The Leafs Top Priorities This Offseason
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the dead of summer and have yet to deal with some of their most pressing matters. After having a great regular season, they captured the North division title, but in true Leafs fashion, they blew a 3-1 lead to the Habs. The Leafs will have to make some interesting moves this off-season, and here is what they should be focusing on.
Priority #1 - Goaltending
The Leafs had three quality goaltenders last season. However, they have an interesting dilemma. Freddie Andersen is a free agent at the end of this month, David Rittich, who was acquired just before this year's deadline will also be a UFA, and the jury is still kind've out on the Leafs ipso facto #1 Jack Campbell.. The big issue at hand is A) Do you trust Campbell moving forward? and B) If you don't, can you keep Freddie?
Andersen has earned the right to test the market, he's proven he's a number one goalie and then some. In 267 starts with the Leafs, he’s won 149 games. He's been the most consistent Leafs goalie since Belfour, and if he does test the open waters, there’s a good chance he’ll be in line for a raise. We've seen the Panthers pay huge for Bob and last season the Flames gave Markstrom a big contract. So teams could be aggressive to lure Andersen.
Rittich's time as a Leaf is more than likely over, and with Freddie also being a big question mark Dubas will have to look elsewhere. A bunch of name's come to mind, but the most recent is Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
Priority #2 - Zach Hyman
I like Hyman a lot. He's a solid player who can be aggressive and has offensive upside. He's the type of player you'll love to have on your roster. But much like the case is with Andersen, can the Leafs re-sign Hyman? His value to this team is almost immeasurable, however that rarely leads to a big payday. Especially when you have the cap problems the Leafs do.
In a sign of good faith, the Leafs have given Hyman permission to look for avenues outside of the Leafs organization for possibly trading for his rights. That's terrible news if you were hoping to see Hyman return to Toronto, but with the Flames, Oilers, Canucks and few others knocking on the door, it'll be awfully difficult for the Leafs not to get something back for the highly effective winger.
With that said, he's their best two-way winger and has a knack of winning one-on-one battles. His offensive and defensive awareness is an asset to this team, so if they have the means, they need to get something done.
Priority #3 - Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren
Let’s face it, the young Swed Sandin deserves a permanent role on this team. And given all the question marks surrounding the expansion draft, there is no better time than now than to break the shackles. In 9 games this season with the blue and white, he registered 4 points and was a solid +6. He’s solid with the puck on his stick and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. There doesn’t seem to be much holding him back.
As for Liljegren, the time has also come to decide what to do with former 1st round pick. He's been in the Leafs system for four years now with limited opportunity to showcase his talents with the big club. I understand that guys like Holl and Dermott are ahead of him, but Dubas' band-aid solution for the blue line will only work for so long. It's time to give these kids a shot. Plus, Keefe coached him, shouldn't that count for something?
With Reilly's contract coming to an end soon, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen there. Bogosian is a free agent, and Holl or Dermott could be lost in the expansion draft, the Leafs have to start getting their ducks in a row with the cheaper contracts they have on their roster. With Keefe's help, the D looked much better than years past. Who's to say he couldn't work his magic on the Leafs youngsters? It's time we find out.
Priority #4 - The Bottom Six
The Leafs bottom six forwards could see a revamp next season. Nick Foligno, Joe Thornton and Alex Galchenyuk are currently all un-signed. Joe posted a decent 20 points in 44 games as a Leafs, and Galchenyuk had some nice moments with the Leafs but was mainly just a body. The good news is Spezza and Simmonds are back on team friendly deals. Those two will help anchor the 3rd and 4th line respectively.
If the Leafs want to mix things up, there are plenty of players that can come in and help right away. Blake Coleman of the Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning is a player the Leafs could push hard for. He scored some big goals for Tamp during their cup run, and he could come cheap. His teammate, Barclay Goodrow, should get a sniff from Leafs management as well.
A couple of other names to throw out there are Alex Chiasson or Corey Perry. Perry was a big presence in the Habs cup run, and he still seems to have something left in the tank. He could add some more of that sandpaper edge Leafs fans love, and could provide that for small fee. Even if these names aren’t in the running, I'm sure Dubas will be looking far and wide to round out the roster on a budget.