TLN Roundtable – No More Free Agents

We’re already ten days into free agency and, not totally unsurprisingly, there are a number of interesting and quality hockey players still without a contract.

Cody Franson, Christian Ehrhoff, Johnny Oduya… There’s lots of decent defencemen still on the market, along with a number of options at forward like Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty, Curtis Glencross, Sean Bergenheim, Brad Boyes. The list goes on.

Should this impact the Leafs in any way, though? Should Toronto still be in the market for another free agent or two, despite already adding P.A. Parenteau, Shawn Matthias, Daniel Winnik, Mark Arcobello and Matt Hunwick? Would money be better spent elsewhere?

These are big questions with complex answers, so we called in our expert roundtable to set things straight…

Ryan Fancey

There are so many (somewhat) useful free agents left that it’s difficult to pinpoint one the Leafs should target. I think they’re about at the point now where they need to send someone out the door, like Lupul or Bozak, or even Phaneuf, before adding, but there are still interesting options out there. If they can move Phaneuf – which seems quite unlikely now – I’d be okay with bringing in Franson, but in that case they should drive up his cap hit through the roof to secure him on a shorter term. As for forwards, it’s interesting because the market seems so flushed that players like Boyes, Weiss, Roy, and others might go unsigned until they get camp invites. For that reason it seems nearly impossible for the Leafs to unload one of Lupul or Bozak. If they can, however, I wouldn’t mind them taking a chance on Derek Roy. He’s useful, can still put up a few points, and would likely cost a million bucks on a one-year contract. At this point we probably need to accept the Leafs will be able to roll out one offensive line – whichever one Kadri and van Riemsdyk are on – and then three fairly equal grinding lines. Roy fits that model. He’s also been dealt at the deadline twice before, and draft picks are always fun.

Justin Fisher

I wouldn’t bother with any of the remaining unrestricted free agents. On one hand, the goal this year isn’t to win a lot of games. It’s about working with your young players to establish good habits and eliminate bad ones, and also to tick another year off of your veterans’ contracts. Toronto, already stocked with a number of easily-movable trade bait players, doesn’t need any more bodies. They’re already at full capacity, and shouldn’t be actively trying to make their team better or deeper. None of the remaining free agents makes me think “I need that guy and this is my only shot.”

On the other hand, I don’t think the Leafs need to be using that cap space on free agents. They’re in an envious position of having a full roster, lots of room under the cap, and a truckload of real dollars to spend as well. Taking on bad contracts for quality assets would be a very smart thing to do (depending on the length of the bad contract), and you’re likely going to get more out of this kind of move as opposed to another flip-for-a-fourth free agent.

Cat Silverman

Nah, pass on all of them. The Leafs will pretty much be at the 50 SPC limit once Bernier inks his extension, so  bringing these guys on is only possible with ELC slides – and I’m not sold on any of the remaining free agents being valuable enough to take up one of the few potentially available roster spots.

Make no mistake – I think that quite a few of the remaining free agents still hold value. Derek Roy is a totally serviceable third line centre, and Cody Franson really should have found a home by now. Even Alexander Semin would likely do some damage on a team that deploys him in a role with less pressure on his shoulders. When it comes to ‘serviceable veterans’, though, I think the Leafs have picked up enough depth pieces that adding these would be just for the sake of adding players. That seems like an insane reason to waste roster spots for a team that’s already crowding up to the 50-player contract limit. Adding Roy would mean moving either Spaling, Arcobello, or Holland to the wing – and that’s with one of them already likely being shifted over at the start of the season anyway – and Franson adds yet another bottom-four pairing defenseman to a team that’s pretty much overflowing with those right now. The team needs to avoid falling prey to the idea that if a depth veteran can still produce, a team would be remiss to pass on them – otherwise you end up with four lines stuffed with mediocre depth talent and no room for your youth to come up. Hard pass on the New Jersey offense model.

Jon Steitzer

Once Jonathan Bernier is signed the Leafs are in the less than ideal situation of having all 50 of their standard player contracts committed, so barring a trade signing an additional player requires moving someone out. That being said, Bernier arbitration case also opens up a second buyout window for the Leafs, and if someone like Cody Franson is still available it’s not a bad time to revisit it and consider cheaper buyouts like Frattin or Devane in order to make additional SPCs available.

Given the number of players that are still available I find myself already leaning towards the idea of training camp invites as a means to adding to the roster. A player like Stephen Weiss comes to mind, and he at one time was held in some regard by Mike Babcock. Bringing in an additional players at that time is a bit more feasible as Cody Donaghey all still have his entry level contract slide rule which could make an additional space available, but I’d prefer the Leafs avoid being at the 50 contract maximum at the start of the season as flexibility is in making transactions is essential to speeding up the rebuild process, so I guess my answer is probably don’t bring in additional free agents unless an ideal situation presents itself.

