The Toronto Maple Leafs have been busy in the first week of free agency, re-signing forward Daniel Winnik and adding Matt Hunwick, P.A. Parenteau, Mark Arcobello and Shawn Matthias, but the club remains open to the possibility of signing more players or making a trade or two during the summer.
"We've got some cap space, we're a popular team for teams to call, when they're trying to move some big contracts and for us, if it fits with what we're doing we're going to do it.”Leafs Assistant GM Kyle Dubas said on Tuesday. "We're not going waver from our plan, which is to bring in players we find as being really good value, give them a great opportunity to come in and prove where they're at and they can they can parlay that into a bigger contract."
According to Hockeybuzz’s Cap Central,
Toronto has just over $8 Million in available cap space with RFA defenseman Martin Marincin and goalie Jonathan Bernier to sign, but could counter the cap hit incurred by their new contracts by moving veterans Tyler Bozak or Joffrey Lupul during the off-season. The Leafs have even more monetary flexibility with the option of moving Nathan Horton’s deal to LTIR prior to the season.
While teams like Nashville, NewJersey, Florida, Carolina and Arizona have boatloads of cap space, most of them are not willing to go outside their budgets. That is the one advantage that Toronto has in escalating their rebuid, as they could spend to the cap taking on contracts that other teams want to get rid of while they are rebuilding to acquire future assets.
The Chicago Blackhawks are looking to move wingers Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg or Bryan Bickell (salaries that add up to over $12 Million in salary next season) so they can re-sign UFA defenseman Johnny Oduya, RFA center Marcus Kruger and extend defenseman Brent Seabrook.
St. Louis moved winger TJ Oshie in order make room to extend winger Vladimir Tarasenko for eight years, but might want to move out veterans like Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott to make room for younger, cheaper players like Dmitrij Jaskin or Ty Rattie, while the New York Rangers may be looking to move a contract to open up more space to re-sign RFA center Derek Stepan signed after the contracts of Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly raised the price.
If those teams are willing to pay the price, the Leafs may be able to help them out of their financial dilemmas.
Rookie Camp Notes
The Maple Leafs began their five-day rookie orientation in Collingwood, ON on Wednesday, as 57 players participated in on-ice work at Central Park Arena and a bit of road hockey in the warm summer sun.
"We got a lot of needs in our organization." Dubas said regarding the size of the camp roster, nearly double the size of last season’s. "You always want to keep it small, that's what you set out to do, but what ended up happening was there were a lot of players that that we didn't really want to turn down that had an interest and that just made sense for us with where we're at in our current state as an organization."
In spite of the organizational focus on drafting and having young prospects develop fully before making the jump to the NHL, players such as 2013 first rounder Frederik Gauthier believe that they are ready to make the big club entering his third training camp with Toronto.
"My goal this year is to make the team," Gauthier said to NHL.com’s Mike Brophy
at the club’s development camp on Tuesday. "I think I worked hard last year and the year before and I think I am ready. I'm going to keep working out and improving and try to make the team."
There will be a healthy dose of scrutiny directed towards the club’s management if they choose to keep players who show promise during the exhibition season in Junior or the American Hockey League (we are still hearing about Nazem Kadri being sent back to the OHL five years ago after a standout training camp), but the Leafs insist that they will be steadfast in not rushing their prospects.
"They're very good players and they are very confident players and we want them to say that.” Dubas said.”We don't want them to come and say 'yeah, you know I think it's going to take forever'. That's our job, is to be patient. Their job is to make it is hard as humanly possible on us."
Swedish winger Andreas Johnson, who is also a veteran of the club’s summer rookie camps and fits with the Leafs new emphasis on speed and skill, will have to wait at least another year before heading to North America. According to TSN’s Jonas Siegel,
the 20-year-old winger will return to Frolunda for one more year before starting his three-year, entry level deal in Toronto.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******
Note : Continue to check back to my column on Hockeybuzz throughout the day for the latest Leafs updates or on Twitter
KINDLE USERS: Please sign up for Maple Leafs Buzz, which includes a free-of-charge 14-day trial and is just 99 cents per month afterwards. For more information click here