The Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart has a lot of holes. There is only 12 players signed to NHL contracts for next season, meaning a busy offseason for new president Brendan Shanahan. It will also be a very flexible one (he has $22 million of cap space to work with). Shanahan will be free to shop for anyone with the money and space that he has been provided.
While most pundits are saying this year is a weak one for top-end, franchise-changing free agents, that bodes well for the Leafs. Of the 12 guys signed, 8 of them are top-end players, meaning that Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis are looking for complementary, bottom-six role players that will give the team threats at all four lines.
Teams already have to worry about Phil Kessel , James van Riemsdyk, and Joffrey Lupul’s scoring ability, as well as David Clarkson’s reckless abandon. Adding some scoring punch- as well as guys who can throw some punches- will help the Leafs return to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There are a plethora of players that Shanahan should be looking to sign this offseason, but here are the five most intriguing:
1. Mike Cammalleri, LW
He was the leader in goals (26) for a team in Calgary that struggled to score. His injury problems the last few years gives caution, but that means Toronto might be able to get him cheaper than his five-year, $30 million contract he got from Montreal.
He is a known goal-scorer who would do wonders on a third-line with a center like Dave Bolland (if he’s resigned). Head coach Randy Carlyle could easily use him on any line and in any situation. His success on the power play (6 PPG) will add even more fuel to an already potent power play unit (7th in the league with 19.8%).
2. Ales Hemsky, RW
There will be no contract talks between him and the Senators, according to the Ottawa Sun, meaning Hemsky will be testing the market. The Czech forward’s numbers won’t astonish but he was still a wanted man at the trade deadline because of his undeniable ability.
His pedestrian numbers have something to do with playing for the lowly Edmonton Oilers his entire career. He was impressive with Ottawa though, scoring 17 points in 20 games while playing with Jason Spezza. A Cammalleri-Bolland-Hemsky line is mouth-watering, but Hemsky made $5.5 million last year and according to the Ottawa Sun he is looking for a contract in excess of that. But, it won’t hurt to talk.
3. Brian Boyle, C
The Leafs were 28th in the NHL in the penalty kill and adding Boyle, who is tremendous in the faceoff circle (52%) and a shutdown penalty killer, will help the Leafs’ special teams all around.
He has said that he wants to return to New York, but northjersey.com has stated that might not be an option. If so, Shanahan should jump on the chance to sign a centerman, one who has had playoff experience and success with the New York Rangers, and whom he could sign cheap.
4. Brooks Orpik, D
I really wanted to put Dan Boyle in this spot, but he wants to be on a contender. Although the Leafs have a lot of pieces in place to be one, Boyle may see them as being a couple years away.
The Leafs do need another veteran blueliner if they intend to compete for a Stanley Cup. Brooks Orpik will be expensive, but his postseason experience and Stanley Cup resume will make it worth it. The American Olympian is a shutdown defender who has a great shot from the point that will come in handy on the power play.
5. Matt Moulson, LW
Bold prediction alert: Moulson is one of the few highly coveted unrestricted free agents, and while Leafs fans may not be happy with the team spending all of its cap space on a player who underperformed last season, what would it hurt to talk to him?
He was a 30-goal scorer three times with the Islanders and was on pace for that in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. It can be argued that moving from New York to Buffalo to Minnesota this past season took its toll on Moulson’s psyche. But signing a long-term contract will ease a lot of that and he should be back to his 30-goal form.
As the Chicago Blackhawks have proven, it is not all bad to have multiple skilled players on your team. Moulson would turn the Leafs into an even scarier offensive team.