In a previous post I stated that new Toronto Maple Leafs president, Brendan Shanahan, would be having a busy offseason. Not only does he have some important decisions on who will be a part of the Leafs’ organization come training camp, but also on who he should let walk. The Maple Leafs have just 12 players on their payroll, five of which are signed through 2018. With ten players from last year’s roster becoming free agents come July 1, Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis will have to decide which players they can afford to let go.
If and when (it should be when) they re-sign centermen Dave Bolland and Peter Holland, the Leafs will be set down the middle of the ice. If not, then the decision to keep or get rid of McClement becomes a bit more trying. McClement was slotted as a fourth-line center for all but one game last season. He put up career lows (4 goals, 8 assists) while posting a +/- of -8. Now, McClement has never been a plus-player (-84 career +/-) but he has in the past been a solid point producer for a fourth-liner. Maple Leafs brass have stated that they are committed to re-signing Bolland and Holland, which leaves no room for McClement, and Shanahan should let him walk.
He did put up good numbers at the IIHF World Championships these past couple weeks, producing 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 10 games for the gold medal-winning Russians. That being said, Kulemin has not contributed to his professional team nearly as well. After a career year in 2010-11 in which he scored 30 goals, he has not reached double figures since. He is obviously a skilled hockey player, it may just be time for a new place for him to hone that skill once again.
This is a tough one. Goaltending is an issue that needs to be addressed by Leafs management. The question is, how do they go about it this year? Reimer is a RFA, so Shanahan and Nonis hold the 26-year-old netminder’s future.
Since he came up to the big club in 2010-11, he has been a Jekyll and Hyde player. If the pattern sticks then this upcoming season will be another good one for Reimer. But that is too risky for the organization to gamble on. Jonathan Bernier has another year left on his contract and was the Leafs’ number one goalie last season, while Drew MacIntyre has played tremendous hockey for the Toronto Marlies (AHL) who are in the Conference Finals of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Reimer has a lot of skill and there are plenty of teams who need goaltending and could use a young, experienced player in between the pipes. He is just too inconsistent for the Leafs to commit big money to.
If you like perplexing and enigmatic stories, then bring on Paul Ranger. The 29-year-old defenseman signed with the Leafs minor league team last July after a three-year hiatus. The odd thing is that he never gave his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, any inclination on why he took a leave of absence, without pay. He also did not give a reason why he had decided to come back this past season.
Ranger put in some solid work for the Maple Leafs in his 39 games. He has always been known for being reliable on the defensive end of the ice which fairs well for a third defensive pairing. But he was a healthy scratch for many games in place of younger, offensive-minded defensemen. He definitely still has a lot of hockey left in him, and after a year of adjusting back to the NHL, Ranger deserves a chance to play every night. That just won’t be possible in Toronto.