The Toronto Maple Leafs need to acquire Brad Richards. After an amazing start, the leaves have begun to fall. Sound goaltending and defense have helped the Leafs improve, but a lack of offense is holding them back.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the biggest question mark going into the season was whether or not the Leafs had the offense to challenge for a playoff spot. The pundits were correct; the Leafs are lacking offense and it's hurting them.
Tied for the fourth lowest goal for per game at 2.42, the Leafs clearly lack a knack for finding the twine. On a positive note, the Leafs boast the 10th lowest goals against per game at 2.50. Burke has been successful so far building from the net out; however, it's furthest from the net where the Leafs are struggling most.
At this point, many fans are screaming for a trade to acquire a top line centre. I would argue that at this point, the Leafs are stuck with what they have. Luckily two struggling Leafs appear to have gotten their act together against the Washington Capitals. Both Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak found the back of the net, which should pull them out of their slump and back onto the top line.
For this season, Leafs Nation needs to be patient. This offseason is a totally different story. Based on the Leafs fast start, the Leafs clearly have some chemistry going in the room. I suggest making one large splash and keeping the rest fairly similar.
Brad Richards is on pace for 29 goals and 111 points. It's doubtful that Richards can keep up this pace. However, another 90-point season is well within sight for the P.E.I. native. Signing Richards would provide the Leafs with a legitimate 90-point scorer, something the Leafs haven't had since 1993-1994 season. Scoring 111 points, Leaf Icon Doug Gilmore was the last Leaf with numbers comparable to Richards.
The only real No. 1 centre on the market, Richards will be involved in a sweepstakes if he makes it to unrestricted free agency. The Leafs may have to overpay to acquire Richards, but at this point it would be money well spent. The Leafs desperately need a top line centre, and the former Conn Smythe winner would bring a level of playmaking the Leafs haven't seen in decades.
Here is just an example of what a lineup featuring Richards could look like:
Phil Kessel ($5.400m) / Brad Richards ($7.500m) / Kris Versteeg ($3.083m)
Nikolai Kulemin ($2.350m) / Tyler Bozak ($2.525m) / Clarke MacArthur ($2.525m)
Mike Brown ($0.737m) / Mikhail Grabovski ($2.900m) / Colby Armstrong ($3.000m)
Fredrik Sjostrom ($0.950m) / Tim Brent ($0.775m) / Colton Orr ($1.000m)
Extras: Christian Hanson ($0.750m)
Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / Francois Beauchemin ($3.800m)
Luke Schenn ($3.000m) / Mike Komisarek ($4.500m)
Brett Lebda ($1.450m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($1.500m)
Juraj Mikus ($0.563m)
Jonas Gustavsson ($1.350m) /Jean-Sebastien Giguere ($4.000m)
BUYOUTS: Darcy Tucker ($1.000m)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion, which isn't in effect next year)
SALARY CAP: $63,400,000; CAP PAYROLL: $61,159,166; BONUSES: $0
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $2,240,834
(Courtesy of CAPGEEK.COM, follow @capgeek on Twitter)
This is just an example and clearly some of these choices will not occur. A $4 million dollar cap increase is a very real possibility based on past increases and the only thing I have done is try to be generous with player salary. The Leafs would still have wiggle room even if they kept some of the above people and didn't trade make any trades. Moves like signing Jean-Sebastien Giguere and letting Thomas Kaberle walk are clearly way too early to call.
Ideally some players would be moved out if Richards was signed and other tweaks could be made to the roster. Some other players could be moved in (Luca Caputi, Nazem Kadri, Keith Aulie, etc.), but that isn't the point of the example.
This offseason, the Leafs will have one main focus. Burke knows he needs to make additions to his forwards, and without many highly tradable assets, any deadline deals will be small ones. The Leafs need a No. 1 centre and signing a former Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champion would be a great start.