8 days remain to the start of the 2011 NHL entry draft and 2 weeks remain to the the opening of the NHL free agency period. Burke has defined the number one off-season priority as being a true no. 1 centre to play with Kessel. Ideally, come July 1st Brad Richards would don the blue and white and for years to come would be the set-up man to help Kessel reach his goal-scoring potential.
Yet, several roadblocks may inhibit their ability to get Richards under contract, such as his desire to play in a less hockey crazed market, his affection for Rangers head coach John Tortorella, or even his desire to return to his original team where he won a stanley cup in Tampa. If cash is king, than the Leafs are amongst the favourites to sign him, but if he should sign elsewhere who is plan B?
An unstellar free agent crop will probably create demand on the few key free agents available. Players with questionable injury histories and/or lack or recent production, such as Chris Drury or Tim Connolly will become more valuable. The defacto 1A centreman would have to be Brooks laich. Laich has increased his offensive output every year until this past season and has comparable numbers to Vancouver's Ryan Kesler prior to his breakout season last year. He has all the intangibles you'd look for, but has proven to play a style that would not support Phil Kessel (who needs a pass-first centre).
After Laich players like Connoly and Drury would be considered but it appears as though if Richards could not be signed or a legitimate top-line centre acquired through trade that the leafs may continue to develop their prospects and shoot for depth up the middle instead of star power.
Depth was the key to Boston and Vancouver's march to the cup finals