NHL Free Agency 2012: Toronto Maple Leafs Have Been One of the Quieter Teams

John B Matheson@@JB_WebberCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23: Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke talks on the phone during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The fans of the Maple Leafs start to salivate at the thought of the big-name free agents signing in Toronto almost as soon as the season ends.

As it was last year, the biggest names in free-agency opted not to sign with Toronto, both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter chose the Wild over the Leafs (TSN).

Since July 1st, GM Brian Burke has only signed two new players to Toronto; a third-line center in Jay McClement and a prospect player who may break the line-up in Mike Kostka, as reported by the Maple Leafs site.

Neither of these two players is exactly what the Leafs needed, nor are they extremely noteworthy signings.

There were a few players outside of Parise and Suter who the Leafs were reported to have expressed interest in, such as Martin Brodeur (Sportsnet) and Shane Doan (The Toronto Star).

Brodeur re-signed with New Jersey, as Burke said in the above video, he expected. Doan has just started to listen to offers.

The issue with Doan is simple, he is another winger. A position that Toronto has a fair amount of depth in with names like Kessel, Lupul, Kulemin and Van Riemsdyk.

The latter of that list will be trying out for the top-line center position, but it could be a huge gamble for Burke should the 23-year old winger not pan out as a center.

Doan would add a veteran presence to the Leafs, but first they need to submit an offer.

There is also Alexander Semin, who has yet to sign, though the Toronto Sun reports that he may be close to a deal with Pittsburgh.

One viable option for a short term fix could be veteran Jason Arnott. The 37-year-old center played last season with the Blues, and has had 30-plus points a season for the last decade.

At 6'5" 220 pounds, Arnott could add the size that the Leafs need upfront. There is no word on whether the Leafs are even interested in Arnott.

With the free agent class thinning out, Burke has been busy trying to re-sign the Leaf players that are restricted free agents.

Ben Scrivens, Cody Franson and Nikolai Kulemin have all received qualifying offers already from the Maple Leafs.

It was reported by the Toronto Star that the Leafs have filed for arbitration with Kulemin. The left winger’s agent told the Star in the same article, that he hopes for resolution by August 4th.

The big concern for Kulemin is whether he will still have his second-line position with Van Riemsdyk now with the Leafs.

If JVR can prove to be the top-line center Toronto desperately needs, Kulemin may be safe. If not, there will be some line shuffling which could see the winger drop down a line.

With the Leafs not looking to be very active in free agency from this point on, it leaves only trades as a real option to obtain the players to fill the gaping holes.

The two largest needs Toronto has are a top-line center and an NHL ready goaltender that can help either Reimer or Scrivens mature.

Burke has maintained this offseason that he does not wish to overpay for talent, as heard in an interview with Canadian radio station TheFan 590.

If that is the case, Toronto is going to have a tough time filling their needs without paying a high price and loosing some talent both on the roster and in the system.

Burke will face an uphill battle trying to pry away either a top-line center or a quality goaltender from another team without overpaying.

By re-signing Kulemin and Franson, he will have players that other teams may have interest in as part of a package.

Franson wanted to play a larger role last year but was unable; while Kulemin had an off year he is still a talented player that could be used to sway another team in a trade.

Don’t expect Toronto to make any blockbuster signings, with the pool of free agents almost bare Burke will not be able to obtain the type of players Toronto needs.


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