The Toronto Maple Leafs need upgrades at most key positions prior to next season. The club is set at starting goaltender, but Jonathan Bernier cannot be expected to carry the team like he did on so many nights last season.
Quite simply, the team needs to spend less time in its own zone. Generating more shots in the offensive zone has to be a high priority.
Upgrading at least two defenders, possibly even three, would be a great place to start. This past week, TSN Insider Darren Dreger had the following report:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are high on Dan Boyle's list. He's expected to alert Islanders GM Garth Snow at some point this week as to whether or not he intends to negotiate with the Islanders with the possibility of staying there after New York made the trade for his negotiating rights.
With the Leafs in need of steady, puck-moving defenders who can put up points, Boyle to Toronto might make some sense.
The Ottawa, Ontario native continues to be an impact NHL defenceman. One major issue is that he will turn 38 years old in July. His best years are behind him now, but the Leafs really don't have someone that matches Boyle's combination of experience and offensive prowess.
The veteran rearguard had 36 points in 75 games last season. He added another four points in seven playoff games with the Sharks this past spring.
Boyle had a minus-eight rating and six power-play goals in the regular season.
Boyle would not bring a lot of physicality to the Leafs. He posted just 46 hits and 92 blocked shots with the San Jose Sharks in 2013-14. Age, and the fact that San Jose had the puck the majority of the time in most games, were other contributors to this.
The Leafs are going to have to move some players or hope that restricted free agents like Cody Franson will sign for less than they might in other centres. A two-year contract for Boyle would make a lot of sense for the Leafs.
The club needs to continue to nurture Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly. Other defence prospects within the organization are most likely a year or two away.
The exception to that is T.J. Brennan. It remains to be seen if the talented AHL standout will get a well-deserved look with the Leafs this fall as he now becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Boyle would play important minutes and serve as a model for the young Leaf defenders that need to continue to learn the pro game.
Boyle would make the Leafs power play instantly better. He's got superior vision and a very good shot from the point.
He would be a top-four defender in Toronto and could even play as the No. 2 for long stretches, depending on what the Leafs decide to do with captain Dion Phaneuf, Franson and others.
Boyle and Phaneuf as the top pair could work for a year or two.
If the Leafs choose to retain Franson, he could then be paired with Rielly or Gardiner.
Carl Gunnarsson could be moved down to a third pairing with Gardiner or Rielly. Potentially, Tim Gleason would be the odd man out if Franson was retained. Alternatively, the Leafs could carry seven defenders regularly.
The almighty dollar will dictate things more than anything. If Boyle is really interested in Toronto, and the Leafs choose to go cheaper upfront, it might work.
Of course, Boyle might want to see more from the Leafs, in terms of signings, as he's not likely willing to sign with a team with little hope of making the playoffs in the next few seasons.
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