TLN Roundtable: Should the Leafs keep adding?

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July 1st has come and gone, which means we’re officially in the dead of summer, with few moves to come over the next two months.

Many teams are completely done for the summer and are just waiting for September to roll around when training camp opens. Others might not be done, but will only make minor additions from here on out.

The Leafs? We’ll see.

In light of the quietness to come, and the relative uncertainty surrounding whether the Leafs are in fact done for the off-season, today’s question is: Is there anybody that the Leafs should
consider signing still? For the current roster, marlies, an ELC to an
undrafted guy, whatever. If so, who? If not, why?

DOM LUSZCZYSZYN

In light of the Jonathan Bernier trade, the
Leafs definitely have to grab a backup goalie on the market to fill that
hole. I don’t think anyone in the pipeline is quite ready to fill that
void and Lamoriello has already said he plans to find a UFA goalie for
the job.

Other
than that though, the Leafs should hold tight. There’s not many
attractive names left on the market that would warrant taking up a
valuable roster spot.

As
it stands now the team has too many competent NHL bodies for the spots
it has available. Spots that can be earned by some of the kids coming up
through the ranks. Signing a veteran blocks a capable prospect from
earning a spot on the team and was one of the few reasons I wasn’t fond
of the Matt Martin signing.

The
Leafs have a lot of talented prospects on the come up and there’s no
sense blocking that path to the NHL if they’re ready to play in it. It’s
one of the things I wasn’t crazy about during Babcock’s tenure with the
Red Wings and I’d hate to see it continue with the Leafs, especially as
the team is still in the build and develop part of their rebuild.
That’s
not to say that the prospects should be thrown to the wolves, but the
team has enough of a veteran presence as is to shelter any newcomers.

SHAWN REIS

Up front sure, on defense yes, and in goal no.
By
my count the Leafs have about 16 guys that could legitimately be
counted on to play in the NHL for large stretches next season. Who’s in
that 16 and who’s not is, on certain players, a matter of opinion, but
on the whole the Leafs are fairly deep up front.
On defense, the
Leafs have nine guys I think they can count on if need be – the expected
eight of Rielly, Gardiner, Marincin, Hunwick, Polak, Zaitsev, Carrick,
and Corrado, plus Andrew Campbell.
In net, the way I see it is you
have Andersen (your starter) and Sparks (the third wheel you can rely on
if you absolutely have to). But the Leafs definitely need a more
capable backup.
The Marlies are looking at about 10 guys under
contract with the Leafs playing for the team up front, with the likes of
Cliche and Clune on AHL deals, plus others. On defense they can expect
about six guys under contract with the Leafs, plus a couple of others on
AHL deals. In net they figure to rotate Sparks, Bibeau, and Kaskisuo.
On
the whole we’re looking at a situation where the Leafs have enough to
get through a full season up front. I do think they could add one or two
more bodies if they really wanted to, and Jimmy Vesey is absolutely
something they should pursue. If they don’t get him, I won’t complain if
they invite a veteran or two to camp on a tryout. The Marlies could
also probably stand to add a body (because why not?), which could either
happen during the summer or perhaps as the result of someone being
bumped down from the Leafs after a Vesey and/or veteran signing.
On
defense I think it would be a good idea to add one more body. You could
always count on Loov or Valiev with the Leafs if the injuries really
pile up, but in my opinion those players are still better off in the
AHL. I’d like to see that number of defensemen I’m comfortable rolling
with go from nine to 10, with the Marlies as a result presumably going
from six strong defensemen to seven.
And in net, the Leafs obviously
have to address the backup position as the result of the Bernier trade. A
cheap option would be fine, and if such possibilities exist, however
unlikely, a backup could always be pursued via trade as well. In any
event, the team needs to add another body there and I expect they’ll do
so.
So basically I’m in the “wouldn’t hurt” camp up front, the “yes please” camp on defense, and the “obviously” camp in goal.

