The Leafs were one of the more active teams on the first day of free agency, as was expected with the buyout of Grabovski and the glut of cap space. As always, the market prices were inflated, which should be taken into consideration when evaluating the moves made.
I was a fan of Grabo, and was looking towards a bounce back season from him since he would be returning to a top 6 role if Bozak wasn't signed. When he was bought out, at first I was disappointed, but then came to accept he really wasn't that great of fit in the top 6 with Kadri looking to be a permanent fixture.
Even so, what's done is done and what we have is Bozak and not Grabo so we might as well except it, whether we like the move or not.
One good thing about the bozak signing is that he signed less than market price. I think he is worth closer to 3.5-4 per but 4.2 million over his prime years isn't so bad when you consider the older weiss got 4.9 per season. No doubt Bozak left some money on the table.
Though many are not a fan of Bozak, he seems to be a reliable player and while not prone to gaudy offensive numbers, he does a lot of the little things that allows his line mates to focus on offense.
This brings us to the Clarkson signing. Firstly, I think he is a valuable player and will be a great fit providing toughness and another net presence in our top 6. I also think 5.25 is not a bad cap hit considering Clowe got 4.85 per. I was hoping for a little less still, but Clarkson, like Bozak, definitely left some money on the table to play for his childhood team.
My issue with this signing is the term. No doubt the 7 years was a requirement on Clarkson's end and any team seriously interested had to make that investment. But I think in 4 or 5 years, we will be really kicking ourselves.
Clarkson turned 29 this year and we can probably expect three more strong years from him. Maybe a 4th if we're lucky. After that, expect a significant decline by the time years 6 and 7 roll around. By then, we will have nothing more than a tough third liner (Which is still useful) but at a 5.25 million cap hit. This would be a problem, especially since Leafs plan to be a regular playoff team by then, so cap will be tight.
According to Capgeek, Clarkson gets paid 4.75 and 3.25 in the final two years of his contract. That could allow a buyout option if his play is severely affected with age. If they buyout his final two years, only 1.33 mil for 4 season will be counted against the cap and if they buyout his last year, only 1.08 mil for 2 seasons will be against the cap. I think when constructing this deal, Nonis put this trapdoor in place in case Clarkson's play seriously declines.
This is a problem the team will have to live with and they must hope to make hay while the sun shines. Make some sort of deep run while guys like Clarkson, Phaneuf and Lupul are still in their prime.
Bernier was also signed two a 2 year, 2.9 mil per deal. A typical "prove it" contract and he is still a RFA at the end of it.
Those are the new contracts, now let's look at the team assembled.
The forwards lines will b similar to last year, and continue to get closer to a typical Carlyle team. I see it being two balanced scoring lines and a checking third line.
I like this forward group a lot. Skill, speed and grit in the top 6. A great checking line that breaks solid two way play, physicality, and an agitator in Bolland.
For the fourth line, I'm not sure who the other pieces will be. We have our two enforcers that will take up one or two of the wing positions, depending on who we play. The other wing position could easily be Jerry D'Amigo who has developed a strong two way game and solid pk ability, while still being able to pot a few. As 4C, I'm not sure if they give it to Colbourne, or some other Marlie like Zigomanis, or sign a 4C. I would prefer them give Colbourne bi minutes in the minors and bring a more traditional 4C in such as Zigomanis. At least the top 9 are pretty set but I expect Carlyle to juggle his lines to find the right chemistry. A pretty solid bunch IMO.
Now the D: I was really hoping for the Leafs to sign Scuderi, but it looks like we might go into next season with what we have.
This has the potential to be a pretty solid D group if the following things happens:
1) Gunnarsson returns to form and stays healthy. He had a rougher season last year, mostly due to a hip injury during the lockout that it appears he never fully recovered from. If he is healthy, he can form 1/2 of a solid shutdown pairing with the Captain.
2) Phanuef's playing time is slightly reduced, hopefully limiting his one or two boneheaded plays per game. Having a more reliable Gunnarsson can help with that too.
