is unlikely the Jackets will bring him back, especially since the club is likely to start rebuilding just as soon as their GM Scott Howson stops dawdling with regards to the Rick Nash issue.
The 33-year-old is a proven 20-goal scorer whose career was slowed due to injury problems.
The Leafs should consider giving him a chance to reassert his value as a top-nine or even a top-six forward in the NHL someday.
Again, if there's room in the lineup, there's no harm in offering short-term, low-money contracts, especially to players that certain people around the league have given up on for whatever reason (injury, in this case).