Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke is not only interested in adding another top six forward, he wants to bring in another forward to fill out his core of bottom six forwards. There are a number of intriguing forwards available on the free agent market, although the reoccurring name making the rounds is Raffi Torres. Torres, who split time between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres last season, was believed to be one of the players that the Leafs would covet on July 1st. Now over a week since the free agent market opened, the 28-year old winger remains unsigned and looking for a new home.
The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be the most likely destination. Torres scored 36 points in 74 games last season, along with 34 penalty minutes and a dismal -11 plus/minus rating. His main assets are his aggressive style of play with a decent scoring touch around the net. He lacks foot speed and defensive awareness, which makes him less attractive to play a bottom-six role. However, the former first round pick is a two-time 20 goal scorer who could fill in on the second line for an injured player. Torres is a former first round draft pick who is turning 29 this fall and may be entering the prime of his career.
The question that most fans are wondering is; why hasn’t a player of Torres’ calibre signed with a team by now? The money factor is preventing a team from signing Torres. He is apparently asking for over $3 million, which is forcing teams to back away. Most teams are believed to be only offering $3 million or less, although there is no indication whether he and his agent are willing to accept below their asking price. It would seem fair that he could command $3 million on a multi-year contract based on the deal that Colby Armstrong received from the Leafs. Torres is only a year older than Armstrong and scored 7 more points than him last season. He will likely cash in at some point this summer, but not necessarily with the Leafs.
The only way that Torres dons the blue and white next season is if the Toronto native takes a significant hometown discount to play in the city that he grew up in. A contract in the range of $2-$2.5 million over multiple years would be a fair deal for both parties. There may come a point in the summer that it drags on to the extent that would cause Torres to become desperate to sign a contract with a pay decrease. You can be sure that Brian Burke will monitor the situation and pounce on the opportunity to add a quality bottom-six forward if the possibility presents itself.