August 24, 2010 Leave a comment
It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs offence isn’t exactly the best in the league. Sure the Maple Leafs roster consists of two-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, two-time 20-goal scorer Kris Versteeg and (likely) rookie Nazem Kadri, who is expected to be a large part of the Maple Leafs offence, but the offensive talent level drops significantly after those three.
Many people wanted and expected Tomas Kaberle to be traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke by August 15th, in return for a top-six forward, preferably a top-line centre. With Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri or even Mikhail Grabovski playing the centre ice position however, Tomas Kaberle remaining a Maple Leaf may not be such a bad thing.
The trade route is not always the way to go when looking to acquire offence, defence or a goalie, even now that Evgeni Nabokov, Sergei Gonchar and Matthew Lombardi have all be signed. In fact, there are still players with offensive talent and/or potential available.
While there are some free agents still available that could no doubt help the Maple Leafs, Brian Burke can’t go out into the free agent market and sign a couple of players who used to be big time point producers, hoping that they can become the surprise-of-the-year.
What it does mean is invite about five players to training camp and see if anyone impresses. If someone does, sign them to a one-year contract that won’t be too hard to move if needed.
Here is a look at some free agents still searching for a team that the Maple Leafs should think about inviting to training camp:
Although he is considered by many to be injury-prone, don’t let Nolan’s 38-year-old age fool you. The 6’1″, 214 lbs big man netted 16 goals and 17 assists in 73 games with Minnesota last season, after scoring 45 points in 59 games in 2008-2009.
The Belfast, Ireland born forward spent parts of two seasons with the Maple Leafs between 2002 and 2004 before sitting out for 2005-2006 season after loosing a season of hockey due to the 2004-2005 lockout. Over that two-year span with the Maple Leafs, Nolan scored 60 points in 79 games (26 goals, 34 assists).
Should the Maple Leafs sign Owen Nolan before training camp even begins? No.
Should the Maple Leafs invite him to training camp? Yes.
Will be need to impress? Oh, you bet he will.
It is unlikely that the Maple Leafs would sign Nolan to a contract out of camp if he doesn’t crack the top-six, or even the top-nine. With the Maple Leafs’ youth and speed on the top two lines, its unlikely that Nolan will receive a contract offer contract, but he should get his chance.
After being a massive disappointment last season with Edmonton (11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points), Patrick O’Sullivan was placed on waivers, cleared them and was traded to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer, where his contract was bought out.
O’Sullivan, now a free agent, was a cap hit of $2.95 last season, according to CapGeek.com and would likely take a significant drop in salary if a team were to offer him a contract, giving him a chance to play. At age 24, he would be more likely to make the Maple Leafs if invited to training camp than Owen Nolan. The 5’11”, 190 lbs O’Sullivan is a former 22 goal scorer and could match that total again if given the chance.
Much like Nolan, however, he would have to impress everyone at training camp.
Many people want, or are expecting the Maple Leafs to sign Raffi Torres by the time the regular-season begins, however there may be a more affordable fit. Although Todd Fedoruk does not quite put up the same offensive numbers that Torres does, he can still provide the same, if not more, amount of grit.
A fighter, Fedoruk put up 54 penalty minutes last season in 50 games. The 31-year-old has posted 1050 PIMs in 545-career regular-season games.
A two-time 25+ goal scorer (32 in 2005-06, 26 in 2007-08), Svatos has never played more than 69 games in a season.
With the Maple Leafs lacking another top-six winger and Colby Armstrong best fitted for the third line, Marek Svatos could fit in very well on the right side of the second line. If Svatos can turn in a healthy season, the native of Slovakia has the potential to put up 50+ points.
A cap hit of $2.05 million last season, Svatos would come in nicely somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million. Had it not have been for his struggles last season (seven goals, four assists, 54 games), Svatos would likely come in at a much more expensive price, something that would be unaffordable.
Johnson, an exceptional penalty killer, would bring nothing but good to the Maple Leafs. One of the most underrated players in the League, Johnson is one of the most fearless forwards around.
The 34-year-old is a great shot blocker, and was a staple on the penalty kill in Vancouver. For a team that finished dead least in the League on the penalty kill last season with a 74.6 percent rate, the former Panther, Lightning, Blue and Canuck would be more than welcomed in Toronto.
At a cap hit of $1.10 million last season, Johnson is not getting any younger and this could be his last chance at playing in the National Hockey League. With that being said, he would more than likely be willing to sign a contract worth somewhere around $875 000.
Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors. Information from HockeyDB.com and CapGeek.com was used in this post.