Happy 4th of July to everyone in the United States...and a belated Canada Day Week to folks in our near North!
Just a couple of thoughts before I head up to Lake Geneva for the day from the Chicago area...
Good news hearing the Maple Leafs have decided to buyout Mikhail Grabovski to free themselves of the decent size cap hit the Belarusian cost over the next four more years. Registering just 2 assists and posting a minus 10 in the seven-game playoff series against Boston just was not good enough.
The extra money left over should be enough to give first line center Tyler Bozak enough to resign long term which is what this team needs going forward it they are serious about winning the Cup anytime soon. Bozak is the Leafs' best two-way forward, a very LA King type of player in my opinion. I am also sure that he is eager to get going after missing the last two playoff games against the Bruins in which he could have meant the difference in the last minute or two of game seven for Toronto.
I have a good gut-feeling as if Bozak will be signed to a six or seven year deal with Toronto by the end of today. In a contract negotiation that has been largely public knowledge over the past week or so, no news is most likely good news at this point...just a lot of speculation as to which teams have expressed interest.
With Bozak being signed hopefully, the Leafs will still have plenty of cap space to add someone like David Clarkson or possibly resign Clarke MacArthur, or perhaps one of the many decent veteran free agent defensemen who will be available tomorrow.
The acquisition of Dave Bolland for three lower draft picks also helps solidify the bottom six, where I see Bolland centering the third line and McClement the fourth line. Both men should also make the penalty kill even stronger than it was last year.
I would like to see Toronto be able to lockup Bolland past this one season he has left on his contract, but that all depends on how many games he misses due to his numerous lingering injuries. If he can skate in 65 or more games, I think it would be reasonable to extend him for two or three more years which I see as the current window for this team to get to the Finals and win.
I think the offseason is getting off to a good start so far. Let's hope things fall into place over the next few days...
Updated 10:35 PM
Thanks for reading and for the comments....Love to hear what others have to say about the Maple Leafs (and Kings, I wish for more Kings readers!).
From where I sit, in Chicago, watching the Maple Leafs games before falling asleep in the middle of Kings game much of the time...LOL...I just think that the Maple Leafs are a better team with Tyler Bozak on it than without him. That was why I was upset with him not being able to get into the lineup for game six and seven. I think he would have made a difference, especially at the end of game seven.
I am not expecting Tyler Bozak to be an All-Star center, although he could be. Nor am I expecting him to score 30 plus goals a season consistently. The bottom line is that he is the Leafs' best two-way forward on the team.
And he doesn't even have to be a top line center (especially if the Leafs can sign him for less than $5 million a season).
Many people view Bozak as a third line center, or very solid fourth line center. With Nazem Kadri as the most talented center on the team, Bozak will fit in well as the second or third best center with Dave Bolland and Jay McClement next to him on the depth charts. The most important argument surrounding the team is being strong up the middle and having Kadri, Bozak, Bolland and McClement, I would say that is a fairly strong middle group who are just as good defensively than they are offensively. The key is to have players, especially centers be able to make the extra defensive play that lead to counter attacks. And yes, winning defensive faceoffs is also a key component to success.
Now, to mention something else other than just looking at top line, bottom line centers...a little thing called chemistry. Perhaps Phil Kessel can produce well without Bozak, he is supposed to right? Putting Bozak and Kessel together again makes this top group stronger. And who is to say, right now, that the top six will be better with someone besides Bozak centering them? Wouldn't you rather have a younger guy who has already played 238 games along the likes of Kessel and other Toronto top line scorers?
The Philadelphia Flyers just resigned Claude Giroux, their top line center for $8.25 million for the next eight seasons. Giroux has never scored more than 30 goals a season (his highest total was 28 in the last full season of 2011-12), but also plays every other aspect of the game well too, lining up high hit totals and also strong faceoff numbers, however not as good as Bozak. Giroux is a huge power play asset, but that also goes along with Philadelphia's offensive-only minded style of play. Now, I am not trying to compare Bozak with Giroux talent-wise, but if Giroux is worth that much (with the Flyers being a lousy example of handling money and their roster...LOL) then surely Bozak is worth at least $4 million a season for the next six to seven seasons knowing that you could get a little more out of the 27-year old than what he has already chipped in with. That is the difference. The sky is still the limit for Bozak, and seeing that he WANTS to stay with the Leafs makes him more valuable to the team going forward.
One last note...
I am not really into the business side of things, I have said that before, but if Toronto does commit to Bozak (which they should) then the Leafs will have to think about what next step is most important. Is adding David Clarkson more important than adding a solid veteran defenseman to play with captain Dion Phaneuf?
Also, the Leafs cannot forget about signing another talented young defenseman in Mark Fraser, who is another important part of this team.
I don't care for Carl Gunnarsson, so I am not worried about the money that could be saved for him. Future cap space should be set aside for Kessel and Kadri, who are the next key pieces to lock up.
Like Chicago and Los Angeles, the Leafs need to be able to identify their core and try to sign them to the most reasonable deals as possible. There is no question in my mind that Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel and even Mark Fraser are a part of that mix.
Then again, let's not rule out the possibility of Dave Nonis getting a little creative and making a deal that really helps put the puzzle together even better...