3 off-the-board targets for the Leafs in free agency

“We’ll be active, but we might have a different set of targets than other teams” Brendan Shanahan said over the weekend, when asked about the Leafs’ approach to free agency this week. So, who might those targets be? We obviously have no idea yet, but there are some interesting ones out there, especially now.

You’ve heard of all these players, so they’re certainly not “off-the-board” in the typical sense, but with the market opening on Wednesday, we’re not dipping into the longstanding lists of unrestricted free agents from any cap site. These guys have only just joined the conversation as potential options for next season, and they should come cheap to any teams looking to pursue them.

Mike Richards

The Leafs have been linked to Mike Richards since what feels like the dawn of time. There was the reported declined deal that would have sent Nazem Kadri (and Kulemin, if I remember correctly) to the Flyers during Holmgren’s tear down in 2011, and most recently he’s been tied to the Leafs when they were rumored to be in talks with Los Angeles over Dion Phaneuf. 

Richards was once a coveted centreman, but over the past year or so his contract has become such a problem that it’s done – and will continue to do – major damage to the Kings’ plans long term.

With all that said, he’s probably still capable of playing a bottom six role if a team (especially one as terrible down the middle as the Leafs) is willing to give him a chance. Think Mason Raymond or David Booth over the last couple years on those types of reclamation or “show me” deals. While Raymond obviously worked out much better than Booth, especially in terms of production, neither posed a risk to the team long term whatsoever, and at least in the former’s case, a better general manager should have been able to flip him for a draft pick at the deadline.

Richards on a cheap one-year deal is at least worth considering, particularly if the Leafs are successful in ridding themselves of Tyler Bozak and his foolish cap number.

Making a move to bring in Richards on a cheaper one year deal and dishing Bozak for a pick (even a late one, or you know, literally anything) would be smart. If Richards has a decent year to the deadline, he might be flipped again to a contender. This is a road the Leafs should explore going down, especially if they want to just fill a few gaps in the short term in order to avoid rushing kids. 

P.A. Parenteau

While Richards’ buyout was imminent (albeit completely mishandled by Lombardi and the Kings), Parenteau’s, on the other hand, is just blatantly puzzling. 

Parentau is a serviceable NHL player, and while his cap hit was a little expensive at 4-million, he had just one year left on his deal. Now the Canadiens will have him staying on the books for three.


Via OwnThePuck by @MimicoHero

Poking fun at the Canadiens aside, Parenteau looks like another player worth taking a flyer on. When he left the Islanders in 2012 there were some concerns about whether his numbers were inflated since he’s a bit of a late bloomer, but he’s proven that wasn’t the case. Since then he’s been clipping along at 0.62 points-per-game over the last three seasons, which is good for 51 points stretched over 82 games. Parenteau’s always been a decent option from a puck-possession standpoint as well, as he’s never had a season where he’s registered a negative in score-adjusted relative Corsi percentage. 

The problem with the Leafs in this case would probably be fit. They’re not particularly hurting for wingers (at least in comparison to everywhere else) and they’re a bit clogged with contracts in that regard. That said, with a potential Kessel trade in the works, and hopefully some way to get out from under the last three years of Joffrey Lupul, maybe some space can open up. 

Andrei Kostitsyn

I’m going to take some heat for this one, but yes, Andrei Kostitsyn wants back into the NHL after a stint in Russia, and he might be worth taking a shot at. This might sound a bit ridiculous, but what separates him from the other two on this list is that he may be perceived as too good and thus too expensive. He’s at least more of an unknown.

If there’s a high level of interest in Kostitsyn and we’re talking anything above a one year deal, the Leafs should probably steer clear, but he’s at least interesting enough to kick tires on. Since leaving the NHL in 2012 after a quick stint with the Predators, Kostitsyn has produced at a decent rate with Traktor of the KHL, most recently notching 35 points in 50 games this past season. 

Apparently, at thirty, Kostitsyn is looking for a clean slate in the NHL and looking to leave behind some of the question marks about his off-ice behaviour that followed him through his first go-around. Perhaps another decent bottom-six option if the number is right.

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  • Benjamin

    Richards’ career is in free fall, but I have to think someone is still going to overpay for him in term and/or $. I would have figured he’d come cheap, but after the draft I’m reminded that there are some very silly GMs out there.

    PA Parenteau would be a great pick up on 1-2 year ‘show-me’ contract. This year wasn’t as bad for him as the media/Therrien made it seem and he was a really solid 2nd line winger the 2 years before.

    Kostitsyn could work out too, on a similar 1-2 year deal. Hunter seems to have been quite active in Russia, with the Soshnikov signing and drafting that Latvian kid, maybe he’s got a good bead on Kostitsyn’s value.

  • silentbob

    I think with Free Agents the most important thing they are/should be looking for are leaders who play the way Shanahan and his team want the team to play, who will set good examples for younger players and establish the kind of culture they want with this team. Cause no free agent is coming here with the idea that they’ll have the Leafs “turn it around” and start winning.

    From what I know of the players mentioned above, I think Mike Richards would be the best suited for that role.

    • Gary Empey

      Has nobody heard of Richard’s reputation as a major party animal ?

      According to Sportsnet, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t use a compliance buyout on Mike Richards, they terminated his contract. The Kings management claimed a “material breach” in order to do so.

      Article 14 of the collective bargaining agreement says a contract can be terminated if a player shall “fail, refuse or neglect to obey the Club’s rules governing training and conduct of Players.”

      Richards has a reputation for being a party guy dating back to his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, but always managed to play at the best of his capacities early in his career. This hasn’t been the case over the last season, which he spent between Los Angeles and the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.

  • jasken

    Got to wait on Richards his contract was terminated not bought out due to contract breach this should be interesting. If this is actually true you now are looking at alot more money for him

  • For all you fancy stats afficianados how do you know if richards nice fancy stats numbers are not mirroing gomez’s good puck possession with poor production?

    This is one place I think you need to be careful with advanced stats rather then just believing them blindly.

    In reality, I think a realistic analyst would say that i don’t have enough information here to come to good conclusion rather then throwing their support behind it based on a few #s