Brian Burke is about a month away from continuing the major face lift of the Leafs roster. He has made it a top priority to acquire more skill for the top six forwards, and more grit for the bottom six. Free agency is Burke’s draft, although he also has the opportunity to add major pieces of the puzzle via trade.
This outlines what I think the 2012-2013 Leafs roster will look like after the next two seasons are complete, along with the drafts and free agency periods. There will be a lot of top players available during the 2011 free agency period, so I expect Burke to land his big fish at that time. This coming July 1 should be more devoted to acquiring gritty depth guys who provide character and toughness.
Here is my prediction for the 2012-2013 roster.
(Forgive me if my salaries aren’t exact)
Kulemin B. Richards Kessel
$2.75 million $ 6.75 million $ 5.4 million
Backes Kadri Wheeler
$4.25 million $850,000 $ 3.0 million
(Free Agency) (Kaberle Trade)
Armstrong Paradis Caputi
$2.9 million $ 850,000 $2.0 million
Eager Burish Orr
$1.2 million $ 850,000 $ 1.0 Mil
(Free Agency) (Free Agency)
Phaneuf M. Staal Gustavsson
$6.5 million $ 4.5 million $ 4.0 million
Schenn Komisarek Reimer
$3.0 million $ 4.5 million $ 1.0 million
$1.0 million $ 1.0 million TOTAL CAP = 57.3 Million
I’m sure you’ve noticed many players are missing, or maybe you think some of the current prospects should have made the team by then.
I believe Brad Richards will be Toronto’s first line center of the future. He is a UFA next summer, and I think Burke will nab him when Dallas can’t afford his salary anymore (Stars will most likely resign Benn and Neal).
Richards would make a guy like Kulemin take the next step to become a 25-30 goal scorer in the NHL, not to mention help Kessel possibly get to the 50 goal mark.
David Backes is also a UFA next summer, and I’m sure he is on Burke’s radar after Burke saw his gritty yet skilled play during the 2010 Olympics.
As far as the Kaberle trade rumor goes, I have settled on Kaberle to Boston for Blake Wheeler and our second round pick (32nd overall). I know some of you will disagree, but please keep this issue secondary because we have all speculated about it for the past month or so.
Some may think I’m crazy about getting Marc Staal. It may not be Staal in particular, but it will be someone of his caliber. We would probably get Staal and a pick/prospect in a trade for Bozak and Gunnarsson/Schenn next year after another solid season from both.
I don't think Bozak will be needed next year after we get a top center like Richards and Kadri develops as he should. We will also not be able to afford to resign Gunnarsson and Schenn (whomever they choose to move) because of the money spent on free agents.
I think players like Armstrong, Burish, and Eager will be obtained through free agency this year, which will provide an immediate boost of energy on the Leafs roster. As you can see in the cases of Chicago and Philly, these types of players are essential for a winning team.
Players Left Out
I think Beauchemin and Giguere will be moved out next trade deadline for draft picks. This will clear up much needed cap space for next season.
Players such as Grabovski, Stalberg, Hanson, Mitchell, Sjostrom, Van Ryn, etc., will either not be resigned, be traded for draft picks, or become fringe NHL/AHL players.
The Leafs top prospects I have left out (Blacker, Mikus, Hayes, Didomenico, D. Mitchell, etc.) can always be interchanged with Holzer, Aulie, Paradis, and Caputi. They are all projected to be decent NHL-ers, so I won’t speculate on who makes it and who doesn’t.
We have to remember that as our team gets better through free agency and trades, our prospects will have a very tough time cracking the future roster. Think Detroit and Chicago.
In my opinion, this looks like a playoff team, and a pretty successful one at that. They would have a good balance of skill, size, and toughness, which is Burke’s exact recipe. I know most of you will not agree with all of my changes, but that’s the fun of stirring up conversation and creating excitement about the future of the Maple Leafs.