Looking back at the 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs season, we all know that their defense left a lot to be desired. Sure, they had some good youngsters back there in Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, but there were more than a few D-Men that didn’t live up to expectations.
The off-season could see a few changes to the Leafs blue line. While a lot of fans would like to see Dion Phaneuf shipped out, that is unlikely to happen. However, players like Cody Franson, Paul Ranger and quite possibly Gardiner might all not be back.
If the Leafs do move some defensemen, they will obviously need to replace them. While some blue liners from the Toronto Marlies might be ready to make the jump, it’s unlikely that the Leafs would want a blue line comprised mostly of rookies. That means they will look to add via free agency or trade.
For now, lets just look at free agency. While the defensive free agent pool isn’t that deep, there are some experienced defensemen that could help the Leafs on the ice while possibly mentoring their young defensemen. With the salary cap going up and the Leafs due to jettison a few players, they should have the cap room to bring in a capable veteran.
Among the list of older defensemen that are currently on pace to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 are: Dan Boyle, Kimmo Timonen, Andrei Markov, Joni Pitkanen and Brooks Orpik. There are also some defensemen under the age of 3o that could be available: Andrej Meszaros, Kyle Quincey, Matt Niskanen, Nikita Nikitin and Anton Stralman.
The Leafs need some more experience on the blue line and all of the players above could help the team. Of course, there is still plenty of time for teams to re-sign their free agents before July 1. Even if most of them do, the Leafs will more than likely be to afford only one. Who should it be?