Something the Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of. Well…maybe that’s not the right term. ‘Excess Depth’ may describe the situation a bit better. My point is, the team has a lot of players with high cap hits, which I just don’t think they need. But the thing is, they all have value were they to be traded. A couple of the names may surprise people, but bear with me.
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So, who’s first on my list? Mike Komisarek. This is a more obvious one, considering the depth the Leafs posses on the blue line. His 4.5 million cap hit coming off the books would be huge for a team with little cap space as things stand right now. But would anyone take him? I think so. With the cap hit remaining the same, but his actual pay dropping to 3.5 million next season, he may draw some interest from teams struggling to hit the cap floor. He’s definitely a respectable 4-6 who can kill penalties still, but not with Toronto. A move in the offseason, possibly before, is definitely possible.
Here’s a more interesting possibility for you. Do the Leafs really need John-Michael Liles? I don’t really think so. His purpose was to replace Tomas Kaberle as the team’s puck moving defenseman, something he’s done quite well so far. But with the emergence of Jake Gardiner as a solid offensive blue liner with tons of potential, Liles may not be a part of Toronto’s future. This is another 4.2 million off the books, and moving him wouldn’t be difficult, with many teams in need of a player of his ilk.
The next guy that can be lost without too much of an effect on the lineup is Matthew Lombardi. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an NHL caliber player, and it was definitely worth taking on his contract to get Cody Franson, but at 3.5 million, there are definitely more cap friendly options. If he can stay healthy there will definitely be a team willing to make a move for him, whether it be at the deadline or in the summer.
Are you still with me? This one might not be so surprising. Last year and even earlier this year, Toronto played a lot better when Colby Armstrong was in the lineup. But it seems that’s not necessarily the case anymore. He’s an asset in any lineup, but the Leafs don’t really need him. Moving him may be a problem if he can’t get healthy, but it’s not impossible, especially considering he only has one year left after this year, with a 3 million dollar cap hit.
Let’s keep this going with another obvious one. Tim Connolly’s 4.75 million is way too much to pay for a third line centre, and that’s what he is on this team. If the Leafs don’t pick up a legitimate first line centre, Bozak should be the guy there for now. Connolly isn’t and probably never will be the answer. He’s been relatively healthy this season, and only has one more year on his contract, so moving him could bring something of value the other way.
Ok, last guy. Clarke MacArthur had a great season last year, but I’m thinking it’ll never happen again. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team if only for his character, but the Leafs do not need him. Many times this year he’s seemed unconfident and sloppy with the puck. He still has a lot of value though, and at 3.25 million there would be teams interested.
As much as this is unrealistic, to move all of these guys by the beginning of the 2012-13 season would open up a ton of cap space. 22.7 million to be exact. But even if this could happen, who would take their spots? Well, say MacArthur, Liles, Kadri and a pick are moved for either Eric Staal or Ryan Getzlaf. There’s the star centre. And maybe Connolly is moved for a 2nd, Komisarek for a 4th (possibly higher), Lombardi is traded for a 4th, and Armstrong is traded for a 3rd (these are all conservative guesses as to what these players are worth, wouldn’t you agree?). Well, maybe the second is flipped to Columbus for Sammy Pahlsson. That definitely helps the penalty-killing situation. Here’s what the lineup looks like at the start of next season:
Not too bad looking, right? Let’s take a look at the cap situation. Say Grabovski resigns for 4.5; Franson and Aulie each take 2. That’s 4.05 more than they’re paying now combined. The centre they pick up is Getzlaf at 5.35, and Pahlsson resigns at 2. In total, that’s an additional 11.4 million in salary. Take away the 22.7 million they’ve saved already, and they’d have an additional 11.6 million in cap space. They also save 1.7 by moving Kadri, but will probably lose about the same resigning Kulemin. Now that changes things, doesn’t it?
My thought is, what if Zack Parise becomes a free agent? Can’t you see him playing on that second line with Grabo and Kule? Assuming Kulemin has a bounce back year, that’s a scary top six. Say Parise signs for 6.5 million average. That still leaves them with over 5 million in ADDITIONAL space, nearly 6 with what they already have. This is all assuming the cap stays the same (which it probably won’t, but for argument’s sake…). Let’s take a look at the forward lines now:
This of course is an extreme situation. Would Parise sign to play on a 1B line? What happens with the backup goaltending situation (a.k.a, does Gustavsson come back)? But if this, or something like it, ends up taking place, this is a team I can see easily competing in the Eastern Conference. And they would still have room to make a large improvement on defense, should Aulie, Schenn, Gardiner or Franson not pan out. Maybe Bozak is moved in favour of another penalty killer should that unit struggle. This is a dream Leafs team for me, I mean, a fan can dream, right?
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