This off season figures to be an exciting one for Leaf fans. With one significant trade already completed (Bernier) and an exciting draft and free agency ahead of us, there should be plenty to talk about in the weeks ahead.
First, I want to look at the goaltenders.
This appears to be set already, as Bernier and Reimer give us a good 1-2 punch where both have solids starter potential. I do not think it will be a controversy as having two young goalies competing for ice is healthy. Its when they are both legitimate #1s that you get into trouble. (See Vancouver).
As for the defence, things get a little more interesting. Going into next season with the following pairings I am ok with, but they could be improved.
Nothing too special, but I think they could get the job done. Hopefully a healthy Gunnarsson and some reduced ice time for phanuef (23ish min/game) will help the first pairing.
To reduce those minutes, Gardiner and franson would have to play a larger role and I believe they can with their lay at the end of this past season. Gardiner has big time potential and Franson started to show what he can do last year.
I would prefer to sign a UFA like scuderi to play with and mentor gardiner on the second pairing. This would allow Franson to play on the third pairing + PP or be traded while his value is at its highest. (I don't think he can match his production from last season and now might be the best time to trade him, provided we sign a legit top 4 dman first.)
A possible trade that I wouldn't mind would be Franson + 21st for the 7th from Edmonton. That pick would probably allow us to draft Monahan or Lindholm to be a future top six center. (Hopefully a 1C). Oilers could use a sizeable dman who can move the puck. Don't know if this is fair and would like to know what Oiler fans think of it.
Since we are doubtful to sign a top 4 UFA dman, I would expect the d corps to look like what I put above.
The reason why I have Liles is I believe he can eb a serviceable dman, and if he doesn't work out, we could hopefully trade him sometime next offseason or use our other compliance buyout on him next year.
Putting a fast PMD with fraser is important as the latter is not very proficient in those duties.
For the forwards, we are faced with a center dilemma. We have Kadri, who is a smaller top six center, not very proficient on faceoffs. There's bozak who is asking for big money but is more of a 2/3C. Then there is grabo who is paid big money but was used as a checking center last year and not surprisingly, didn't produce.
What I wonder is if grabo has ever been tried on the wing. He is skilled and fast and it would allow him to play a more offensive game. I don't see why not. If he can I would like to see Bozak resigned for something reasonable (like small term and 4 mil per max, which is unlikely, i know) and have two balanced scoring lines like below:
If Grabo can play wing but bozak wants too much money, maybe try to sign new UFA Vinny lecavelier? Would be a great center to compliment kadri.
If Grabo can not play wing, bozak is likely gone and we will just have to deal with kadri and Grabo as our top 6 centers.
In this case, I would try to sign a two way veteran 3C like Horcoff if he gets bought out.
Also, see if Clarkson can be signed to something reasonable (not close to the 5mil per that has been thrown about) to play 2nd line wing.
Maybe sign a 4C like Boyd Gordon and then create a bottom six of..
I haven't worked out the cap but I believe we are in pretty good shape and the bottom six acquisitions shouldn't hurt us too much. Depends what Clarkson would go for.
Those are the offseason changes I would like to see. Nothing too major, but I don't expect big time changes as the Leafs are a young team without pressure to make risky moves but rather build off of last season's success.
At the draft, if we are picking 21st, I would like to see us taking a skilled yet gritty forward like Kerby Rychel, Curtis Lazar, Ryan Hartman or Jacob De La Rose. If defenseman Robert Hagg or Ryan Pulock are still around, those are names I would like to see called.
I'm interested to hear your guys' thoughts on this offseason. Whatkind of changes to you see happening? Who would you like to go after in FA or at the draft?
Thanks for reading!