With the 2010-11 NHL season winding down and with the Toronto Maple Leafs looking like they will once again miss the playoffs, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has some tough decisions to make with regards to the roster he wants to send over the boards for the 2011-12 season.
While it is tough to speculate on which players Burke will bring into the fold via free agency this summer, there are more than a few players within the organization who appear to be on their way out.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven players who will not be wearing the Blue & White of the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.
When Brian Burke traded for J.S. Giguere, it was thought that he could help bring along goaltending prospect Jonas Gustavsson and fill the organization's void between the pipes until the youngster was ready to assume the No. 1 role.
Unfortunately, Giguere’s play has been nothing short of inconsistent, and while he has been an asset to Gustavsson’s development, Jonas appears to be at least another season away from contributing some major minutes to the big club.
With Giguere struggling between the pipes and to stay healthy, and the emergence of James Reimer as a serious candidate for the starter's role, it appears as if Burke will allow Giguere (who is a unrestricted free agent at season’s end) to test the free agent waters rather than tendering him a contract extension.
Look for Giguere to take a backup role with a contending club for minimal money.
Brought over in the Dion Phaneuf trade from the Calgary Flames, Sjostrom has been a decent addition to the Maple Leafs’ roster.
Known as a tough defender, Sjostrom has failed to impress with the Maple Leafs. At 6’1”, 218 pounds, Sjostrom has the size that Burke likes, but his lack of killer instinct and inability to pull the Maple Leafs penalty kill together probably allows Burke to take a pass on the 27-year-old.
Through 81 games (combined from 2009-10 and 2010-11), Sjostrom has accumulated four goals and 10 points, while posting a combined minus-10.
Simply put, as good as Sjostrom is perceived as being, Burke needs to employ a player with better skills (especially offensively) in Sjostrom’s role.
With James Reimer emerging as a serious candidate to take over as the Toronto Maple Leafs No. 1 goaltender, it appears as if Burke will be looking to employ a 1-and-1A type of goaltending duo next season.
The subject of Brian Burke looking to sign Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been the topic of conversation, both in my own columns and within the media, for a few weeks now.
If Burke manages to sign the All-Star caliber Bryzgalov to a contract, the Maple Leafs’ organization will employ a plethora of goaltenders, which may necessitate one of the prospects being moved.
It is widely felt that Jussi Rynnas has more upside than Gustavsson and with Ben Scrivens also looking like a good bet to make the NHL someday, Burke might just look to unload Gustavsson, who, despite his health concerns, could garner significant interest from NHL teams.
Gustavsson is signed through 2011-12 at a cap hit of $1,350,000. Gustavsson’s upside and affordability make “the Monster” an attractive option for many NHL teams looking to add an element of depth to their organizational goaltending.
There are only so many spots for your goaltenders to play. Should Burke add a No. 1 goalie or a legitimate NHL backup, Gustavsson may very well be on his way out.
The arrival of Fabian Brunnstrom to the NHL had many general managers and fans excited about a player who many looked at as the next big star to come out of Europe.
Brunnstrom registered a respectable 17 goals and 29 points in 55 games with the Dallas Stars in 2008-09, followed by a very disappointing 2009-10 campaign in which Brunnstrom only managed to net two goals and 11 points with the same Stars team.
Brunnstrom started the 2010-11 season with the Texas Stars of the AHL where he registered 13 goals and 24 points.
His lack of production led to the Stars trading the once highly-touted forward to the Toronto Maple Leafs amongst little fanfare from either side.
Brunnstrom was shipped down to the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, where he has registered three goals and 11 points through 30 games.
While there is still some support that Brunnstrom will emerge as a legitimate NHL star, it appears as if he will have to accomplish that with another NHL organization, as his play with the Marlies has been underwhelming.
Known as a physical player with marginal scoring ability, Hanson looks to be the victim of the numbers game where making the Maple Leafs roster is concerned.
Tim Brent, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Jay Rosehill look to have earned the confidence of both head coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke.
While Hanson looks to have the heart and determination to compete for a fourth-line role, he simply is not as good as any of the four aforementioned players, which probably means he will not have his contract renewed this summer.
The recent addition of U.S. college player Tyler Brenner is another blow for Hanson, as the two players have a similar skill-set.
That said, Brenner appears to have more offensive potential and is three years younger, which only complicates matters for Hanson.
Look for Hanson (a restricted free agent this summer) to move on to another organization, where he will likely continue to have a successful AHL career while offering some insurance for an NHL team in need of some toughness.
Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in what many perceived as a salary dump by the Ducks, Aaron Voros was immediately sent down to the AHL to play with the Maple Leafs affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.
Varros (who is an unrestricted free agent next summer) has one goal and five points through 18 games with the Marlies.
Even with his physical attributes, I do not think it will be enough to justify signing Varros to a new contract.
Mike Zigomanis came to the Maple Leafs’ organization in 2009-10 with an underwhelming resume which includes 197 NHL games in which he registered 14 goals and 47 points.
Zigomanis started the 2010-11 season on the Maple Leafs’ roster, only to find himself shipped out to the Toronto Marlies after eight games.
Try as he might, Zigomanis (who is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end) has yet to be called back up.
That said, with 14 goals and 47 points through 64 games with the Marlies, Zigomanis looks to be having a decent season in the AHL.
Trouble is, with so many young prospects coming up the pipe, Brian Burke must clear some roster spots on the farm, which probably spells the end to Zigomanis’ career with the Maple Leafs organization.