After another relatively quiet draft day the leafs were quietly able to bolster their line-up by exploiting other teams cap constraints adding veteran depth at center. The leafs were able to acquire center Dave Bolland from Chicago for their 2nd and 4th round picks in this years draft and a 4th round pick in the 2014 entry draft.
In Nonis' second deal of the off-season he was able to acquire what used to be one of the more premier defensive centers whose role had recently vanished on a deep Chicago lineup. This trade gives Toronto a more workable 3rd line that will help the leafs be more competitive for the upcoming season and while the $3.5 million cap hit that Bolland carries is less than ideal for a third line center it might finally give Toronto a checking line that it has sorely missed.
The price of a late second rounder and a couple of 4th rounders is very tolerable from managements' perspective because the likely-hood of any of those picks turning into NHL caliber players is slim and none and well worth the price to be able to add a veteran who can kill penalties, chip in with 30-40 pts and provide invaluable leadership to a young leafs lineup. Not to mention the experience of two Stanley cups already under his belt.
The next week is going to be interesting because with the recent acquisitions of bernier and bolland the leafs once vast amount of cap space is slowly disappearing with almost half of their roster needing to be filled up. Nonis will now have his work cut out for him to sign a handful of his RFA's to favorable contracts most notably Nazem Kadri, and Cody Franson both of whom will be seeking significant raises after having career years. With over half of the leafs defense corps needing new contracts and with the likes of Blacker, Rielly, Percy, and Matt finn waiting in the wings, the coaching staff will have to make very crucial decisions on which roster players they should bring back and which they should cut loose.
In my personal opinion, out of the 5 current leafs defense men that are looking for new deals the leafs should prioritize signing Franson and Fraser. There should not be much of a debate on the fact that Franson and Frasor were the most valuable.
Frason has taken many strides this season to perfect his game and turn into a real offensive threat while leading the leafs defense men in points and also chipping in with 3 goals in their shortened playoffs.
Frasor on the other hand is the perfect complement to Frason. His defensive minded approach and physical play lead him to posting 153 hits which ranks him second in the league among defensemen, he also posted a +18 good enough for third in the league among dmen. This was all on a team that again ranked in the bottom 5 for shots against per game averaging over 32 shots against a game. After closely examining his impact on the team it should not be hard to believe that Frasor balked at accepting his qualifying offer which was a two-way contract, although the leafs have a logjam in the back end he has shown he deserves a spot in the lineup with his physical and defensive play something Toronto needs right now.
Now to address the rumors of David Clarkson eventually signing with the leafs and Nonis' interest in adding the rugged winger. Whenever you can add a former 30-goal scorer who plays with alot of grit and toughness it'll bring a big boost to your lineup. The one thing that you have to consider before jumping on the welcome parade is no matter how much he would love to return home to Toronto he is not likely to take a hometown discount and has been rumored to be asking for 5mil x 5 years. Clarkson is at best a second line winger but fits more on the third line of a winning team, he is not likely to score 30 goals again and is more likely to finish in the mid 20's in a good season. With money already tied up with James Van Riemsdyk, Mikhail Grabovski, and Joffery Lupul on long term contracts and having Kessels contract end at the end of the season is it really smart to tie up more money in the $5 million range for a player who projects to be a second/third line grinder.
I would compare the situation of signing Clarkson to former leaf Colby Armstrong, Armstrong was coming off a few strong seasons of playing a physical game and showing an offensive flare at times but he was also projected as a 3rd liner. The leafs signed Armstrong to a 3 year x 3mil contract in what was looked at as a perfect fit for the team. By the end of his time here the leafs bought him out because of nagging injuries and never having a huge role on the team, the leafs could also find cheaper more cap friendly alternatives. Although Clarkson has way more offense in his game then Armstrong the situation is still the same in that you are over paying for a third liner which may prevent the team from ever getting the first line center they need or being able to keep the players they already have slotted in on the first line ie. Kessel.
All that being said I hope Nonis puts in a good effort to sign Clarkson but I believe if he is serious about adding him to the roster he is going to have to be creative in creating more room under the cap so that we are not stuck in a bad place financially long term.
Thanks for reading.