James van Riemsdyk
Free Agent Forwards
13-14 Cap Hit
Over the past three seasons, Phil Kessel is tied for second in points,
with 214, and fourth in goals, with 94. Sure, his game isnt the most
well-rounded, but when seeking out problems with the Leafs, the play of
one of the games elite offensive players ought to be way down the list.
Furthermore, while his raw possession numbers are poor (he plays for
Toronto, after all), his relative possession stats have been positive
for six of the past seven seasons.
James van Riemsdyk has taken a jump, at least in role, with Toronto,
playing more than 20 minutes per game over the past two seasons. His 48
goals over the past two years ranks 16th and hes a 25-year-old signed to
a very reasonable contract for the next four seasons. With Kessel and
JvR anchoring the first line, the Leafs have their cornerstone pieces
When the Leafs re-signed Tyler Bozak to a five-year, $21-million
contract, there was plenty of criticism that followed and Bozak answered
those critics with a career-best 19 goals and 49 points, despite
missing 24 games with a couple of injuries.
The bigger issue, however, is that Bozaks production was fueled by an
unsustainably high on-ice shooting percentage, the kind of thing that
frequently regresses; sometimes dramatically. Considering that Bozak is
logging more than 20 minutes per game, he needs to be productive, but if
those percentages dry up, whats left?
Bozak scored 40 of his points at even-strength last year -- the same as
Andrew Ladd, one more than Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Voracek -- but if
that on-ice shooting percentage even falls to 9%, from 11.60% last
season, then 40 even-strength points could turn into 30 without much
else changing. Worse, if Kessel should somehow get hurt or see his own
performance drop for any reason, there isnt much reason to believe that
Bozak is a bona fide point producer without Kessel to carry him.
In 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, Joffrey Lupul went on a tear, scoring 36
goals and 85 points in 82 games, a dramatic improvement on any previous
numbers, then regression came back to bite him last season. Its not that
44 points in 69 games (0.69 per game) was somehow disappointing based
on career norms or reasonable expectations for a second-line winger, but
it was a pretty clear indication that Lupuls new norm isnt scoring
better than a point-per-game. If the Leafs are prepared to make changes
in the offseason, perhaps Lupul would be an appealing asset to for them
For any Leafs that dont buy into the concept of regression, Nazem Kadri
stands as a good recent example. After scoring 44 points in 48 games in
2012-2013 on the back of absurdly high on-ice shooting percentage, as a
22-year-old, Kadri drifted back to reality last season. Theres nothing
inherently wrong with Kadris 50-point season in 2013-2014, only it
serves to show how fickle percentages can be from one season to the
next. The way to maximize Kadris production may be to have him centre
Kessel and van Riemsdyk, but its also possible he may not yet be ready
Its hard to imagine a big-ticket free agent signing going wrong quicker
than David Clarkson did for Toronto. Suspended for 10 games at the start
of the season for coming off the bench to get a piece of Buffalo Sabres
enforcer John Scott, Clarkson never caught up and his game
disintegrated -- he finished the year with one goal and no assists in
his last 22 games.
Saddled with a contact that pays him more than $5-million per season
through 2020, the Maple Leafs might as well figure out how to make
Clarkson a useful player. He banged enough pucks in the net for New
Jersey to generate all that free agent interest, but Clarkson pretty
much has to wipe the slate clean and start fresh next season.
Colton Orr is part of a dying breed, the one-dimensional heavyweight
enforcer. Some of that can be seen in his waning pugilistic activity
last season, fighting six times in 54 games -- half of the bouts coming
against Montreals George Parros. In five seasons with the Leafs, Orr has
eight goals and 13 points in 231 games, with bottom-of-the-barrel
possession numbers. The only way to justify his spot is holding the
belief that a traditional face-puncher on the fourth line is necessary
in the NHL today.
When he was pressed into more significant minutes, in December,
23-year-old Peter Holland was productive enough to warrant a spot in the
lineup, but he was effectively buried. Even in a fourth-line role,
though, Holland adds skill that may fit as more and more teams seek
higher skill players further down the depth chart.
23-year-old winger Carter Ashton has yet to score a goal in 47 NHL
games, but he played sparingly in 32 games with the Leafs last season,
and was very productive (16 goals, seven assists) in 24 games with the
Marlies. Hes still on the roster bubble, but could give them an
inexpensive option on the fourth line.
The thing about the Leafs is that they are going to have holes to fill
up front. With Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin and Mason Raymond heading
for free agency, thats three spots in the top nine to be accounted for.
Considering that the Leafs brought back Nonis and Carlyle, it would be
something of a surprise if they didnt find a way to bring back Bolland,
whose value to the team was trumpeted all season, especially while he
was recovering from his ankle tendon injury.
There are so many different directions that the Leafs could go to make
the group better. Paul Stastny would be a big-ticket item, but
Matt Moulson, Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky are all scoring wingers that
could fit. If they are seeking a bargain, like Raymond last season,
perhaps Pierre-Marc Bouchard would be a viable option.
