The Toronto Maple Leafs are treading water at this point.
After a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Division last year at 38-36-8 and grabbing William Nylander at No. 8 overall, the NHL's wealthiest franchise has stood on the sidelines and watched others make every effort to improve.
That's not to say the Leafs have done nothing at all, but a little bit of a splurge on a day the league dropped $500 million would have been nice. General manager Dave Nonis and co. have shown some interest in a few names, which appear close to coming to fruition after a prolonged wait.
Let's take a look.
Joe Thornton on the Radar
Mats Sundin left a gaping hole at center that the Leafs have yet to fill, although the front office may be hoping one Joe Thornton can do just that—should he become available.
Mike Zeisberger of The Toronto Sun has the scoop: "It should come as no surprise, then, that the Leafs are among at least six NHL teams who have kicked tires concerning Thornton’s availability."
Of course, Thornton has no intention of leaving San Jose, as noted by L.A. Lariviere of TVA Sports:
But the interest in the 35-year-old star's services surely won't go away anytime soon, as his eyebrow-raising numbers from the past few seasons suggest his play is far from taking a dip:
After all, Thornton was the player just three off the NHL lead in assists behind Sidney Crosby a year ago.
The talk of Thornton leaving the Sharks won't go away until it happens or the team makes a definitive statement that it will not, and with rumblings that the brass in San Jose want to secure a younger core, Leafs fans have heard far from the last about this particular deal.
It's a no-brainer really, even if the Leafs use Thornton for just a few seasons. He's an upgrade to a roster that otherwise will likely miss the postseason once more barring a drastic swing in the other direction in terms of puck control.
Leafs Covet Martin Brodeur?
For how much the team relied on goalie play last year to make up for a poor overall defense, one would think the Leafs would have pursued a fix in front of the net a bit sooner.
Luckily for them, there is a legend on the market to be had, and the front office in Toronto has shown interest according to TVA Sports' Louis Jean:
Among the interested teams in Brodeur: Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh & Toronto. Brodeur wants to go to a contender.— Louis Jean (@LouisJean_TVA) June 28, 2014
But the stars seemingly have to align, as Jean also notes that the 21-year veteran wants to compete for the Stanley Cup as his career fades to black:
Don't expect Brodeur to hang up the skates because he won't be back with the New Jersey Devils. In fact, he sounds rather excited for a change of scenery, as recorded by Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com:
It’s a little bit of the unknown. I know it’s only for one season, but I’m excited to see the interest. That’s the big thing for me – to see what kind of team or what kind of situation I can get myself into. That’s the excitement part. For me, to go outside the bubble, that’s something I never did. So, it will be interesting.
It is unknown which franchises Toronto will have to fend off in what may very well become a bidding war for Brodeur, but the team would undoubtedly be better off bringing him on—even if it means his main role is helping to bring along Jonathan Bernier.
James Reimer Demands a Trade?
Let's stick with the netminders here, as the spot seems to be the focal point for the Leafs at the moment.
Although, that is not necessarily to their choosing, as the allegation that James Reimer has demanded a trade would certainly put a damper on things, per Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos:
As if to confirm that notion, Reimer also recently filed for salary arbitration, as illustrated by Elliotte Friedman:
James Reimer among the first players to file for salary arbitration. Numbers do not need to be exchanged yet, but deadline is Saturday.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 2, 2014
It's interesting that there was a deal in place with the Winnipeg Jets during the 2014 NHL draft, although it is hard to know how much any team is willing to give up for his services at this point. At 26 years old, Reimer posted a 12-16 record and allowed 98 goals with a 3.29 goals-against average—the highest of his career.
It may be some time before the Leafs reveal Reimer's fate, and it may directly coincide with how things play out with the likes of Brodeur. Either way, the names in front of the net for the Leafs next season seem poised to be drastically different.