Leafs’ Team Needs Top 9 Forward Cheap: Shut-Down Line Edition

 

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So far when talking about how the Leafs should address their team needs I’ve been talking about what I think they should do not what they will do. As is often the case these are probably two very different things.

 
It’s obvious to most fans and even disinterested observers that Colby Armstrong, Matthew Lombardi, and Tim Connolly all make too much and produce too little. It’s easy just assume that they will be gone next season and proceed from there. Unfortunately, Burke does not have that luxury, he has to actually get rid of them. Thankfully Burke has shown an ability to rid the team of players who have outlived their usefulness. Jamal Mayers, Brett Lebda, Colton Orr, and Jeff Finger all found themselves elsewhere when the team decided that they needed to move on for one reason or another. While the next CBA may present a few more challenges by eliminating or limiting the ability to simply dump players in the AHL, I’m confident Burke can get rid of two of these three players. What I’m not confident about is how he will replace them. 
 
I’ve gone on record as stating that my ideal solution would be to acquire a #1C, move Bozak to the third line, put Kadri on one wing, and let Frattin, Ashton, and Colborne fight for the last spot. Give the line soft ES minutes with plenty of OZone starts and let them drive possession, draw penalties, and take some pressure to score goals off the top two lines. Unfortunately, I don’t see this as the strategy that Burke and Carlyle will adopt. 
 
My brain and my gut both tell me that the third line is going to be used as a “shut-down” line. It will see tough minutes at ES and little time in the offensive zone or on the PP. Randy Carlyle really liked playing David Steckel. When Wilson was in charge Steckel averaged between 10-12 minutes of ice-time a game. In March under Carlyle he averaged 15:37, so I have to imagine he’ll likely be the team’s 3rd line C next season. I’m okay with this. As Cam noted using the player usage chart’s from this past season, Steckel faced tough minutes, and still looked decent
 

Note the difficulty of Dave Steckel’s minutes. As the third-line centreman, while many players are clumped together, Steckel faced a lot of tough situations with the Leafs this year. Behind the Net has him listed at 6th in Corsi Rel QoC on the team among regular forwards, but he saw a lot of shifts that started purely in the defensive zone. They have him at 38%. He’s one of the few Leafs who did his job this season.

While not the ideal solution, I’m OK with him centering the third line. Now the question is, who else will join him? Both Jerry D’Amigo and Greg Scott were heralded for their strong work on the Marlies’ PK during the playoffs. While I would be willing to give them a shot they have not faced tough NHL competition so there is some risk with assuming they can handle it. The Leafs lack forwards who can be trusted with tough minutes, they’ll have to look elsewhere. 
 

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I have to believe that they will look to Travis Moen.

 
I thought the Leafs were going to sign him 3 years ago. I was wrong. I hope I’m wrong again. But he has played for both Burke and Carlyle in the past and found success, he is also capable of playing tough minutes. He put up 9 goals and 7 assists in 48 games with the Habs last season. Add in the fact that the Leafs have said they’d like a little more veteran presence in the line-up and it’s likely that he gets an offer from Burke on July 1st. He only made $1.5M on his last contract, so if the term and price are right I’ll be okay with signing “The Faucet”. 
 
While not my ideal the odds are that Travis Moen and David Steckel will make-up two thirds of the Leafs 3rd line next season. But the best thing about early June is that it’s just as likely that it will be Kadri-Bozak-Frattin. In the words of Professor Farnsworth: “a man can dream, a man can dream.” 
 
Previously in "Leafs Team Needs":