“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.
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.
Just for some context here…5v5 P/60 this past season:
PA Parenteau: 1.55
Sam Gagner: 1.41
Mike Richards: 1.24
Tyler Bozak: 1.23
— CorsiHockeyLeague (@CorsiHL) June 29, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spoke to Andrei Kostitsyn’s agent: says former Habs winger, who spent last 3 years in KHL, is getting significant interest from 3-4 teams.
— Michael Traikos (@Michael_Traikos) June 28, 2015
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.
Andrei Kostitsyn wants to return to the NHL after four years in Russia. Believed to be some preliminary talks ongoing for a one-year deal.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 25, 2015
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.