The short answer is no. The Leafs have a ton of prospects they want to take a look at and give shots to. They have brought in a number of players already on league minimum deals to help build out depth at every position, there really isn’t a reason to think they need to add anyone else to their roster.
Still, there are plenty of unsigned free agents, not a lot of positions available around the NHL, and frankly, there’s nothing else going on right now, so let’s take a look at who is available.
A few weeks back I would have assumed that we wouldn’t see the likes of players like Mike Hoffman entertaining Pro Tryout offers prior to the start of the season, but here we are, and the reality is that there are some players available who might make it worth the Leafs doing some of their depth players dirty.
It should be noted that the Leafs are sitting at 46 standard player contracts, so they do have the opportunity to add 4 additional players, or 5 if Nick Robertson is sent to the Ontario Hockey League (or AHL assuming there isn’t an OHL season) and his contract slides for another year. The Leafs under Dubas have been less willing to commit to 50 at the start of the year, unlike what they did under Lamoriello or Burke, and given the potentially wild waiver situation with taxi squads, etc. it could be in their best interest to under commit as waivers might also provide a great means to rounding out the roster.
Nevertheless, we’ll take a look at some of the names out there that the Leafs could show some interest in over the coming days as the training camp quickly occurs and the roster is set.
Hamonic is the most interesting defensive name out there, and one the Leafs have been connected to in the past. He’s been iffy at times, and is seemingly declining in performance, but there’s a strong argument that he’s an upgrade over Bogosian, and potentially an upgrade over someone like Holl as well.
Hamonic could definitely help the Leafs blueline or at the very least make training camp even more competitive. I’d have to imagine that if he was willing to take a league minimum deal, he would have already, so that could be a sticking point for the Leafs.
Arguably right behind (or ahead of) Hamonic on the UFA defensive depth chart is Sami Vatanen, who also has had plenty of connection to the Leafs, and the coveted right handed shot. Like Hamonic, there’s a belief that if he was willing to take a league minimum deal we wouldn’t be talking about him as potential pro tryout player, but unlike Hamonic, there’s a lot more offense and puck movement ability attached to Sami. He could be a better fit for the Leafs as we’ve seen them play so far, but perhaps not as intriguing if the belief is the Leafs are wanting to address their physicality deficit.
There has been one rumour stating that the Leafs have looked at Lewis, and given Dubas’ love of Kings players over the past few years, Lewis might get some consideration. Of course, Lewis isn’t a King with the Soo Greyhounds also on his resume, so that could hold him back.
Lewis would give the Leafs a very solid 4C option who they can trust in defensive situations. He could also slot in on either wing, and would be an ideal depth forward option if the team is needing more defense in the lineup. The fact that there is a bit of a physical element to Lewis’ game doesn’t hurt either, but with the Leafs potentially going with 11F/7D regularly, the need for depth forwards might be minimal.
At 24 years old, I’m including Perlini as a bit more of a traditional PTO type option. He’s young enough that he’s still worth a look to see if he can find a permanent place in the NHL, although he will likely spend the majority of 2021 in the AHL in order to earn that opportunity.
An affordable net presence that tap in goals isn’t a bad thing to pursue, and perhaps the Marlies are the team that can help Perlini establish the mean streak he needs to have success in the NHL. Or at least give him a shot to play with a bit more consistency.
At the very least Perlini would be another player in camp hopefully playing with a sense of urgency and pushing the bottom roster players to be better.
LOL. Okay, Jimmy Howard isn’t ideal, but he might be better than Michael Hutchinson, and having Jimmy Howard around as an option if Aaron Dell were to be claimed off of waivers on his way to the taxi squad is a real fear, especially if you look at some of the goaltending depth charts around the league.
The case for Jimmy Howard outside of Aaron Dell being claimed off of waivers is non-existent, so I’m not going to try and say he’ll do much other than provide some depth insurance.
A former Leaf?
I’m just saying, if you are feeling nostalgic you could also have Matt Martin, Ron Hainsey, Matt Hunwick, Brian Boyle, Michael Grabner, and Nick Shore in camp as well.
However with only 36 training camp spots available, and the Leafs arguably having at least 36 internal options worth taking a look at in camp, we might not see much come of the camp invite window this year.