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"Neutral Zone Trap"
Harrisburg, PA • United States • 21 Years Old • Male
Your 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs

The whole city of Toronto and those of us in the die-hard “Leafs Nation” fan base were on top of the world with just over ten minutes to play in the third period of a crucial game 7 against our rival, the Boston Bruins. We were taunting Boston fans, we were criticizing all the analysts who had the Bruins beating us in four or five games, and then it happened. As soon as Boston scored and made the game 4-2, the doubt snuck into all of our minds; we’re Toronto sports fans, we know what serious heartbreak our teams love to give to us on a yearly basis. Then the game crept into its final minutes and everything was awesome; the beer was flowing, the chants and taunts started back up, and then the Bruins struck not just once, but twice, in the dying minutes to tie the game up and send it into overtime. Now, I don’t know about you but as soon as the game was tied, I knew we weren’t going to survive. The cliché “lack of playoff experience” kept replaying in my mind and surely enough, the Bruins won it quickly in overtime. This was much worse than the “18-wheeler going off a cliff” from when we missed the playoffs last season. This hurt much, much worse and made grown men and women cry. I’m still not over this defeat, to be honest.
Despite the heartbreak Toronto, we have reasons to be positive. We have a great young core of guys who excelled this year (Lupul, JVR, Kadri, Reimer, etc), players that can be moved to make room for other solid pieces, and best of all, a lot of cap room to work with in a year that will see the salary cap plummet to 64 million, which many teams do not have. The cap going down will make this off-season more interesting as teams scramble and a lot of trades will be made. Everyone knows there is a lot of drama behind Kessel and Phaneuf, who both in the final upcoming year of their contracts could demand more money and hurt our cap room. Leafs Nation is conflicted on whether to trade or re-sign them following next season. I would like to state I am a fan of Dion Phaneuf (who is taking a ton of heat and has all season long for his non-defencive play) and that I have never been a fan of Phil Kessel, until this year and his break-out against Boston, finally. With that being said, here is my 2013-2014 projected Leafs’ roster with trades, free agent signings, and explanations:
*= Player acquired via Free Agency
**= Player acquired via Trade
***= Player re-called from AHL Toronto Marlies

Leafs 2013-2014 Projected Forward Lines
*= Player acquired via Free Agency
**= Player acquired via Trade
***= Player re-called from AHL Toronto Marlies
Lupul- Stastny**- Clarkson*
JVR- Kadri- Simmonds**
Kulemin- Colborne***- Frattin
Hamilton***- McClement- Orr

Free Agent Forward:
Clarkson- numerous rumours are swirling that not only do the Toronto Maple Leafs have interest in the New Jersey star Winger, but he actually wants to sign in Toronto. Normally, this would command upwards of five million, but with him wanting to play in Toronto and the cap, I believe he settles for a nice 4.5 million contract (nearly 2 million raise).

Forward Trades:
Stastny: His 6.6 million dollar contract is hefty, but the Leafs need a first-line Centre for once and Colorado has been rumoured to be dangling him. Holding the first pick in the draft, I believe Colorado will trade Stastny to draft sensation Nathan Mackinnon who has been compared to Crosby his whole life and trade for defence, instead of drafting young phenom Seth Jones. The trade: Leafs send D-men Dion Phaneuf (6.5 million) and John Michael-Liles (3.875 million) to Colorado for Paul Stastny and a 4th round pick.

Simmonds: Philadelphia needs offence, defence, and goaltending. It’s likely they will draft D with their pick in this year’s draft (I have them taking Nikita Zadarov, who is about 6’5 and 230 lbs). Philly is also minus 3 million in cap-space and need to clear room. I think this trade sees Toronto sniper Phil Kessel and Ben Scrivens (who was on fire this season in net when Reimer wasn’t playing) going to Philly in exchange for Simmonds and Coburn, which frees up about 3 million in cap space for the Flyers.
Forward Prospects:
Joe Colborne: This guy is a mammoth. He’s about 6’6 and has the weight to tag along with it. He’s projected by many to be a 2nd or 3rd line Centre and looked great in the playoffs. By putting JoeCo in between Kulemin and Frattin, that opens up possibilities. Frattin played great for a stretch then he lost his edge after he returned from injury. Kulemin and Frattin on a line together is a nice mix and with a physical presence who can go to the net, you’re looking at a stellar 3rd line, which the Leafs’ need to get past a first round playoff matchup.

Ryan Hamilton: I really like this kid. He is good with the puck and on a fourth-line with a solid Centre in Jay McClement, who always goes to the dirty areas, playing alongside the always feisty Colton Orr, this line could be an identical match to the Leafs’ fourth line, which would see them rolling four lines deep, which is what every GREAT team in the NHL has.

