Free Agent Frenzy: Cheap Wingers the Maple Leafs Shoud Consider Signing
In sports these days stating the obvious is more common than oil covered ducks (too soon?), so in lue of that I will offer up yet another statement that need not even be said due to it's evident nature.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need wingers.
And one great way for a team to add some much needed depth along the left and right wings is through free agency. This offseason has its fair share of wingers available; although, unless Burke is planning on paying out another big time salary or taking a chance on an older player, its probably role players he'll be focusing on in free agency.
Even though they have a slew of young, exuberant players on both sides of the ice with plenty of potential, the Leafs need more toughness and experience if they're planning on making any noise offensively next season.
So here's a list of a few wingers that would look great in the Leaf uniform, yet not take a big chunk out of their wallet.
Raffi Torres, LW
Drafted 5th overall in the 2000 draft, Raffi Torres has never really turned into the offensive star he was set out to be, but give him the chance to play in the city he grew up in, and you just never know how things could turn out.
If signed by the Leafs, the gritty winger wouldn't be expected to play a major role on the score sheet, but rather chip in when necessary, while being the physical presence the team so badly needs.
In 74 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres, Torres had 19 goals and 36 points in what was somewhat of a disappointing season for the feisty Torontonian.
He made $2.75 million with the Sabres this year, but Burke would most likely want to sign him for less than that given his limited offensive ability. And something tells me if Torres was given the chance to play in his hometown, he'd probably take a pay cut happily.
If the money is right, it just makes sense that he'll be in Maple Leaf blue and white next season. Just don't go putting your expectations too high for Torres, he's not a game changer, but his physicality and determination is something Leaf Nation has been missing since Darcy Tucker and the gang left town.
Eric Nystrom, LW
His name doesn't pop out on the list of free agents, but Eric Nystrom is the kind of player that costs little, but can have a big payoff in the long run. A good American boy from New York, the type of player Burke likes, Nystrom has been an important member of the Calgary Flames the past few seasons.
He made $775,000 this year and would be a cheap addition to a third line role with the Leafs. Not to mention he knows a few guys on the team after they were traded from the Flames and headed East midway through the season.
It wouldn't be a barn burner by any stretch of the imagination, but a guy like this can be the glue that brings a team together. Yes the Leafs need scoring and a more spread out offensive attack, but they also need gritty, hard working guys.
And Nystrom fits that description perfectly.
The 26-year-old would look great on the Leafs next season, and would hardly even be a blip on the salary cap.
Derek Boogaard, LW
Oh come on, are you trying to tell me you'd want to play against a line that had Colton Orr and Derek Boogaard on it? Not a chance.
Pay the man, give him a sweater, and dare opponents to even put a line out against these guys.
You call it a waste of money. I call it pure genius.
Keep that penalty box door well oiled.
Arron Asham, RW
He may not have been looked at as much of an important player in the past, but after having arguably his best season this year, not to mention a solid playoffs thus far, Arron Asham has proven he can be a great addition to a club.
His passion and tenacity is palpable and there is no question that this is a man that will do just about anything to win; even if that means occasionally crossing the line.
He'll probably be looking for somewhat of a raise, but that wouldn't be too much to deal with since he only made a measly $640,000 this year. And with the heart he's shown in the playoffs this year, he's worth every penny for the Flyers.
He's annoying, he's feisty, he's mean, and he's exactly what the Leafs could use; especially in those tough divisional games that take a turn to the nasty side.
It would be crazy to think Philadelphia wouldn't try and resign him before July 1st, but with the kind of money they're paying guys right now, they might have to part ways with Asham.
And that's the sort of thing Brian Burke loves to see.
Colby Armstrong, RW
He had a poor season this year with the Thrashers —which tends to happen when you play with no one —but Colby Armstrong has had a solid career thus far and has gained a reputation of being a valued member of whatever team he be on.
The asking price will probably be in the $2 million range, which is what he made last season, but a guy like Armstrong might be worth that sort of change.
He scored 22 goals two seasons ago with Atlanta and given the right opportunity could easily reach that mark again. He's not only a great teammate on and off the ice, but his grittiness and willingness to get in the dirty areas will make him a highly touted free agent this summer.
He's only 27 and would fit in perfectly with the core of young players on the Leafs, as well as be willing to stick up for any of them at a moments call.
You know Burke loves this guy, and if he's good enough to be Sidney Crosby's best friend, he's good enough for the Leafs. Not that that has anything to do with anything.
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