The ho-hum offseason for the mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs continues.
Fans were enthused after the franchise grabbed William Nylander at No. 8 overall in the 2014 draft, but free agency has been a serious exercise in patience. The fanbase suffered through a 38-36-8 campaign a year ago, only to watch teams around the league spend half a billion dollars on the opening day of free agency.
Yes, general manager Dave Nonis and his front office have made some moves, such as bringing back Troy Bodie and signing players such as Petri Kontiola and Mike Santorelli.
But dive deeper into the moves for a moment. Bodie was expected back after a one-year deal last offseason saw him go plus-six. Fine. Santorelli joins the team after shoulder surgery. Kontiola spent the last five years in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun helps to put the overarching theme of the Leafs' offseason into perspective:
In three days, Leafs have signed picks 178, 180 and 196 from 2004 NHL draft, Santorelli, Polak and Kontiola.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) July 3, 2014
Not exactly the high-impact moves a franchise that wants to contend for a Stanley Cup makes, no?
So really, no ground gained or lost so far—and to be fair, the team has at least allegedly had its name in the hat for big-name free agents. Well, if a 42-year old netminder can be considered a big name at this juncture, as explained by 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
So that's good, right? Martin Brodeur is a 21-year veteran who has never seen his save percentage dip below .900 and clearly has a few more quality years left in him.
One problem—Brodeur has an idea of where his next locale should be, and it does not sound like Toronto:
Does that sound like Toronto at this point? Probably not.
"But it's difficult finding quality goaltenders. We think he is one and I would expect if there isn't a deal that makes sense that he would come to camp in the best shape that he could possibly be in with the mindset to play in as many games as he can," Nonis told TSN.
Of course, this nugget is in regard to disgruntled current netminder James Reimer, who has allegedly demanded a trade. Nonis says he is fielding offers but that the right deal needs to come up.
In other words, attacking free agents like Brodeur is more important than ever. So far, the front office has done a decent job of at least ensuring the quality of the team remains about the same as last season's unit. That changes in a hurry if Nonis starts shipping off players without a backup plan.
Speaking of the trade market, the Maple Leafs could use some work there, too. After losing out on Josh Gorges, that is a bit obvious. But the front office remains at work and would apparently like a stab at Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, per Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun:
"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."
Now that is how a team like the Leafs can get going back in the right direction. Thanks to 65 assists last year, Thornton was just three behind the league leader—Sidney Crosby. The rest of his numbers are not too shabby, either:
That's the type of offensive production the Leafs could use at this juncture. Puck control was an issue a year ago, which had a ripple effect on the defense Nonis and Co. appear intent on upgrading, so better control up front with smart movement is a must.
Regardless, big names like Brodeur and Thornton aren't coming to town if the front office remains true to its current form. Should it hold steady, the Leafs are in for a rough season and another high draft selection.
It's time for the front office to up the ante.