2013-2014 Leafs Defence
Gunnarsson- Coburn**
Fraser- Mcbain**
Gardiner***- Franson
Defence Trade:
Mcbain: Carolina is rumoured to be dangling young defenceman Jamie McBain, who is projected to be a number two D-man in the league and who has showed lots of promise. Carolina has lots of cap to spend so I can personally see them taking on the likes of Mihkail Grabovski (5.5 million cap hit) and Mike Komisarek, who was buried in the minors all year, but who can excel in a non-traditional hockey market and will get some type of return on the trade market. Komisarek’s contract is over 4 million, so the Leafs will retain about 15% of his contract on their cap hit to make this work for Carolina a little better.

Jake Gardiner: If you watched this kid after his agent posted the now infamous #FreeGardiner hashtag on Twitter, you were amazed. This could go against the brilliance of Randy Carlyle as he refused to play him, but finally gave in; and boy he did not disappoint. He has once-in-a-lifetime puck movement skill and can easily help quarterback the Leafs’ powerplay. The Leafs have been high on this kid for years and he is ready to make a permanent stay in the NHL.
Jesse Blacker: I put Blacker as the 7th D-man simply because I would like to see Morgan Rielly (another phenomenal D talent coming up like Gardiner was) play his seven day tryout in the NHL then go back to junior to help mature him. Rielly will be on the Leafs permanently in another year and instantly makes the D better, but let’s season him for another year. Jesse Blacker has been progressing tremendously in the system with the Marlies and he will be a nice fill-in should a D-man go down at some point.

2013- 2014 Leafs Goaltending
James Reimer
Jose Theodore*

Free Agent Goalie:
Jose Theodore: Don’t shake your head at me, yes it’s Jose Theodore, I’m sorry. The Leafs at the deadline searching for a veteran goalie to help show Reimer the ropes and teach him new things, it didn’t happen. With Kipprusoff likely retiring due to family and Luongo’s price being outrageous, Theodore is a nice veteran signing at 1 million on a one or two year contract.

What’s the damage?
After all the trades, signings, and recalls are done with the Leafs will still have a nice $2.273 million dollars to play with (including two guys as fillers in case any offence gets injured). This will come in handy next season when the Leafs need to re-sign a couple guys to new contracts.

“I hate you. Why would you say Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel are going to be traded?”
I know I’ll receive hell from the 50/50 split Leafs Nation on these two players but my reasoning is simple: Cap Space. Dion Phaneuf isn’t going to take a pay cut to 4-5 million down from his 6.5 after next year and Kessel is looking to move up past 7 million dollars up from his current 5.4 million. The Leafs can’t afford to do that and be competitive, especially with Reimer likely commanding 4-5 million and guys like Gardiner, Kulemin, and McClement also needing contracts. Kessel has said he would like to stay, but I doubt it. There’s too much pressure on him and if his best friend and roommate, Tyler Bozak (who is asking for 5+ million up from his 1.5 million this season) leaves then Kessel will look to move on. You don’t want guys like Phaneuf and Kessel to leave for nothing, therefore you trade them. Tyler Bozak won’t stay around, at least he shouldn’t. He’s asking way too much money for a guy who’s only plus side is face-offs. Bozak is lackadaisical on the ice. When he doesn’t have the puck he just floats around aimlessly and has no idea how to be a Centre. Sure, he’ll get 5 million this off-season as 2nd-3rd line Centres are hard to find this off-season and the ones that aren’t, are a just a little bit too old or inconsistent (Elias, Roy). The Leafs can’t afford to pay him the 5 million he wants as a 2nd or 3rd, and he sure as hell isn’t anywhere near #1 Centre material, which is how he has been used in Toronto (thanks Carlyle).

What can Leafs Nation expect from their 2013-2014 team?
The Leafs are going to be a dominant force in the 2013-2014 season. They have the (cliché warning) experience needed from the playoff run, Randy Carlyle will (hopefully) have a better judgment on how his players fit into certain lines next season, and the Leafs will be a much deeper team. I am very hard on this team, I had them 10th this year and they made the playoffs. I won’t be as rough on them, I think they make the playoffs (though Detroit joining our Conference makes it a lot tougher) and I think they will actually win a playoff round or two next year. I think they will be hungry after the agonizing defeat they suffered and they will show it. Joffrey Lupul tweeted after the loss that: “this loss will haunt me for the rest of my life”. However, this team is not yet Stanley Cup contenders, I’m sorry. My belief is that this team, in another year or two, will be Stanley Cup contenders for an extraordinary amount of time, but we need to wait until Rielly matures and is ready to play full-time up with the club and young guns like Reimer, Kadri, and Frattin continue to prove their worth to this team, as they did for stretches this season.

My twitter handle has changed, so you can now reach me with comments, concerns, love, hate, or all the above at @Shaf_Daddy , or you can just reply and throw as many likes and dislike button pushes as you’d like. Thank you all for your time and GO LEAFS GO!!!

www.CapGeek.com – for all Salary related information and their “Cap Calculator” tool that allows you to work with trades/signings/re-calls while keeping an eye on the amount of cap room available.
www.hockeysfuture.com – for their prospect projections.
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