Where Toronto Maple Leafs Can Still Turn for Help in 2014 Offseason
With the roster nearly set for the beginning of the Toronto Maple Leafs' 2014-15 season, it is unlikely that fans will see significant changes in the coming weeks.
The Leafs do have some cap space with over $10 million still available to the club. The issue, particularly with more veteran players, is whether or not they want to join a team that is highly unlikely to threaten for a Stanley Cup in the next season or two.
With some holes to fill at centre, in the bottom six and on defence, there are a handful of unrestricted free agents who might be able to help the Leafs this season.
Saku Koivu, Centre
While Saku Koivu's best years are well behind him, he could be an interesting option at centre ice for the Leafs.
With recent signings, general manager Dave Nonis may believe he's done enough to bolster the forward ranks, but centre ice remains a concern. Koivu is still a good enough skater that he could be a solid two-way pivot on the third or fourth line.
His presence would allow the Leafs to ease in someone like Peter Holland who may not be ready for a full 82-game schedule in a top-nine role.
He would serve as a bridge player while Nazem Kadri and Holland continue to develop.
Michal Handzus, Centre
While Michal Handzus is not getting any younger, he's also not getting any smaller. At 6'4" and 219 pounds, Handzus would bring size, experience and skill to Toronto's bottom six.
He played on a powerful Chicago Blackhawks team, but if he could even approach that Corsi number, it would be far superior to what the Leafs forwards were able to muster in possession last season.
The 37-year-old Slovakian could be an important role player, particularly if the Leafs believe they can challenge for a playoff spot in 2014-15.
Dustin Penner, Winger
Dustin Penner is one of the more enigmatic players in the NHL. He has tantalizing size and power—when he chooses to use it.
He has had very strong possession numbers throughout most of his career.
He owns two Stanley Cup rings, and he did have 35 points in 69 games last season. Penner would not cost a lot in salary, and he could be a very good third-line player if the Leafs want to add some more experience to the bottom six.
At 31 years old, the Winkler, Manitoba native should have some more left in his large tank.
Michael Del Zotto, Defenceman
The Leafs could use another experienced NHL defender who is entering his prime years. Former Nashville Predator Michael Del Zotto could be an option.
The Stouffville, Ontario native skated with the Oshawa Generals and the London Knights in the OHL. He's a talented offensive defenceman who is a proven scorer at the NHL level.
Del Zotto is not a physical defender, but paired with a stay-at-home type, he could be a valuable, mobile rearguard.
He had 16 points last year and a five-on-five Corsi number of 50.5 percent. The Leafs need more players who like to handle the puck and will spend some quality minutes in the offensive zone.
Del Zotto might be worth a look, particularly if he could be signed to just a one- or two-year contract.