Assuming a CBA agreement is reached between the NHL and its players before this September, there will be hockey by October. Thus comes a chance for the Maple Leafs to accomplish a task they haven't been able to for about eight and a half calendar years now; make the NHL playoffs.
With the daunting task of improving the team, Brian Burke has had little success in accomplishing what he set out to do since free agency began 10 days ago. Burke has stated countless times throughout the years that his trade deadline is actually July 1. Now with three months to go until a potential new season, where do the Leafs need to improve?
Well, if the Leafs want to make the playoffs, a goaltender has to be on his list of acquisitions. As much as the fans and media want to believe that James Reimer and Ben Scrivens can be the tandem to take them to the eighth spot or better, being young and inexperienced, it seems unlikely. If Brian Burke thinks he is fooling either group, then he greatly underestimates the expectations of the people of Toronto that have been waiting for success for nearly a decade.
There is no easy way to address the teams needs this offseason as free agency is light on talent and the trade market will likely entail depleting the prospect depth of the organization. Yet there may be a few moves that Burke could consider involving both of those avenues of transaction. So in come the rampant rumours of Roberto Luongo's desire to want to move on from the Vancouver Canucks and the possibility of the Leafs landing him. Although I believe that having Luongo as the starting goaltender of the Leafs would almost certainly guarantee them a playoff spot, I just cannot fathom what that contract could mean to the future development of any goalie in the system for the next six years.
There is no doubt that James Reimer is not a a true number one goalie ight now but he has shown stints of excellence during his time with the team. If Luongo comes to Toronto you may see a potential starting goaltender that is about 10 years younger wasting away as the back-up. This would mean he would likely ask for a trade and hurt the Leafs down the road by eliminating them from the playoffs. Ok, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here but it makes sense doesn't it? How many times has the Leafs traded away a potential star prospect for a supposed true star player only to have the player they traded away have more success then the entire franchise? Tuukaa Rask anyone? So the suggested move I'm proposing regarding goaltending is to stand pat. I realize that this doesn't get the team to the playoffs any quicker but may actually benefit the organization in the long run.
At the forward position things are getting a little crowded to say the least. With the signing of Jay McClement on July 1 the Leafs now have eight NHL ready centres in the system.
- Tim Connolly
- Jay McClement
- David Steckel
- Tyler Bozak
- Matthew Lombardi
- Mikhael Grabovski
- Nazem Kadri
- Joe Colborne
An argument could be made for whether or not Colborne is ready and if Kadri can step in as a productive pivot but they are both natural centres. This list just proves that some of these players will not be in blue and white in the fall. Look for Kadri to make the team and for Colborne to push for a spot at training camp. As for Bozak and Connolly, I believe their days with the Leafs are likely numbered. There is value in Connolly with one year left on his contract and Bozak may get a decent pick if the Leafs decide to trade him. Other than those two I can't see any other third or fourth line centres being movable. Either way Brian Burke needs to do something because eventually you need to stop bringing in overpaid veterans and start giving spots to upcoming prospects like Kadri/Colborne.