3) Gardiner and Franson continue to grow their two way games and become a consistent offensive force from the blueline. I think Gardiner's mobility can compliment Franson and Franson's size and new found physicality can compliment Gardiner's game.
4) Liles bounces back to become a solid PMD, while Fraser handles the defensive side of things. Also, do not let Fraser touch the puck.
I think it could be an ok year on defense, but I expect our goaltending will have to bail them out often.
That leads us to our netminders.
Reimer and Bernier. Both good young goaltenders that will battle it out for the starts. I'm confident one or both will step up to the task and we will be provided solid goaltending for the entire season.
Well those are my thoughts on the team. I really look forward to next season because I think this team could do some damage. Interested to hear what your thoughts are.
Good points all around and well written too
Very good read there. And agree on a lot though was not too upset as I expected Grabo to go. On the defence side I am still hopeful of a trade coming. And do not forget we added TJ Brennan as well. I would expect he fits in on the bottom pairing possibly with Fraser, depending on arbitration. Overall though I am really excited to see this team perform and what they can do with a full run at things and with Carlyle able to really have practice time and to work the guys into the system.
Thanks for the positive feedback. Ya, I wasnt sure where TJ Brennan would fit. He seems like a strange signing since we didnt buyout liles so theres not really room for him. He sounds like a MA Bergeron type dman whos a bit of a PP specialist. He is only 24 and I hope Carlyle can bring out the best in him
Yeah this is going to be the real question with the Leafs defence. We have a lot of mobile, skating, offensive defencemen but not a lot of stay at home. Brennan is a bit more physical I think than Bergeron, but he definitly is a bottom pairing guy. The worry is we have Gunner who is not a big physical stay at home and more a two way type really, and if we lose Fraser and his physical play on the bottom pairing we are left with our offensive guys. Do not get me wrong Dion can hit but its when he is skating and moving. We really really have to hope and need a guy coming in to play with Dion here that is stay at home. The best I have seen Dion play was when we had Aulie with him. The kid stayed back and allowed Dion to play that offensive skating game. Dion produced and was not as exposed as Aulie was back all the time. I really wish we had not made that move. Have to just wait and see here but the defence could clearly be the teams achillies heel.Oh and if Zigomanis ends up fourth line center you KNOW we will not hear the end of it from Don Cherry!!!
Haha Don is already going to rant about finally getting some Ontario boys in bolland and clarkson. Ya, that aulie trade was stupid. I dont know why we didnt further develop him and if we had to trade him, why Ashton? I feel we could have done better than that
i really think blacker could step into the bottom pairing with a solid camp. Have a feeling fraser wont get resigned. Nonis is gonna bank on a young guy stepping into the lineup and if not liles will be an everyday guy. Would like to see nonis trade gunner and a pick or other prospect for a top pairing stay at home guy.
what is your thoughts on Trevor Smith..very little news about him but looks like a centre so perhaps 4th
So you are assuming not one Marlie graduates to the big club? Or maybe Jerry D? Smith is depth for the Marlies, help replace HamiltonMaybe a dark horse like Ashton, or Acton make it, real long shot, Biggs or Broll
Phaneuf03 - Ya, I really think Blacker could challenge for a roster spot this season, especially if Fraser doesnt get resigned. (Which is very possible seeing he is going to arbitration). I would also like to see an upgrade on defense as it appears we have a lot of decent guys but not much higher end dmen.
mellerbeck- Smith appears to be just a depth signing, who will only step in if Leafs are hit with injuries. Im sure he will be given the opportunity to earn a roster spot.
poohcrumbs- If you read the paragraph after the forward lines, I suggest D Amigo will make the team. Was talking to someone who watches a lot of Marlies games and he said Jerry would be one of the better options to take komorovs spot. Maybe colbourne makes it as 4C (but I dont think thats a good use of his time personally). Ashton is a dark horse but I highly doubt broll or biggs makes it without at least 1 season in the AHL. Also, as phaneuf03 points out, blacker may be ready to join the big club this season.