Is anyone else absolutely sickened by the fact that one player’s contract demands have left the rest of the league at a virtual standstill? And no, I’m not talking about the absolute circus that has developed in the NBA. So let’s just forget that there’s a 50-goal scoring Russian on the market and take a quick look at what else is still on the market. The Leafs aren’t the only team looking to add scoring forwards, and they’ll almost certainly add one after Kovalchuk signs and the Kaberle trade talks pick back up, but there’s also a few decent options out there for teams looking to add a top-six scorer.
Alexander Frolov: The Russian winger scored 19 goals and 51 points for Los Angeles last season. Decent numbers, but they’re actually his lowest point totals since the lockout. Frolov doesn’t exactly fit the Brian Burke-mold for dedicated players, but with 168 goals and 381 points since the lockout, he definitely offers the offense the Leafs so desperately need.
Marek Svatos: The speedy Slovak has been a bit of a disappointment since what looked to be a breakout season in 2005-06, when he scored 32 goals and 50 points. Svatos suffered a number of minor injuries over the last two years that have definitely contributed to his lack of success, but he’s definitely at a turning point in his career. I don’t think he’s high on the Leafs’ list, but at several points in the last few months his name has come up in the rumor mill. With the speed already on the Leafs, he might be a good fit, and would almost certainly be an upgrade.
Maxim Afinogenov: Again, clearly not the type of player Brian Burke is fond of, Afinogenov has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but his lack of desire to battle for the puck and sacrifice his body to make plays has been his downfall. His speed and ability with the puck are without question, but you gotta wonder what he could have done if he had shown a bit more heart. He did have a bounce back season in Atlanta last year, but he was also playing alongside Kovalchuk, so that’s not really a surprise. It’s probably not out of the question for the Leafs to at least inquire about his services, and Burke’s already rumored to have been “kicking the tires.”
There are some other names out there, some of whom I’d rather not have back in TO (see Stempniak, Ponikarovsky), but the vast majority of the remaining UFA forwards are either in the twilight of their careers (Kariya, Guerin, Lehtinen, Demitra) or are more the grinder, 3rd line type forwards the Leafs already have in bunches. The most viable option for Burke and the Leafs to get that extra scorer is going to come from trading Tomas Kaberle, which, apparently won’t happen until Kovalchuk signs. So, with that said, in the word’s of the cinematic masterpiece Beerfest, here’s my message to Kovalchuk: It’s time to scheisse or get off ze crapper.