As we approach July 1st, I'm sure that everyone is scanning the free agents and plotting how their team will pounce in the 1st minute and fill that gapping need that all teams have. The Leafs are no different. They have glut of wingers clogging up the system with a lack of quality centers outside the NHL or defence at all levels.
Everyone's big wish for the Leafs is to fill that large hole on the top 4 D. I don't know if that will be addressed this year as the FA crop is weak/expensive and to trade for a quality D you need to overpay. I don't see the Leafs overpaying right now. I see them continuing to build a farm system which send up replacement players every year, which you will need once Matthews, Marner and Nylander sign new deals.
The Leafs are in a nice window of time where their best players are on ELC. I believe they should add the veteran presence they need up front and make a move for defence that fits their long term window instead of right now (though it would help now too).
The first thing I would do is leverage JVR or Bozak for some defence. One team we know will be looking for some scoring is Vegas. They also are looking tomove out some defence.
I would suggest JVR, Leivo and Fehr. JVR and Leivo can score. McPhee knows Fehr and he is a nice bottom 6 versatile player. The Leafs bring back Shea Theodore and Colin Miller. I think Theodore is going to be a great top 4 d. Miller is right shot but probably more of a 5-6 and step into 4 when needed.
This windows goal is obviously for a Cup run. That's why I would go to the old SJ boys who have been shut out their careers. Thornton and Marleau, looking to finally win, sign identical 2 year $3 mill/year. They made their money so the haircut on salary is to bring the Cup back to Toronto. Lou wants a backup with the ability to carry the load should Andersen get injured. I think they should target Chad Johnson for $1.3 mill for 2 years.
With these moves, the lineup would look like this:
Left Wing: Hyman, Marleau, Komarov, Martn.
Center: Matthews, Thornton, Kadri, Bozak, Smith.
Right Wing: Marner, Nylander, Brown, Kapanen, Soshnikov.
Defence: Reilly - Zaitsev, Gardiner - Carrick, Theodore - Miller, Marcinin - Marchenko.
Goalies: Andersen & Johnson.
I know Bozak on the 4th line seems odd but look at the center depth. During the season, why wouldn't you run 4 lines when that's who you can put out. Gives everyone a little more gas for playoffs and line matchups will be a nightmare for other teams. If the defence struggles, you have Bozak as your trade chip to upgrade on Carrick/Miller.
Thanks for reading!