6 Players Who Will Not Be with the Toronto Maple Leafs Next Season
With the Toronto Maple Leafs on the verge of making the playoffs, they will need to start thinking how to make this team into a playoff team with home-ice advantage in the near future.
There are parts to this team who excite you, whether it's Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk or Dion Phaneuf, but there are also some parts that need some fine-tuning.
$5.5 million dollar man Mikhail Grabovski has been fighting a stomach ailment for most of the past couple of seasons. Everyone remembers his breakout campaign in 2010-11 in which he scored 29 goals; he also had linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur have career years.
But if the Leafs intend to improve next year, they will need to cut off some dead weight and create some much-needed salary cap space.
Here are six players who will be on the outside looking in next year.
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Easily the first name off the board. Paid over $4.75 million, Connolly has an expiring contract the Leafs can't wait to get rid of.
With his name off the salary chart, look for the Leafs to go out looking for a top-six forward to complement Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk.
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The first victim of the amnesty buyout for the Leafs will likely be Mike Komisarek. With Komisarek owed over $4.5 million next season, the Leafs will likely buy out his contract or, best-case scenario, trade him to a team looking to hit the cap floor.
With over $1.5 million still on the books from the Matthew Lombardi contract, coupled with Komisarek's buyout and Connolly's expiring contract, the Leafs would have saved about $10 million in cap space.
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Frazer McLaren's emergence as a tough guy for the Leafs, I believe, will spell the end of Colton Orr's days as the Leafs' enforcer.
I feel it's unnecessary to have two enforcers on a team in which you have Mark Fraser as a defenseman. There's no need for the Leafs to be paying Orr over $1 million to chuck knuckles and play about five minutes a night.
As it stands, I feel his roster spot is better served going to a guy like Ryan Hamilton, who is very defensively responsible, or a player like Matt Frattin, whose explosive shot could be an asset for the Leafs moving forward.
Overrated to start the season, Kostka got the duty of playing the right side next to Dion Phaneuf. His ability to play an NHL game was getting exposed on a nightly basis. As the minutes increased, so did his mistakes.
Dion Phaneuf was dead-last on the Leafs in plus-minus with rookies Kostka and Korbinian Holzer to his right.
However, since moving back over to the right side, Phaneuf's numbers have returned back to average, and the Leafs couldn't be happier.
He's yet another piece that got over-hyped for no reason at all except for that he was Phaneuf's defensive partner.
He'll likely get another shot at a bottom-two role with another NHL team, but as it stands right now, it won't be in Toronto.
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Another overpaid player for what he provides, MacArthur's best season with the club came over two years ago, when he tallied 20 goals and added 42 assists. MacArthur may get re-signed at a lower price, and the Leafs may manage to re-sign him. But with Tyler Bozak expected to get a pay raise, you may be looking at MacArthur's last days as a Leaf.
Getting paid over $3.25 million a season and playing bottom-six minutes, MacArthur's spot will likely get filled by a player like Joe Colborne, who is just about ready for prime time, or a veteran bottom-six player like Mike Zigomanis, who I feel would be just as valuable as Jay McClement is to the Leafs.
His ability to win draws, play in all three zones and penalty-kill effectively make him a wonderful offseason addition to the bottom six.
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Liles has seemingly spent more time up in the press box this season than playing games. While getting paid nearly $4 million a season, Liles represents more money spent that isn't getting the Leafs results.
In today's game, you need to make every penny count, and in reality the Leafs probably have one of the worst rosters when it comes to money being spent unwisely. Whether it's Connolly, Komisarek or Liles, the Leafs this year seemed at ease with sitting some of their high-priced talents.
With Liles on the way out, his trade will likely open up a starting position for Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly or Jesse Blacker. All are expected to be key fixtures in the Leafs' defensive corps for years to come.