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The first official day of summer brings joy to many.
School is finally out.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing.
Baseball season is hitting its serious curve.
But yikes, another Toronto Maple Leaf offseason is about to get underway. And from the sound of things, I am getting a bad feeling in my gut.
With the numerous reports of the Maple Leafs being seriously interested in Jonathan Bernier, I do not understand why adding another goaltender in Bernier is a hotter topic to the Toronto front office than the resigning of Tyler Bozak.
Acquiring Bernier a year or two ago made sense, but with the emergence of the 23-year old James Reimer, adding another young goaltender to the team makes very little sense at this point. It is Reimer's net in Toronto right now. He has earned it and it is up to him to keep it. Reimer is young and is a quick study. Falling short of putting Boston away will fuel him to keep getting better starting again in October as should the rest of the team, which is only a player or two away from being a strong Cup contender in my opinion.
Moreover, if all this talk is true about offering a mega-deal for Bernier's services, then GM Dave Nonis has completely missed the mark like so many previous GM's and will make the firing of Brian Burke a huge mistake.
Burke had faith in his young netminders, including Ben Scrivens. He also had faith in the youthful talent he was building, similar to that of Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. All this garbage talk about Luongo, Kiprusoff and now Bernier have been unnecessary up to this point and only serve as a distraction for two strong, young goaltenders who are trying to solidify their status as a top-notch goaltending tandem in the NHL.
Unlike so many of the Toronto press or whoever out there who are constantly criticizing the team and players with utter nonsense, I still believe that a tandem of Reimer and Scrivens are strong enough down the road to help get this team to a Stanley Cup Final and possibly winning it in the next few seasons.
This team does not need goaltending. It needs size and strength up front as well as solid two-way players. Tyler Bozak was arguably the best two-way player in the lineup. But as of right now, Dave Nonis doesn't seem to care about keeping #42 in blue and white and would rather have someone like Stephen Weiss or another young goaltender.
At this point after a successful, playoff season, the Maple Leafs should be looking into adding needs, not wants.
Weiss, for example is 30 years old and is coming off an injury-plagued season. And to justify him being a solid two-way player, has only had three seasons in the plus range since 2001. Granted the Panthers have not been a very strong club over the years, but coming in at a mere 5-11 and 191 pounds is not what the Leafs need. Adding Weiss is another "want", not a "need".
If Bozak were to sign elsewhere, Nonis should look into trading for someone like Bobby Ryan in Anaheim. A trade for Ryan would make sense, unlike talks for a blockbuster type deal for goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Ryan would fill a few of the needs for the Leafs.
Compared to Stephen Weiss, who averages about 62 hits over the past three full seasons, Ryan is a much stronger body, averaging about 132 hits during that same span. The fact that Weiss is another could be a plan B or C option, but Toronto needs more size and strength and Ryan provides that through a more realistic trade better than signing a softer player like Weiss.
As of right now, I am shocked that I have not heard of Toronto being in the mix in trade talks for Ryan.
Taking a look at the rest of the free agent centers, you've got Mike Ribiero (33) who will take the body and also has some playoff experience; Valtteri Filppula (29) who is a strong skater, but does not use his size much and does not play a physical game; Maxim Lapierre (28) out of the Western Conference Canucks, has a big body and will hit hard registering 244 hits in the 2011-12 season, but has been in the minus range most of his career. But Lapierre's physical play and some ability to put the puck in the net may be a decent fit for Toronto. Then there is Brad Richardson (28) from the Stanley Cup champion Kings, who is a solid, defensive-minded center but has lost much playing time over the past few seasons. He could see more playing time in blue and white.
First and foremost, Nonis and company need to do all they can to retain the services of Tyler Bozak. Bozak is already in the mix of a rising club and I wish him to be a part of it. We will see how smart and creative Nonis is or can be when it comes to retaining a key player. Trading the likes of Mikhail Grabovski or another expendable player could help free up some money for a better two-way player like Bozak. Coach Randy Carlyle tried Grabovski on the third checking line, but that did not work out so well for the Belarusian, who is too mistake prone in his own end.
Another need for the Leafs is to try and find a competent yet experience defensive pairing to play alongside captain Dion Phaneuf. There seems to be several quality veteran defenseman available out there still like Andrew Ference (34), Douglas Murray (33), Ron Hainsey (32), Michal Rozsival (34), Rob Scuderi (34), and Scott Hannan (34) who could help bring some veteran leadership to a very young defensive core and perhaps open the door to trading my main whipping boy throughout the season and much of the playoffs in Carl Gunnarsson, who just does not know how to play defense at the NHL level in my opinion. Toronto seems to love this kid, but I myself have lost most of my patience with his defensive game or lack thereof. If Toronto really sees him as the real deal and as a top pairing defenseman, then they should see if other clubs feel the same way about him.
Those are my two cents on what the Maple Leafs should be working on and discussing. But if this trade for Bernier goes through in the next few days, since the Kings are going to do their best to trade him before he officially hits RFA status, then the Leafs will have taken another giant step backwards.
I am getting tired of watching this organization take two big steps forward then taking three or more giant steps back. It is like playing Chutes and Ladders and always hitting that one big chute at the end.
I will be back with an LA Kings offseason agenda post in a bit!
Enjoy the rest of the Finals!
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