Free Agency is tomorrow. Are you ready?
Wherever you are, get ready for some #moves! Transactions! Trades! Signings! People misspelling “re-sign”!
We asked our staff who they most want in free agency tomorrow for the Buds, and here’s what they came up with!
The more I think about it, the more I want the Leafs to land Joe Thornton. So much has been made about this team getting better defensively and yes, they do need to get some help on the back end, but why can’t defence be a team-wide concept? Thornton is one of the better defensive centres in the league and slotting him between JVR and Marner would do wonders for the Leafs’ defensive game as a whole. Plus, it seems like wherever Thornton goes, Patrick Marleau goes, too. Thornton will cost less than, say, Shattenkirk and will accept a shorter-term deal. There’s no reason Toronto shouldn’t be pursuing the future Hall of Fame-er.
My top free agent target is definitely Joe Thornton. Adding that level of elite player to an already very good center group may not be top priority for the Leafs, but it should be. Thornton probably has the biggest potential for impact, and maybe not as expensive as previously thought. Matt Cane’s salary projection model has Jumbo Joe on just a $4.93M AAV! The added potential of drawing in Patrick Marleau (projected $3.93M) is far too much value to pass up, assuming those numbers are realistic.
My primary target is still Kevin Shattenkirk, now and forever (or at least until tomorrow). Shattenkirk scores offence at a rate very few do (including the vast majority of NHL forwards) and does it at such a level that it makes a very legitimate impact to your team. His defensive play might not be perfect or what he’s recognized for, but it’s near the upper tier in the league by just about every advanced metric. He’s an impact player, and the only thing holding him back is narratives about a bad playoff run, which seemed to be. Any team where Morgan Rielly is your third best offensive defenceman is probably a good one. I don’t know what kind of deal he’ll be making, but the Leafs still don’t even have a single player touching the $6 million AAV. Give him a respectable, deserving offer and he’ll be next to Drake and Bieber planning the parade route by 12:01 tomorrow.
My primary UFA target for the offseason would be Cody Franson. While I’ve been pushing for Shattenkirk and Thornton since the Leafs were eliminated, I think Shattenkirk might not be necessary, unless it’s at a cheap price. The Leafs biggest need is a short term solution at RD to shore up their depth while Liljegren develops, and I think Franson fits the bill perfectly. He’s a great possession driver, and the Leafs are already familiar with them. Even if it’s not 100% certain if he has interest on returning to Toronto, I think it would be worth a shot to at least try and pursue him.