KEEGAN TREMBLAY

In light of the recent Bernier trade I think
it would be a prudent move to sign a veteran back-up goaltender to play
behind Frederick Andersen instead of relying on Garret Sparks. Sparks’
numbers down the stretch last season suggest that he needs more time to
stabilize his game. Outside of goaltending, it will be a nerve wracking
season because at least one of our cherished prospects will
under-perform. When that happens some Leafs fans will immediately start
calling that prospect a bust (brace yourself for that) but I believe the
Leafs are very well positioned to handle any under performers while
continuing to develop the team. 
On
defense, the Leafs are essentially icing the same players as last year
with the exception of a Zaitsev who looks like he will have a real shot
at the top 4, with some even projecting he could play alongside Morgan
Rielly in the Leafs’ top pair. If Zaitsev completely falls flat, Babcock
will be happy to give Hunwick top pairing minutes, shifting Rielly to
the right side and slotting either Carrick or Corrado in the top 4, with
Polak giving relief to any injured right defensemen. This wouldn’t be
great but it would give Carrick and Corrado more quality experience and
time to blossom. If Zaitsev excels, suddenly the blue line looks
cramped.

Up
front, the Leafs look well positioned for growth. For all the grumbling
the Matt Martin signing has received, it is fair to say that given his
shot suppression, high energy and propensity to hit Matt Martin is one
of the league’s best fourth liners. Meanwhile, on the third line, the
Leafs will be icing one of the League’s best third line centers. Mike
Babcock has stated that Auston Matthews will be starting in this
position but even when Matthew’s moves up the Leafs will have Tyler
Bozak to take his place. Bozak may not be a 1C but he’s a decent second
line center and a very good third line center.
By
December the Leafs will have JVR, Kadri, Komarov, and Matthews firmly
established in their top six. Meanwhile veterans like Michalek, Greening
and Holland will be challenging young players like Nylander, Hyman,
Leipsic, Soshkinov, Rychel, Brown, Lindberg and potentially Marner for
the remaining two spots. Those who don’t make the top six get slotted
along-side one of the league’s best third line centers, one of the
league’s best fourth liners, or tucked into one of the AHL’s best teams.
These are good conditions for growth. Don’t sign anyone else.

  • Gary Empey

    For the most part agree, definitely need a backup goalie. Don’t have to have a dman, but if a top 4 guy is on the market for the right price go for it (especially a righty with some toughness). Offensively I don’t think we need anything more, but I wouldn’t be against another grittier type player-not to the matt martin extent, would want more skill, but somebody who can throw the body around and play with skill. I don’t think we’ll see anything more then a backup goalie before the season starts, but hope for those other player upgrades around the trade deadline.

  • BarelyComments

    Sign Pirri please, perfect 3C for when Bozak is inevitably gone… Plus looks like the sleeper of this free agency…

    That is unless the GMs know something we don’t…

  • Hooker_Newf

    Holl, has good size, R shot, will be the sleeper/surprise at camp. Yes a backup goalie, but no more players until after training camp. Lots of good prospects already, lets not give them away…

  • Trevor5555

    I think we have a pretty good team as of now. I think Ramo or Enroth could be good backups but im fine with Sparks/Bibeau if they cost too much.

    At forward we should be much better. Top 6 is a lot better with Matthews, Nylander and Marner. Bottom 6 has a lot more depth and skill.

    Our defense should be a lot better with Zaitsev and Carrick added and our guys should all be improving.

    Goaltending should be a lot better. Andersen could be one of the top 10 in the NHL.

    Pirri, Vesey, Schultz and Enroth/Ramo are the remaining UFA I would target. Vesey and Pirri and young guys who would be good additions to our top 9. Pirri had 15G last year and plays center or wing.

    Vesey has top 6 potential and scouts say he can probably walk right into a lot of NHL rosters.

    Schultz played a lot better in Pittsburg and showed he still could become the player Edmonton projected when they drafted him. If he can buy into Babcocks system he could become a well rounded d-man with good mobility and an ability to contribute offensively.

    Ramo and Enroth are proven backups who can provide insurance if our prospects arent ready.

    These 4 signings could add depth relatively cheaply and solidify an already improved Leafs roster. Vesey, Pirri and Schultz still have some upside as well.

    I really think the Leafs could make the playoffs if the young guys have even modest success. Most important players for Leafs playoff hopes in order are Andersen, Matthews, Nylander, Kadri, Reilly, Zaitsev, Gardiner and Marner. Those guys all have good years and anything is possible.

  • Gary Empey

    The shanaplan if I understood it correctly was to rebuild the team though the draft, having a young top AHL team and when the Leafs look ready to contend for the cup, add one of those expensive star players if we need one. In the mean time slowly move players out who are not part of the plan. Pick up young players like Zaitsev if they become available. If it all works out then we should end up with a very good young team, with some control over the cap.

