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Will Leafs look to bolster depth with training camp invites?

August 5, 2018, 8:18 PM ET [75 Comments]
Mike Augello
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While the chances of a late summer trade are not impossible (the Jeff Skinner deal between Buffalo and Carolina is evidence of that), the bulk of this summer’s unrestricted free agents class have found a new home.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have in the past invited veterans to have a look at someone without committing to a professional contract. With the club once again perilously close to the limit of 50 professional contracts, GM Kyle Dubas may be interested in taking a look at a few players at a couple thin areas on the roster and with a little over a month until the opening of training camp, players yet to hook on with teams may be willing to roll the dice on a professional tryout contract.

The two areas that Toronto are likely to look for reinforcements are at center and on defense.

Up the middle, the Leafs could have the strongest top three in the league with John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri, but the fourth line battle is slated to be a contest between SHL veteran Par Lindholm, free agent Josh Jooris, Frederik Gauthier and possibly Tyler Ennis, who has played center in the past but has recently played mostly on the wing.

Faceoff specialist Antoine Vermette (who led the league winning 60% of draws) and Mark Letestu are potential candidates.

It can be argued that the Leafs have many options capable of filling a bottom pairing role and are in need of someone to play higher in the lineup, blueline candidates such as Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman and KHL import Igor Ozhiganov are waiver exempt and would benefit more from regular play in the American Hockey League than sitting in the press box as the seventh or eighth defenseman at the NHL level.

Could a vet such as 37-year-old Kevin Bieksa, ex-Winnipeg Jet Tobias Enstrom or former Leaf Cody Franson be possible options?

The most intriguing is Franson, who signed a one-year deal with Chicago just before the beginning of last season and played 23 games for the Hawks before being sent to the AHL. The 30-year-old has long been an analytics darling and scored 28 points in 37 games for Rockford and a point-per-game in the Calder Cup Playoffs and before signing with the Hawks expressed an interest in returning to Toronto, where he was acquired from Nashville in 2011 and dealt back to the Preds in 2015.

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