It’s always interesting to end the season and immediately speculate on what the odds are of teams winning the Stanley Cup the following season. With Toronto sitting at 15/1 to win next year’s Cup at trusted betting sites, it’s reasonable to speculate that they Leafs will be in the mix to advance deep into the playoffs, especially after a first round exit this season
Giving them the necessary seasoning that championship teams seem to need.
Yes, the Leafs are in the bottom half of the league in cap space with just over $15.5 million to spend, nothing compared to what the Coyotes have to spend (33.5) or what Vegas had to spend, but it will allow the team to address some holes next season.
First, Brian Boyle has to get resigned. Brian Boyle recently came up as a name the Vegas Golden Knights would be interested in. The problem with the Boyle in Vegas angle is, they already have several defensive guys who will smack you in the mouth 100X before they’ll give you offensive production. I don’t see a need for them to bring in another. Boyle brings the grit and nastiness you need to have on your team if you hope to find yourself deep in the postseason. He is a good possession and faceoff guy as well so it makes very little sense that the Leafs wouldn’t pony up what it would take to keep him. Boyle was a $750,000 cap hit last year so it wouldn’t take much to re-sign a valuable asset, perhaps in the $1.5 million range for 1-2 years.
That brings us to the issue of who is going to backup Frederik Andersen. There was speculation that Peter Budaj would fill that role but the Lightning saw his value, signing him to a two-year deal worth just over $1,000,000 annually. Toronto may want to shift their sights on to Chad Johnson but this would create a 1 and 1A goaltending scenario, which is fine if you have personalities to match, but I tend to prefer a definitive number one guy coupled with a back-up who knows he’s only getting 30 games.
Mike Condon might fit that role and you can get him for cheap. Condon is comfortable in the back-up role with some number one experience due to the Carey Price injury in Montreal and Craig Anderson’s leave of absence. At 36, I would think Condon doesn’t have any grand dreams of getting 60 starts a year but he can realistically dream of winning a cup and Toronto gives him that chance to end his career.
No matter what way the Leafs go they must figure out a way to become more dangerous on a consistent basis. Toronto finished in the middle of the pack in my power rankings because they simply give up too many scoring chances. Toronto finished third in shots allowed per game last season (32.6), which is fine when you’re the Penguins but there were times where I felt like the Leafs youth left them too focused on offence and the transition into it. It led to some sloppiness in their own zone. Clean that up, and the Leafs now have a wagon to go with their horses.
Toronto is a year away from getting into that area where they’re going to have to start paying their free agents, starting with William Nylander in 2018 and Auston Mathews and Mitch Marner in 2019. The window to win is now.
The Leafs will open the 2017-18 season, in Winnipeg, with a battle of this year’s Calder Trophy contenders between Matthews and Jets sniper Patrick Laine on October 4th.