It’s become fairly well-recognized that the Leafs’ cap situation coming out of this upcoming season, or the lockout, is pretty interesting. It looks like Burke’s plan is to load up for what he refers to as the "running stage" of rebuilding. This is a little puzzling, however, considering this team has yet to break out of the corpse stage since he’s been in Toronto. Nothing has gone to plan, but either way, it’s pretty obvious to see he was penciling the summer of 2013 as his time to bring the Leafs to the next level and start actually competing seriously.
You’ve got some interesting free agents coming up, which I’m sure most readers are well aware of. Not all of them will make it there, but Morrow, Roy, Zajac, Iginla, Backstrom (goalie), Elias, Semin (again), Clowe, Horton, and of course Perry and Getzlaf are set to hit the market — the latter two being the focus of a lot of Leafs fans over the last year or so, due to Burke’s Anaheim connection.
Looking in the Leafs’ own back yard, there are a lot of things happening (potentially). Lombardi, MacArthur, Lupul, Bozak, and Connolly are all on expiring deals. That’s about 18 million in cap dollars. There are some RFAs like Kadri and Gunnarsson to take care of, but I mean, come on.
We always somewhat joke around about this stuff while trying not to sound like rumor mongers, but I really think Burke is putting a lot of his eggs into the 2013 basket. I’d love to see him add Horton if healthy, but it’s really tough to get away from Perry and Getzlaf.
My thinking is that the idea is to significantly bolster the lineup in 2013 and run in to the next season with Kessel and Phaneuf in contract years, while you’re then starting to get prime years out of van Riemsdyk as well. If Kadri isn’t good by then he’s probably gone so who cares.
Something that interests me a lot more now, I guess due to all the lockout talk, is how Burke can go about it. And I mean that both by league standards and his own. He’s stayed away from the insanely long contracts up until now, citing cap circumvention (he’s right, really), but if there isn’t relief in this area and this sort of thing is allowed to continue under the new CBA, he has literally no choice but to start playing with long-term deals or he really can’t compete in this league anymore. Simple as that.
Flip it the other way, and he gets what he’s looking for, a cap on contracts. He has those parameters to work within, and if he really wants the players (he’ll want those two I’m sure), he isn’t put at a disadvantage by letting them walk elsewhere because the Leafs didn’t want to match up to a 13 year contract.
There’s no excuse for him not to make enormous plays at these guys next summer, really.
This far ahead of time, it’s tough to say what exactly the UFA crop will look like next year. But should some of those bigger names, especially his Anaheim buddies get there, Burke likely looks to go all out Minnesota Wild-ish. Hopefully without having to dish out more than two decades in contracts.
Too bad we have to wait through a winter with no hockey or Leafs hockey (probably the worst of the two) to find out.
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