    I don’t see any reason yet to deviate from that plan. It looks like the first wave of the AHL guys are at the NHL level. I think the management sees a second wave coming behind them. The two biggest holes left in the line-up are a top four defenceman and a back-up goaltender. At this point I am convinced it will be better to wait one year for one of our draftees/prospects to fill the last top four spot. Let the second wave replace the vets we have still under contract. The backup goalie is the only free agent or trade that makes sense to me.

    • Trevor5555

      Vesey and Pirri are in their early 20s and are probably as good as most of our AHL guys. No harm in adding 2 more young NHL caliber forwards. If we can trade Michalek, Greening and Laich we could use some extra depth guys. Schultz is 26 and looked pretty good for Pittsburg in the playoffs. He could be that top 4 d-man the Leafs need. We could likely get him pretty cheap for say 1-2 years. Maybe Connor Carrick can be the guy instead. Ramo or Enroth are good backup options if Sparks or Bibeau arent ready.

      Out-Michalek, Greening, Laich and Lupul
      In – Vesey, Pirri and Schultz and Ramo

      I really like the forward group. Our top 6 has tonnes of skill and upside. Bottom 6 has a sneaky ammount of skill and scoring touch. Our bottom 6 would almost be as good as our top 6 was last year.

      Our defense has great mobility and puck moving ability. Really our whole team would have pretty good speed. Lots of upside with only Polak and Hunwick being over 26. Lacks a bit of physicality but Polak brings that element if needed.

      Goaltending could be very good. As long as we defend well Andersen and Ramo could have Torontos GAA in the top half of the NHL. Maybe top 10.

      Question is how good can they be with such a young team? Average age would be 25 with only 6 players over 28. I think this is a playoff team as there is a lot of depth, skill and mobility.

      • Gary Empey

        Whether the changes come from our prospect pool or from the guys you have suggested, the bottleneck is: Michalek, Greening, Laich and Lupul. If Matthews can hold his own on faceoffs Bozak can join that list. All of these guys will not be easy to move quickly.

        I really don’t know much about Vesey, Pirri and Schultz and Ramo except what I have read here. It is likely someone else here could evaluate them better than me. If we have the openings, term, salary, and the expectation of our prospect pool, should all be considered.

        You have named four guys you like here. Surely they can’t be all wrong. We will soon be at the point where most GM’s will sit back and wait until the first 10 games to see where they screwed up.

  • Gary Empey

    We absolutely need an experienced back up goaltender, but no more adding I would prefer we subtracted some of the vet. forwards (Michalek, Laich)
    Babcock has spoken of using Polak as a depth defenceman, and I hope Hunwick falls under this catagory as well as I really like the kids Carrick, Corrado and marincin stood out big time at the end of last year and would like to see these guys get some ice time, and if they have some bumps in the road play the depth, but I think we have a really strong defence, they just need to get experience.
    But the biggest add for me is Marner, I really want him to play this year I think he will be phenomenal!

    • silentbob

      All those veterans will be gone in the next season or two. Having someone of our young players waiting a season or two before joining the Leafs is a good way/direction for the Leafs to go.

  • magesticRAGE

    Other than acquiring a backup goaltender, Stand Pat.
    Out of training camp, deserving rookies will be AHL bound due to space on the roster. I’m almost positive that the rookies pushing for soot will outperform players on PTO’s.
    With Michalek still on the team, two of Brown, Marner, or Leivo will be AHL bound. It’s now:
    Komarov – Kadri – Soshnikov
    JVR – Bozak – Hyman
    Michalek – Matthews – Nylander
    Martin – Laich – Greening

    Which is better than last season, it without proven scorers in Leivo and Brown. Marner will slot in somewhere in the middle-six, maybe swapping with Michalek every once in a while.

    Lööv, Carrick, and Corrado are competing for 1 spot, and that’s if Hunwick is traded. So far it’s:
    Rielly – Zaitsev
    Gardiner – Hunwick
    Marincin – Polak

    If anything, the Leafs need to lose players. Hunwick, Michalek, and maybe even Bozak.

    • Gary Empey

      Bozak doesn’t fit the rebuild profile. When Babcock gets a replacement for his penalty killing and defensive faceoffs. He will become more expendable.

      I keep harping on winning faceoffs. It is the start of possession stats.

  • magesticRAGE

    Please lord only a goalie. Just trim the fat don’t add anyone for the love of god. If its only Nylander Matthews and Hyman up when the season starts I’m going to incite a riot