Now, before I proceed with this post, I must stress that this is an idealistic offseason from the prospect of reality. An ideal offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be for them to sign Brad Richards, Tomas Kaberle, Ilya Bryzgalov and acquire John-Michael Liles and Jeff Carter.
And for whom would we acquire Liles and Carter? Of course, for Mike Komisarek, Jeff Finger and a few seventh-rounders. This is an idealistic offseason, not an ideally realistic one.
It's evident Brian Burke has some wheels to deal with this summer. He possesses two first-round draft picks (albeit late-round choices), some potential restricted free agents that could fetch assets and some prospects that might not fit into the Leafs' future plans.
So with all these in mind and some study of the free-agent crop and potential trade options, I've come up with three key points that will need to be completed by Brian Burke, Dave Nonis and company.
Re-sign Clarke MacArthur and Luke Schenn, Give James Reimer Long-Term Contract
It's almost a given that the Leafs brass should be working hard to get MacArthur and Schenn signed. They both were pivotal parts of the Leafs' early and late-season success last season, and will be pivotal parts to a contending Maple Leafs team in the future.
MacArthur completes a respectable second line for the Buds, while also providing the Leafs with some two-way talent needed on any good team. Schenn can be noted as the Leafs' potential future captain, while also being a future elite, shutdown defenseman in the league. Just last season he led the league in hits, and was among the top five in blocked shots. They both are still young as well, and have given the Leafs a core to build around.
Do you see Brad Richards as worth $8+ million?
He did what the Leafs Jean-Sebastien Giguere nor Jonas Gustavsson could do: He inspired the team. He gave the Leafs a reliable option that allowed the team on the ice to play their game and not worry about their goalie giving up the back-breaking goal.
Now, the flag on Reimer was his glove; however, that is more a playing issue rather than a mental one and can be fixed with focus and determination (something Reimer definitely doesn't lack) from himself and coach Francois Allaire.
Another question on the "Reiminister of Defense" was if he could match his play next season. To answer that simply: He won't have to match his play. Reimer's play exceeded what anyone could have predicted from him, as he played among the best of league and would have even creeped into the Calder discussion had the Leafs made the playoffs.
Someone as young as Reimer doesn't pass his first big-league test with flying colors and then completely falls of the face of the Earth, and that's why I think extending his expiring contract for more than a year or two is necessary.
The Leafs could get away with re-signing Reimer on a year deal worth under a million, but I think paying his $1.3-2.3 million on a three or four-year deal will be worth it for the goalie. His attitude towards the game and confidence-inserting demeanor just scream, "superstar."
Do Not Make a Run at Brad Richards
What's your contract preferance on James Reimer?
Now, although the above sentence may make it seem that I have a hate on for Richards, it's quite the contrary. I'm a big fan of the pivot's two-way game, and if the Leafs could sign him for about $1.5-2 million less, I'm all for it—even if it were for five or six years.
However, paying $8 million to a centerman who'll most likely be 37-38 when his deal is done just doesn't seem wise. If the deal were to pay the $8 million for maybe two or three years, I might be a little more open to that, but nothing more.
I do realise this will likely take the Leafs out of the sweepstakes for Richards, but it's a risk I'd be willing to take, especially with the heavy names on the market like Jeff Carter, Paul Stastny and/or Patrick Sharp.
Bring in Eric Belanger, Acquire Paul Stastny
This will, in my opinion, will be the move that completes the Maple Leafs roster. Let's start with Belanger, who I feel will be necessary for the Leafs to have any aspirations to be annual Cup contenders. I don't mean Belanger specifically; I'm speaking more about having a shutdown, faceoff-specialist centerman.
This signing would be a domino effect into the Stastny deal. Though Tyler Bozak has been good defensively for the Leafs, he's in a crossroads right now as to where his NHL career will go—a top or bottom-six role. Even if Bozak isn't part of the swap, he could still develop under Belanger into what the Leafs envision him to be: a third-line center.
As for Stastny, he is the Leafs' very suitable alternative to Richards. The center has been speculatively deemed available by the Colorado Avalanche, and the Leafs would be obvious suitors. The price wouldn't be easy pickings though, as a package revolving around Bozak, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and Jonas Gustavsson would be the start of negotiations.
The deal could see the Avalanche's 11th overall pick worked in, while seeing both of Toronto's first picks worked in as well, among other tweaks.
Ultimately, it would be worth it. Stastny has produced consistently over his short career, with the exception of this past season. To his defence though, the season was a lost one for the Avs, and he still managed over 20 goals and nearly 60 points. However, his production will be (expectantly) quick to go back up when playing with a talent like Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.