July 1st has come and gone, which means we’re officially in the dead of summer, with few moves to come over the next two months.
Many teams are completely done for the summer and are just waiting for September to roll around when training camp opens. Others might not be done, but will only make minor additions from here on out.
The Leafs? We’ll see.
In light of the quietness to come, and the relative uncertainty surrounding whether the Leafs are in fact done for the off-season, today’s question is: Is there anybody that the Leafs should
consider signing still? For the current roster, marlies, an ELC to an
undrafted guy, whatever. If so, who? If not, why?
In light of the Jonathan Bernier trade, the
Leafs definitely have to grab a backup goalie on the market to fill that
hole. I don’t think anyone in the pipeline is quite ready to fill that
void and Lamoriello has already said he plans to find a UFA goalie for
than that though, the Leafs should hold tight. There’s not many
attractive names left on the market that would warrant taking up a
valuable roster spot.
it stands now the team has too many competent NHL bodies for the spots
it has available. Spots that can be earned by some of the kids coming up
through the ranks. Signing a veteran blocks a capable prospect from
earning a spot on the team and was one of the few reasons I wasn’t fond
of the Matt Martin signing.
Leafs have a lot of talented prospects on the come up and there’s no
sense blocking that path to the NHL if they’re ready to play in it. It’s
one of the things I wasn’t crazy about during Babcock’s tenure with the
Red Wings and I’d hate to see it continue with the Leafs, especially as
the team is still in the build and develop part of their rebuild.
not to say that the prospects should be thrown to the wolves, but the
team has enough of a veteran presence as is to shelter any newcomers.
Up front sure, on defense yes, and in goal no.
my count the Leafs have about 16 guys that could legitimately be
counted on to play in the NHL for large stretches next season. Who’s in
that 16 and who’s not is, on certain players, a matter of opinion, but
on the whole the Leafs are fairly deep up front.
On defense, the
Leafs have nine guys I think they can count on if need be – the expected
eight of Rielly, Gardiner, Marincin, Hunwick, Polak, Zaitsev, Carrick,
and Corrado, plus Andrew Campbell.
In net, the way I see it is you
have Andersen (your starter) and Sparks (the third wheel you can rely on
if you absolutely have to). But the Leafs definitely need a more
The Marlies are looking at about 10 guys under
contract with the Leafs playing for the team up front, with the likes of
Cliche and Clune on AHL deals, plus others. On defense they can expect
about six guys under contract with the Leafs, plus a couple of others on
AHL deals. In net they figure to rotate Sparks, Bibeau, and Kaskisuo.
the whole we’re looking at a situation where the Leafs have enough to
get through a full season up front. I do think they could add one or two
more bodies if they really wanted to, and Jimmy Vesey is absolutely
something they should pursue. If they don’t get him, I won’t complain if
they invite a veteran or two to camp on a tryout. The Marlies could
also probably stand to add a body (because why not?), which could either
happen during the summer or perhaps as the result of someone being
bumped down from the Leafs after a Vesey and/or veteran signing.
defense I think it would be a good idea to add one more body. You could
always count on Loov or Valiev with the Leafs if the injuries really
pile up, but in my opinion those players are still better off in the
AHL. I’d like to see that number of defensemen I’m comfortable rolling
with go from nine to 10, with the Marlies as a result presumably going
from six strong defensemen to seven.
And in net, the Leafs obviously
have to address the backup position as the result of the Bernier trade. A
cheap option would be fine, and if such possibilities exist, however
unlikely, a backup could always be pursued via trade as well. In any
event, the team needs to add another body there and I expect they’ll do
So basically I’m in the “wouldn’t hurt” camp up front, the “yes please” camp on defense, and the “obviously” camp in goal.
In light of the recent Bernier trade I think
it would be a prudent move to sign a veteran back-up goaltender to play
behind Frederick Andersen instead of relying on Garret Sparks. Sparks’
numbers down the stretch last season suggest that he needs more time to
stabilize his game. Outside of goaltending, it will be a nerve wracking
season because at least one of our cherished prospects will
under-perform. When that happens some Leafs fans will immediately start
calling that prospect a bust (brace yourself for that) but I believe the
Leafs are very well positioned to handle any under performers while
continuing to develop the team.
defense, the Leafs are essentially icing the same players as last year
with the exception of a Zaitsev who looks like he will have a real shot
at the top 4, with some even projecting he could play alongside Morgan
Rielly in the Leafs’ top pair. If Zaitsev completely falls flat, Babcock
will be happy to give Hunwick top pairing minutes, shifting Rielly to
the right side and slotting either Carrick or Corrado in the top 4, with
Polak giving relief to any injured right defensemen. This wouldn’t be
great but it would give Carrick and Corrado more quality experience and
time to blossom. If Zaitsev excels, suddenly the blue line looks
front, the Leafs look well positioned for growth. For all the grumbling
the Matt Martin signing has received, it is fair to say that given his
shot suppression, high energy and propensity to hit Matt Martin is one
of the league’s best fourth liners. Meanwhile, on the third line, the
Leafs will be icing one of the League’s best third line centers. Mike
Babcock has stated that Auston Matthews will be starting in this
position but even when Matthew’s moves up the Leafs will have Tyler
Bozak to take his place. Bozak may not be a 1C but he’s a decent second
line center and a very good third line center.
December the Leafs will have JVR, Kadri, Komarov, and Matthews firmly
established in their top six. Meanwhile veterans like Michalek, Greening
and Holland will be challenging young players like Nylander, Hyman,
Leipsic, Soshkinov, Rychel, Brown, Lindberg and potentially Marner for
the remaining two spots. Those who don’t make the top six get slotted
along-side one of the league’s best third line centers, one of the
league’s best fourth liners, or tucked into one of the AHL’s best teams.
These are good conditions for growth. Don’t sign anyone else.