Monday, June 30, 2008

Across Canada on the Free Agency Wire - Toronto

Will he or won't he? The great debate continues even though it seems that Mats Sundin is walking away from Toronto. There is still talk of a return to the Leafs but that will have to wait till after July first. For now he's already a Hab and will be for a few more hours. The deal on draft day means Montreal has Sundin's rights, not the Leafs. If Mats were to sign or have talks with Toronto before Free Agency begins it would be illegal under NHL rules. How weird is that?

Players have been flying out of Toronto on a regular basis since the buy out period began. Tucker, Wellwood and Raycroft are all gone, Sundin is gone for now, and Brian McCabe has been asked to waive his no trade clause or just stay home in the Fall. St. Louis made the same move last year with Doug Weight, eventually sending him to Anaheim for Andy MacDonald. Some critics of the Leafs have stated Fletcher is moving out too many players as interim GM and leaving the cupboard bare for the new man. (Now that the Ducks owner is banned by the league for pleading guilty to securities charges, it would appear Burke is destined to head North.) Fletcher is clearing out the contracts now so the future cap hits don't handcuff the next GM.

The Leafs have a few RFA's I believe they should offer contracts. Ben Foster, Ben Ondrus and Matt Stajan can all be signed for around the league minimum and could all split time between the Marlies and Leafs. Look for Robbie Earl, Kris Newberry and Jeremy Williams to get time with the big club too. Players like Mark Bell and Jason Blake need to find their game again or risk being next year's buy outs.

Toronto will have cap room this year and will need to add some players. It remains to be seen if they can sign the top six forward they want. Martin Straka is available but only played in 61 games last year with 41 points. He might look good with Antropov. Radim Vrbata of Phoenix is another option. More points last year at 56, but more importantly he played in 76 games. One name that caught my eye on the UFA list that seems to be over looked and would be a good fit in Toronto is Michael Ryder from Montreal. This Newfoundland native had a horrible year last year, netting only 14 goals, but I can see him become a force again in the NHL with a coach like Ron Wilson mentoring him. Same as Vancouver, Kristian Huselius is a cheaper secondary scorer but do the Leafs need more players that can't find the defensive zone?

Look for the Leafs to sign a dependable D man or two. Kubina, Kaberle, Stralman along with Steffan Kronwall to be joined by a player like Ron Hainsey, Brooks Orpik, Michael Rozsival, or Brad Stuart, who are all hitting the open market. Toronto wants a third or fourth line player as well. Bringing in Jamal Mayers, who has been at least a -19 the last four years isn't the answer. Have another look at re-signing Michael Peca. I also like Glen Metropolit in Boston, he'll throw a hit and has good hockey sense.

Back up goalie is up for grabs now too. Patrick Lalime is out as Chicago's back up, he knows the role and fought hard to get back to the NHL after taking the fall for a Senators melt down in the playoffs. Speaking of Ottawa, I won't even go there, just kidding Leaf fans. Curtis Joseph is probably the best bet. Fan reaction would be great and I watched all of the Spengler Cup last year and Cujo still has the moves.

Well NHL fans, it's time to make our way down the 401 through Kingston and Cornwall and head on over to Ottawa.

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