Being a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, hockey life can't get much worse. After yet another disappointing year, and another embarrassing mid-season collapse, the Leafs are perceived as the laughing stock of the NHL and the Ottawa Senators went on a miraculous run to clinch a post season berth. (23-4-4 dating back to Feb10)
Great… Just what we needed; the final nail in Toronto’s coffin ending a disastrous season.
Everywhere I went I had family members, friends, co-workers, rubbing it in my face, reminding me that the "Leafs suck" or I should "Quit wasting my time on those losers, they're never going to win" and then the late crowd favourite "Hamburglar Baby!!"
It was impossible to ignore, I was surrounded by fans, celebrating while I basked in self-pity questioning over and over again how the hockey gods could be such a tease and cause so much heartache.
The only thing I had left to look forward to was the NHL entry draft and the inevitable scorched earth. As Shanahan cleared out 90% of his staff, now all that remained was the Maple Leafs roster.
While teams competed for Lord Stanley's cup, the rumours and possibilities danced through my head; where will Kessel end up? Are we going to get a third 1st round pick? Is Phaneuf staying?
I was hoping to have at least one of these question answered prior to the draft, but Shanahan and company stayed quiet. The Maple Leafs made a few trades by swapping out the 24th pick to acquire the 29th / 61st pick. Then moments later the Leafs made another move, trading the 29th pick for the 34th and 68th pick but that’s all she wrote.
Now we’re headed into free agency and the biggest question mark surrounding the Leafs core group is management willing to retain salary? Toronto is said to be willing to take significant contracts back in deals to alleviate difficulty in fitting Kessel’s $8 Million or Phaneuf’s $7 Million salary, but is adamant about not retaining a percentage of their salaries.
It’s been widely reported that Gm’s interested in acquiring Kessel’s services have put forward low ball offers to the young Toronto staff and there may be a possibility the Leafs enter training camp with Phil the thrill still on the roster. This is what Shanahan had to say;
“We had some talks, there were some discussions that were initiated here on the floor with teams that are still alive and they were under no rush, we were under no rush.” Shanahan said on Saturday. “Nothing materialized that we thought was going to benefit the Leafs in any way. We will see where we are in the next month or two and if we have to come to camp (not getting) everything done that we wanted to get done, that's fine as well.”
TSN’s Bob Mckenzie reported the Leafs may be willing to enter a “Hybrid rebuild” and retain some of their core group. There’s no secret Coach Mike Babcock would welcome Phaneuf back to the blue line. Bozak may be on that list as well, not because Babcock has interest it’s because the market for Bozak seems to be quite thin. Shanny was shopping Bozak for picks in the deep draft but couldn’t find any suitors for the 29 year old.
We are now a few short days away from the start of free agency and questions surrounding the Leafs still linger in the air. I for one am excited to see how this plays out.
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