The free agent signing period is among us and the first day saw 64 players sign new NHL contracts. While most of the league has been busy, the Toronto Maple Leafs have stayed rather quiet. They failed to re-sign a few players from last year’s squad as well as losing out on their top offseason targets. David Bolland took the money and ran to Florida. Mason Raymond followed suit to Calgary. Defenseman Josh Gorges was placed on the trading block by Montreal and the Leafs were reportedly interested in attaining him. He ended up in Buffalo, stated he didn’t want to play for a rival of Montreal.
GM Dave Nonis has made two signings thus far: Defenseman Stephane Robidas, who broke his leg (twice!) last season, and former Maple Leaf right wing Leo Komarov. In a press conference after day one of the signing period, Nonis stated that both were signed to add leadership and grit to a team that somewhat lacks in both. He also reassured that he “expects to sign another player”.
If his intentions are to add leadership and grit then he should look no further than to the southwest into the United States: Detroit, Michigan.
David Legwand, a former 1st round pick of the Nashville Predators, would fit both those criteria. He is a veteran centerman that has playoff experience and can hang physically. His offensive numbers for his career are not eye-popping (577 points in 977 games) but remember that he has been playing for the defensive-minded Nashville franchise his whole career. He does, however, possess very good offensive skills and he would benefit greatly from playing alongside David Clarkson and Joffrey Lupul.
His foot speed isn’t what it used to be but it’s still good enough to earn top-six minutes in Toronto. In two seasons in junior hockey he scored 185 points, so he obviously possesses the ability to score, he just needs the opportunity to play with other high-skilled forwards.
He is also very responsible defensively and has a propensity for winning faceoffs (better than 50% last season) that will score big points with head coach Randy Carlyle. Although never being relied on heavily to kill penalties in his career, when he does step on the ice in a short-handed situation, he doesn’t shy away from blocking shots and putting his body on the line.
Legwand made $3.5 million last year but is likely to receive a pay decrease. The former 2nd overall pick in the 1998 NHL entry level draft will turn 34 in August, which would warrant a shorter term deal worth a little less money than his previous 6-year/27M deal. A 3-year/6M wouldn’t break the bank and since Nonis lost out on players like Bolland and Raymond for not spending the money, it’s time for him to offer up the cash to fill a team void. It would only be a $2 million cap hit, which would still leave them plenty of room to sign a few right wingers and re-sign restricted free agent defensemen Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson.
With the Leafs in desperate need for guys down the middle (Nonis said Peter Holland will get a good look) signing Legwand should be the top priority this offseason.
The only thing standing in the way of Nonis signing Legwand is the idea that he may want to re-sign in his hometown of Detroit. The Red Wings are crowed at the center ice position and also don’t have a lot of cap space, but Legwand could be willing to take a pay cut and switch over to right wing if he truly wants to stay in Detroit. If GM Ken Holland decides not to bring him back then his top destinations will probably be places closer to home.
Fortunately for Nonis and the Leafs, Detroit is only an hour flight from Toronto.
Related: Holes to be filled in free agency