With a lot of negativity aimed at this year’s unrestricted free agent crop, you’d think I should name this article with the word "dreadful" instead of dreaded, but considering Burke’s UFA track record since joining the Leafs, I’ve come to fear July 1st, or as he likes to call it: "our draft."
It isn’t entirely on Burke. A lot of signings he’s made we’ve applauded at the time (others we haven’t, obviously) and they’ve turned out to be a nightmare. Either way, we should still panic and hide under a desk every summer.
Scott Cullen of TSN has offered a fairly extensive run-down of the UFA list, with rankings and tidbits about each player set to test the market. It’s easy to use capgeek or another resource to get all of this information, as we usually have these guys targeted well in advance, but this list Cullen has pieced together is convenient.
We have best in class, offensive forwards, checking forwards, defencemen, and even guys who raise the question of "one more year?" or retirement.
The best in class from this year’s crop includes only two names: Parise and Suter. The Leafs could obviously find a use for both, as most teams can, but Suter is the top-prize, especially from a Toronto standpoint. Burke should be pursuing Suter in an attempt to complete a proper top pairing on the blueline – this has become common knowledge among Leafs fans for quite a while now.
Detroit are considered players in acquiring both of these guys, and I’m sure teams like the Rangers, Bruins, and others will join the mix when things get rolling. I’d put more bank in the Leafs acquiring Suter over Parise, but again, with so many suitors the chances are low for either. Regardless, I hope Burke is involved at least.
Among the list of offensive forwards, there are a few names that pop out to me, particularly Semin, Doan, Hudler and David Jones. Apparently Doan won’t leave the Coyotes (or whatever they’re called next season) so I may as well scratch him off the list:
Semin is a sometimes dynamic goal-scorer who has seen his numbers drop in the last two seasons, but do I think he’s finished? Sweet lord no. If anything, you would believe this presents an opportunity to grab him for a less-than-ridiculous price, but I’m not entirely convinced of that either. He’ll get paid, finally on a long-term deal, which should drive down his cap number, but I think his contract will still be considered massive by most. At 6.7 million on a current one-year deal, I’m guessing (and I mean, really guessing) he lands a Grabovski-like contract, with a slightly larger cap hit per annum.
Jiri Hudler is coming off a successful season. In his second year since returning to the Wings from Russia, he nabbed 25 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. The Leafs would probably have to make room for him to fit in with the forward group, and he’s small, so I doubt the team will look at him. But if there’s a trade that shakes up the team and moves out some dead weight, he might be a guy to keep in mind.
David Jones is coming off another good season with the Avalanche, finishing up a one year deal worth 2.5 million. Jones was rewarded for a great showing offensively in 2010-11 where he scored 27 goals and 18 assists, then followed that up this past season with a slight dip to 20 goals and 17 assists. In terms of contract, I suppose he’s looking for something more than a one-year, and I’m assuming, based on output, that his cap hit stays about in the range of where it’s currently sitting.
When looking at the list of players set to be in the "one year left" category, the Leafs probably don’t have a lot of options worthwhile. Most of these guys like Selanne, Lidstrom, whoever, just need to make a call on whether they’re returning to their own clubs, and outside of that there isn’t much to talk about. Arnott is useful, but his interest in Toronto over a contender will be non-existent. Same likely goes for Langenbrunner.
I’m going to ignore the checking forwards section for two reasons: the Leafs should let the young guys/Marlies take over some of the bottom six, and Colby Armstrong has ruined third line signings for me forever. So that’s that.
Then there’s defencemen. Or should I say, defencemen who aren’t Suter.
This list is pretty simple: get Suter and don’t resort to this list at all. Barrett Jackman may be a decent consolation prize.
Matt Carle, Jason Garrison and Bryan Allen are all names that may jump out as well in the next couple months or so. I’m sure a case will be made for all of them considering the Leafs’ D is horrendous. But right now I’m throwing all of my prayers and good energy toward the Leafs getting Suter. Just get him.
There’s a list of UFA goaltenders as well, but that deserves it’s own article so we’ll let it go for now. Plus, Luongo.
Take a look at the list linked above and see if you can find someone worth making a case for.