With the Leafs getting ready for their intra-provincial scrimmage with what’s left of the Ottawa Senators tonight, I wanted to take a second to express how and why I feel that Brian Burke’s moves in the last few weeks have finally effected the type of organizational change that Leaf fans have been waiting on for quite some time now. While it’s difficult to imagine the Leafs climbing into the playoffs minus Kaberle, the fact that Boston still holds the Leafs’ first round pick will keep them playing hard all the way through April, and until they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, you can bet your ass that me and every other true Leaf fan out there will be dreaming of the postseason.
Regardless of whether the Buds make the playoffs this year or not, there has to be a greater sense of hope for the future now than there was at this time last year. Assuming Luke Schenn, James Reimer, Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Bozak, and Clarke MacArthur are all re-signed – which they should be (although there could be some debate in Bozak’s case, I’d admit) – Toronto will likely have somewhere in the vicinity of $15-18 million in cap space to fill about 4 or 5 roster spots, depending on what upcoming UFAs are left unsigned (Tim Brent, Freddie Sjostrom, Joey Crabb, Darryl Boyce, JS Giguere).
Left unchanged, the Leafs’ roster would look generally like this -
Keep in mind that these projections are based solely on the pros already playing with the Leafs that are or are projected to be under contract next season. Factor in a number of potential Leaf prospects that could make an impact as soon as next year, and these projections would get much murkier. Nazem Kadri will be expected to make the team next year, and you can bet Joe Colborne will get a pretty solid look in preseason. Assuming Christian Hanson (another RFA) is re-signed, I think he’d be a perfect 4th line center, maybe even 3rd-line, depending on how he performs over the rest of this season. Jerry D’Amigo, Marcel Mueller, Brad Ross, Greg McKegg and Fabian Brunnstrom all could challenge for a roster spot as well.
On defense, Jesse Blacker is looking very promising, and Matt Lashoff would probably be a better option than Lebda. Throw in Korbinian Holzer and Danny Richmond, who also had a strong preseason in 2010, and the Leafs have pretty decent depth on the blueline.
Factor in the reality that the Leafs will either add two mid-level prospects to their fold with the pair of first rounders they have, or as Burke indicated in his post-trade conference, try to turn those two picks into a high-caliber prospect or young NHL-ready player. If he still holds both picks on draft day, you can bet he’ll probably flip them and move up the board.
While all of this is pure speculation at this point, and could be entirely meaningless given the fact that Burke has already made it clear he’s not done making moves at this trade deadline. Whatever happens, the fact that the Leafs have both the ability to make a run at just about any free agent they might set their sights on (Brad Richards), and still be active in the NHL draft is an opportunity that has not been provided to them for quite some time.
Tags: Carl Gunnarsson Christian Hanson Clarke MacArthur Darryl Boyce Dion Phaneuf Fabian Brunnstrom Fredrik Sjostrom Greg McKegg James Reimer Jerry D'Amigo Joe Colborne Joey Crabb JS Giguere Korbinian Holzer Luke Schenn Marcel Mueller Phil Kessel Tim Brent Tomas Kaberle Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Bozak