  • CMpuck

    Agreed, we shouldn’t sign more FA, with 50 contracts after Berneir it’ll make trading a bit harder, not to mention we have to sign our draftees, yes you can hold out on them for a year or two before signing, but still you would want to sign a player like Marner right away.

    Good thing Leafs Managment saw this and made great little trades like Ashton&Broll for a pick

  • CMpuck

    You see I blame you and other fancy stats guys for the leafs not being able to trade Bozak. The many years and consistent bashing of Bozak has made it so that no one wants him.

    The fancy stats folks degraded Bozak’s trade value with their coverage as much as the MSM had degraded Kessel value by making him caricature of a hot doing eating player who didn’t really care. Now everytime I see Kessel on the Penguins I will hate on Simmons. And every time I see Bozo still in a leafs uniform I hate on the bozak bashers.

    PS are they called fancy stats after Ryan Fancey?

    • Kanuunankuula

      Good thing all the GMs read this blog and PPP, and base their evaluation solely on those. Most teams by now have analytics departments (Avs and Ducks supposedly not) and they are gonna be telling the GMs not touch Bozak with a 30 feet pole. So I guess Leafsnation could’ve just lied and told a tall tale of great first line C Tylie Bozeman, but you know, journalistic integrity and all that.

      I’m good with the group that we now have, just have a bottom team, pump up FA’s value and sell at deadline.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I agree with Justin.

    1. Move at least one more member of the core. Doubt it’s Phaneuf, so Franson makes less sense.

    2. No UFA’s.

    3. Use the cap space to take on a bad contract and try to get a decent prospect of pick in the mix.

  • Puck_Stops_Here

    Toronto should look at making trades than free agents. They should trade for cap dumps basically. They have a ton of cap space especially once Horton goes on the LTIR. Why not take on short term bad contracts from other teams and demand prospects and picks back for it. With short I mean only 1 or 2 years left. Toronto is not going to be competing in a good few years and this will give Marner and others a little bit extra time to develop.

  • Gary Empey

    I agree with Cat Silverman’s second last sentence.

    “The team needs to avoid falling prey to the idea that if a depth veteran can still produce, a team would be remiss to pass on them – otherwise you end up with four lines stuffed with mediocre depth talent and no room for your youth to come up.”

    Young players can only learn so much at the AHL level. They still have to adapt their game speed and pace of the NHL.

    At some point they will be lining up against– Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa

  • giproc

    Plenty of serviceable replacement players out there but no true difference makers. Like shuffling deck chairs.

    That said, I’d prefer the Leafs start clean with as few of the old core as possible so that Leafs Nation can focus forward. The production of Bozak, Lupul and Phaneuf can be replaced from that list quite handily.

    The returns for the trio would be negligible (next to nothing for the first two, a decent prospect for Phaneuf) but the additional cap and contract space created by their exits would allow for some very creative deadline deals that other teams couldn’t match.

    The Leafs are only midway through tear down mode. 2016 Draft is the target, after which the Leafs will have compiled three years of solid draft stock to build upon.

  • FlareKnight

    I wouldn’t bother with the UFA pool until the Leafs get to work on trading guys off the current roster.

    There will still be bodies available after they get that done.

  • FlareKnight

    I always thought Curtis Glencross was a very good player -though I’m not sure of his health status at the moment.

    I would look for the Leafs to perhaps buyout a contract before the season starts.

  • SEER

    I wouldn’t mind one more.., IF.. they keep doing what they have been doing.. and keep the contract short-term.. and a low dollar figure…

    But.., I would wait a little while, until it is closer to season start.. and other teams start scrambling to get their Cap in order.. and have to cut players… There might be some bigger names for cheaper prices at that time.. (like we did with Raymond & Santorelli, in the past two seasons..).. and if we spend it all now, we won’t have the money to pick someone like that up..

    On the other hand.., we do have room right now.., to move up one or two Marlies.. and some of them have bigger salaries when playing with the Leafs.., so it might be another reason to wait until the Rookie Tournie in London is over with, in September.. and have a better idea of who is truly ready..?

    I did a lot of searching through footage of Matt Hunwick in the last couple of days… and since he seems to be the only new addition that I hadn’t done a montage for yet.., I was on it this morning.. Some REALLY good quality goals and defensive plays by this guy.. I’m even more impressed… He also seems like a really good person…

    D-FANTASY-EMOTION: MATT HUNWICK MONTAGE

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrDFFtiyjGA

    You guys write some really good Blogs in here..! Any chance you would want a “video-blog”, by yours truly..? : )

  • Gary Empey

    Justin, For a slow day, I wonder what a round table about which of the 14 teams who missed the playoffs have improved enough to make them this year.

    In the same vein which of the 16 teams that made the playoffs will now miss them.

    At a quick glance every team seems to have improved but I know that can’t be true.