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NHL Free Agency 2012: Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Wise to Stay so Quiet in July?

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 20:  Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes arrives before the 2012 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas on June 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Jon ReidCorrespondent IIJuly 7, 2012

Five days have now come and gone, and all remains quiet in hockey's most scrutinized market.

Other than a few niche signings, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has been relatively inactive over the first week of NHL free agency.

As is normal in Toronto, fans are getting restless, hoping that Burke and his team will eventually make some sort of move to improve this Maple Leafs squad.

While many fans are fed up with Burke's outdated philosophy and refusal to sign players to long-term "cap circumventing" contracts, a great deal of others applaud his discipline and ability to hold back from overpaying the top players on the market.

Truthfully, both groups have a point.

Burke's free-agency periods in Toronto have been downright embarrassing.

Signings like Tim Connolly, Mike Komisarek and Colby Armstrong were disastrous.

Yet he's been excellent when it comes to trades (the Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner for Francois Beauchemin trade comes to mind, as does the Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi for Brett Lebda deal), showing he can bring in talent without overpaying free agents and inking them to what he sees as unfair contracts.

So, is this another year where Burke should focus on building through trades? Or should he hurry up and get Shane Doan's representation on the phone?

After all, right now it doesn't appear as though there is very much Burke can do on the trade market, with Columbus still demanding a king's ransom for star forward Rick Nash and Anaheim not willing to settle for a mediocre offer for Bobby Ryan.

That means Toronto may be forced to look for some upgrades through free agency.

A Guy like Doan wouldn't necessarily fill Toronto's biggest team needs, but he would undoubtedly bring in a higher level of quality on Toronto's wing.

Doan would also come with a great deal of experience and leadership, something that Toronto desperately needs.

Signing Doan would also create even more depth on the wing, which would, consequently, free up a few more pieces for the Leafs to use in a trade that would address the need for a No. 1 center or a bona fide starting goaltender (guys like Kulemin and MacArthur would become more expendable).

Despite the fact that free agency may not be Brian Burke's strong point, it may be the best way for him to improve the team, and in an indirect way, make it possible for him to land a player that could really help turn Toronto into a contender.

All things considered, the Leafs probably haven't been hurt too much by staying quiet early on in the free agency period, but the clock is ticking and if the Leafs stay the course, they may just miss a phenomenal opportunity and continue to fall behind their conference rivals.

 

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