The NHL free agent watch this offseason has been an eventful time to say the least. Most of the intrigue has stemmed from the failed Ilya Kovalchuk contract that was rejected by the NHL.
For the most part though, the Leafs offseason talk has not been centered around the free agents available, but rather the focus of many Leaf fans, and general hockey fans alike has been centered around the future status of superstar defenceman Tomas Kaberle.
The Leafs had nearly two months available to reach a deal to trade Kaberle for what many expected to be at least a top six forward. Brian Burke and his associates failed to reach a deal by August 16th, and for now, barring Kaberle waiving his no-trade clause, he will remain a Leaf and give the Leafs a top five defensive core in the NHL.
With pretty well all the top line talent gone from the free agents (minus Kovalchuk), this article will mention three players that could fit into the Leafs bottom three lines.
C Eric Belanger
Why Should the Leafs Pursue Him?: Belanger is easily one of the best face-off men in the league, and the Leafs were one of the worst face-off teams in the league last year, match made in heaven right?Belanger is also a very good penalty killer, which the Leafs could always use as well. There was talk earlier in the month that Belanger signed a one-year contract with the Leafs, but it turned out that all of that talk was premature.
What Role Could He Have?: He could play as our third line center, centering a line with Colby Armstrong and Fredrick Sjostrom.
C Ryan Johnson
Why Should Leafs Pursue Him?: The Leafs still need that penalty killing center extraordinaire and Johnson fits the mold. Johnson is a good faceoff man, but what he's best known for is his tenacity and willingness to block shots, something Leaf forwards never did last year. Most of the time if the forwards got hit by the puck, it was by accident.
What Role Could He Have?: He would be centering the fourth line that would feature Mike Brown, and Colton Orr.
LW Darcy Tucker
Why Should Leafs Pursue Him?: Darcy is getting up there in age, but with a very young Leafs team right now, adding a veteran presence on the bench still seems to be needed. Tucker has the respect of the players and is obviously a fan favorite. At this point in his career, expecting him to score 25 goals is out of the question, but what you would expect from him is being a mentor and leader in the Leafs dressing room.
What Role Could He Have?: He can play anywhere from second to fourth line. I expect he'd play on the third line with Belanger and Armstrong if we managed to afford both players.
So to summarize, these three players could really add quality depth to the Leafs going forward. All three of them combined would probably go for about the amount that Jeff Finger gets paid a season, so I think these moves are possible.
So do you think it's plausible for the Leafs to get all three? If not, what player would you take if you were Brian Burke?
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