Even if the Maple Leafs focus on their own young forwards to round out
the forward lines, it would come as no surprise if the Leafs went for
Free Agent Defence
13-14 Cap Hit
Team captain Dion Phaneuf received a contract extenson that will pay him
$7-million per season through 2020-2021, signed during a season in
which he finished with a career-low scoring rate (31 points in 80 games,
0.39 ppg) to go along with possession stats that put him and partner
Carl Gunnarsson in range with a couple of Sabres defencemen as the four
regular blueliners with fewer than 41.0% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts
when they were on the ice.
Mitigating the situation for Phaneuf and Gunnarsson is that they faced
the toughest assignments every night and, on a team with terrible
possesion numbers, did so while starting a heavy percentage of shifts in
the defensive zone. Basically, Phaneuf is getting overwhelmed and needs
One of the great hopes for the future of the Maple Leafs blueline,
Morgan Rielly, had a nice rookie season, showing flashes of brilliance
and outstanding skating ability while being sheltered in his usage. The
fifth overall pick in 2012, Rielly has a chance to take a big step
forward, taking on more responsibility, provided that the coaching staff
is willing to live with his defensive gaffes, recognizing that taking
the lumps with young defencemen is part of the process.
Carl Gunnarsson is surely an NHL defenceman. Whether hes a top-pair
defenceman is an entirely different matter. Hes certainly on the low-end
of possession metrics for defencemen playing big minutes over the past
three seasons. To get better results, the first order of business could
be to ease Gunnarssons quality of competition because he could not
handle the assignments he faced last season.
Brought in from Carolina to provide toughness and steady play on the
back end, Tim Gleason didnt deliver appreciably better results and,
after a bit of a surge in ice time in January and February, he was back
down to 15 minutes per game by seasons end. With two years and
$8-million left on his contract, Gleason is a buyout candidate, though
it would come as no surprise if he returned in a depth role.
A wonderful skater who can make some highlight-worthy blunders,
Jake Gardiner seems to get considered as high-risk, rather than very
effective. He has the best possession percentages among Toronto
blueliners over the past three seasons, yet invariably does so against
lesser competition. Its entirely possible that Gardiner isnt up to
taking on tough defensive assignments, but given that Torontos top pair
has been under siege, it might be time to thrust more responsibility
upon Gardiner. Either that, or move him out, because thats the kind of
esteem with which hes held in at least some corners of this
Cody Franson did score a career-high 33 points last season, but it wasnt
nearly as impressive as 29 points in 45 games during 2012-2013, with
more even strength points in 2012-2013. While Franson has typically not
faced the toughest matchups, hes another who has tended towards positive
possession numbers, at least in relative terms. If hes not part of the
solution going forward, though, there is likely a bustling market for a
6-foot-5, 26-year-old, right-handed defenceman who can work the power
play and log 20 minutes a night.
Bringing in a bona fide top pair defenceman, to take some heat off
Phaneuf, should be a priority, but its one thing to make that a priority
and another to get it done. Teams dont surrender top-pair defencemen
easily. Among free agents, Tom Gilbert, Anton Stralman, Matt Niskanen
and Mark Fayne would all be upgrades on the current group (not saying
much for a team that allowed 35.9 shots per game, but still).
Free Agent Goaltender
13-14 Cap Hit
The Maple Leafs made a bold move last summer, trading for
Jonathan Bernier to be their goaltender, even though James Reimer and
Ben Scrivens had both been very good in 2012-2013. Bernier responded
well, taking on a starters workload for the first time in his career,
posting a .922 save percentage.
(Incidentally, that was the same as Scrivens and .002 below what Reimers
save percentage was in 2012-2013.)
When a 25-year-old posts a strong goaltending season, like Bernier,
there is hope that its going to be the beginning of big things, but
goaltenders -- even the best ones -- tend to fluctuate from season to
season, so its going to be hard for Bernier to duplicate this relative
success next season. If the Maple Leafs can improve their possession
numbers, then that may help offset some anticipated regression in
Not surprisingly, with Bernier on the roster, James Reimer was
eventually shuffled aside and figures to be a trade chip for the
offseason. Theres no guarantee that Reimer is going to be a legit
starting goaltender, but his .914 save percentage over the past four
seasons puts him on the same level as Corey Crawford and Jonas Hiller,
both of whom are likely to be starters next season.
If Reimer is moved out, the Leafs would most likely focus on a clear
backup, which should come relatively inexpensively. Justin Peters and
Al Montoya are a couple options that were good in 2013-2014, would
likely be inexpensive and not have expectations for significant playing
14-47-61, +57, 66 GP
18-34-52, +19, 54 GP
15-9-24, -1, 44 GP
45-83-128, +44, 68 GP
2-5-7, +19, 73 GP
23-19-42, +6, 59 GP
4-21-25, +4, 71 GP
20-13-33, +10, 51 GP
19-28-47, even, 65 GP
28-5482, -19, 65 GP
0-9-9, +3, 57 GP
Hell likely need some time in the AHL, but puck-moving defenceman Matt
Finn has enjoyed a dominant season on a powerhouse team. The
second-round pick from 2012 does give another blueline power play option
in the pipeline.
