The Toronto Maple Leafs have filled up most of their roster thus far in free agency, addressing holes at the center position, and the need for a veteran defenseman. With training camp still two months away, there is plenty of time for the organization to fill up a few empty slots on the depth chart before camp.
There are 18 players already signed for the 2014-15 season, and still over $12 million of cap space. Even though there is little room on the current roster, the Leafs could afford to add a few veteran pieces to help get the team back to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The onus will be on GM Dave Nonis to sign those type of guys who will help the team while also not taking a huge cap hit.
Here are a few players that Nonis should be looking at:
Daniel Winnik (LW/C):
Winnik would fit the pattern of forward signings this offseason for the Leafs; role players. His stats are not alarming but what makes him an enticing player is that the last three seasons he has accrued a lot of playoff experience with the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, respectively. He has played alongside some of today’s top forwards in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Logan Couture. That experience, and the fact that last year he only took a $1,800,000 cap hit, should leave Leafs brass frothing at the mouth. He is not a guy who will produce 15-20 goals but what the 29-year-old New Hampshire University product will provide is spark on the fourth line and some much needed grit. He has top-six experience so Head Coach Randy Carlyle can slot him there if needed. It won’t be a hard sell for Nonis to get Winnik to sign in Toronto; its where he grew up.
Tomás Vokoun (G)
The 38-year-old Czech netminder would be a good backup and mentor for Jonathon Bernier. There will be a vacancy at the backup goalie spot since its likely James Reimer won’t be returning (Related: Who should go next season). Vokoun should come fairly cheap considering his age and status as a backup. He made $2 million last year and may be looking to make close to the same amount. That comes pretty cheap for a guy with 300 wins. Not only would Vokoun provide guidance for Bernier but can also step in and win games when Bernier needs a rest.
Sheldon Brookbank (D/RW)
Even if restricted free agent defensemen Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner get deals done (all signs appear so) having a seventh defenseman is a good idea. Brookbank, 33, still provides value with his play, just ask the Chicago Blackhawks. He played valiantly he for the suspended Brent Seabrook against St. Louis in the 1st round of the playoffs. The undrafted, 9-year veteran rearguard is used to being the seventh defenseman and, when he gets the nod, plays hard and gives a spark with his toughness. A 1-year/1M contract would be the max.
Other notable free agent possibilities:
Ben Eager: Stanley Cup winning forward that would bring grit and come very cheap.
Jordin Tootoo: Comes from a winning culture and would bring that to a losing culture.
Derek Morris: Another veteran defenseman would only help.
Nikolai Khabibulin: If they can’t sign Tomás Vokoun, this Russian netminder is another option.