The Toronto Maple Leafs offensive production was a bit of a surprise last year. While many (including myself) thought the team would struggle to score goals, the Leafs put up a respectable 2.77 goals per game—good enough for 10th in the league.
However, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul carried the Leafs offence on their backs for the majority of last season. If this dynamic duo cannot repeat their amazing performances again next season, the team may be in trouble.
Although James van Riemsdyk was a great pickup to improve team offence, the Leafs still have a glaring need at the center ice position. Assuming Kadri and van Riemsdyk stay on the wing and Colborne isn't ready to make the jump to the NHL, this need will have to be filled from outside of the organization.
Here are five center-men that the Toronto Maple Leafs should consider adding.
Ryan Getzlaf is a legitimate number one center in the National Hockey League. He’s capable of putting up a point per game while playing against the opposition's top defensive pair.
However, Getzlaf had—at least, by his standards—a down season last year. The Regina, Saskatchewan native tallied 11 goals and 46 assists, playing in all 82 games last season. This, coupled with the fact that Getzlaf is an unrestricted free agent next summer, makes it very possible that given the right offer, the Anaheim Ducks would consider moving him.
I think that Getzlaf would be a perfect fit in Toronto, especially if he could develop some chemistry with Kessel and Lupul, forming a very dangerous top line.
If the Leafs did acquire Getzlaf, I don’t think signing him to a long-term contract extension would be too much trouble, seeing as Getzlaf has had great success in the past playing for coach Randy Carlyle on a Brian Burke-managed team.
Getzlaf is a perfect fit for Toronto, which is why I think that the Leafs should consider adding the former Stanley Cup winner.
Colin Wilson is a talented young player with the potential to be the big, first line center-man the Leafs desperately need. Although he is not quite there yet, he would be a great addition to the Leafs and could continue to develop alongside their core of young players.
Although he recently signed a 3-year, 6 million dollar contract, I think that a team may be able to pry Wilson away from the Predators, as he has not really been a fit in Nashville’s system. Although he put up decent numbers last year (15 goals and 20 assists in 68 games), he was a healthy scratch at times and only suited up for four of the team's 10 playoff games.
I think Wilson would benefit from a change of scenery, and Toronto seems like the perfect fit. He is already a top six player and, given an opportunity, could possibly develop into the number one center the Leafs need. That is why I think the Leafs should consider Colin Wilson.
Sharp is a 30-year-old veteran forward who can play all three forward positions. Although he’s not really a long term solution to the Leafs center issues—as he probably only has three or four good seasons left in him until his production starts to decline—Sharp still could be an effective short term solution.
Even though Sharp is not a natural center-man, he has proven he is very capable of playing down the middle, as he was the Blackhawks second line center when they won the Stanley Cup back in 2010.
Sharp’s veteran presence coupled with his natural ability and versatility is why the Leafs should consider adding Patrick Sharp to aid their woes at center ice.
With Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly stepping up and taking the Colorado Avalanche’s top two center positions, it doesn't really make sense for the team to be paying 6.6 million dollars per season for a third line center.
That being said, Stastny has enough talent to be a top center on an NHL team, and the Toronto Maple Leafs could just be that team.
Having put up close to 80 points in multiple seasons when given top minutes, there’s no reason to believe he couldn't get back to that level of playing on the Leafs top line between Kessel and Lupul.
In fact, with Stastny's world-class vision, I could see Kessel easily reaching the 45 goal mark. Plus, at only 26 years-of-age, Stastny would fit in well with the team's young core of players.
I think that the Leafs should seriously consider adding Paul Stastny.
I suppose you could call Jason Arnott a last resort for the Leafs, if all other attempts to land a center-man fail. Arnott did put up 17 goals and 17 assists in 72 games last year for the St. Louis Blues, so the 37-year-old may still have something left in the tank.
Arnott could prove to be an effective stop-gap and buy some time for either an internal candidate such as Kadri, Colborne, or van Riemsdyk to develop into the Leafs' top center, or for the Leafs to bring one in via free agency next summer such as Ryan Getzlaf.
If all else fails, the Leafs should consider adding Jason Arnott.
There you have it folks, five centers the Leafs should consider adding.
I personally believe that Getzlaf or Stastny would be the best options for the Leafs. However, if the Leafs want a younger, more affordable option, I wouldn't mind Colin Wilson either.
Who would you like to see Brian Burke add to strengthen the center ice position in Toronto? Or, are you comfortable waiting to see if James van Riemsdyk or Nazem Kadri can step up and take the number one center position?
Please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.