The 21st overall pick in 2013, Frederik Gauthier is a big pivot who is
considered to be a third-line centre in the making; the unspoken part of
that projection is that Gauthier doesnt have the offensive upside to
climb higher on the depth chart.
The Leafs may have struck oil with their selection of Andreas Johnson,
drafted in the seventh round last summer. Hes small, skilled and won the
Rookie of the Year award in the Swedish League.
Coming off a monster season in the OHL, Connor Brown was a sixth-round
pick in 2012, and was able to produce even when he wasnt paired with
Connor McDavid in Erie. Hell get a chance next season to see if his
offence can carry to the American Hockey League.
His offensive contributions are non-existent, but Petter Granberg has
been working in a shutdown role and has been mentioned by Marlies coach
Steve Spott as a prospect likely to be ready for the NHL next season.
A third-round pick in 2011, Josh Leivo made a smooth transition to the
pro game, Leivo didnt look out of place in a seven-game trial with the
Leafs early in the season and could be a complementary scorer with the
Drafted 25th overall in 2011, Stuart Percy doesnt offer much sizzle, but
is a heady defensive defenceman who may not be far off from challenging
for a spot with the Leafs. Maybe after another year in the AHL.
23-year-old Jerry DAmigo has already logged 240 games in the AHL and
while he scored more in 2013-2014, hes been used strictly as a checker
and penalty-killer when called up to the NHL. Its easy enough to see
that being his calling card if hes going to crack an NHL lineup.
After a mediocre start to the year, Greg McKegg picked up the pace,
scoring 37 points in his last 45 games of the year and getting a
one-game reward in the NHL. The third-round pick in 2010 doesnt figure
to be at the forefront among prospects for next season, but with strong
AHL production, could earn a promotion.
A third-round pick last summer, Carter Verhaeghes production took off,
going from 44 to 82 points and making the 18-year-old one to keep tabs
on for the future.
Picked in the seventh round in 2008, 24-year-old Andrew MacWilliam is a
bruising hitter, which likely endears him to the organization, but
improved puck skills would help in his bid to climb the ladder.
Maple Leafs advanced stats and player usage chart from Extra Skater
DRAFT 8th - Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Ritchie, Nikolaj Ehlers.
FREE AGENCY According to www.capgeek.com, the Maple Leafs have
approximately $48.7M committed to the 2013-2014 salary cap for 12
Check out my possible Maple Leafs lineup for next season on Cap Geek
Needs: Three top nine forwards, depth forwards, one top pair defenceman.
What I said the Maple Leafs needed last year: One top six forward, one
top nine forward, depth forwards, one top four defenceman. They added:
Mason Raymond, David Clarkson, Dave Bolland, Troy Bodie, Morgan Rielly,
TRADE MARKET Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson,
Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner, James Reimer.
Scott Cullen can be reached at [email protected] and followed on
Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN
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analyst Jack Armstrong also gives his pick for division champ and a
player to keep an eye on this season.SANDY, Utah -- Toronto FC
goalkeeper Julio Cesars right knee told the story as he sat in front of
his locker late Saturday night.
A round of ice and a warm shower had reduced the swelling to about the
size of a tennis ball, the lump a clear indication of the physical toll
the 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake took on Cesar and his teammates.
Just how much of a mental toll the previously unbeaten Reds endured by
the humbling defeat will be revealed in the coming days.
"We just have to be honest with ourselves to know theres still a lot of
work to do," said midfielder Michael Bradley. "Tonight is a good
reminder of that."
Toronto allowed two goals in the first 28 minutes and chased the
scoreboard the rest of the night. Doneil Henrys takedown of Alvaro
Saborio led to a penalty kick in the 11th minute, and the games first
Luis Gil sent a deflection past Cesar with his left foot 17 minutes
later to put the Reds (2-0-1) in unfamiliar territory for the first time
on the young season.
"It was uncharacteristic of us in terms of goals we gave away," Toronto
coach Ryan Nelsen said. "We dug ourselves a bit of a holea A lot of what
we did was very good, but the goals we gave up were not us. That was
the real disappointing thing about it."
Both teams set the tone early in a physical contest. Bodies collided and
players lay strewn on the turf as play continued for long stretches in
the opening half.
Cesar collided with Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia midwaay through
the second half, which resulted in the goalkeepers swollen knee. Alan Page Jersey.
By the time Saborio scored again in the 55th minute, the Reds were ready
to get out of the altitude and regroup.
"We got to just try to keep our heads up," said forward Jermain Defoe,
who left the game in the 61st minute with an injured hamstring that he
said he "tweaked" in the first half. "Its always hard when you lose the
game, because weve been playing so well and you come here confident and
lose a game like that."
Nelsen said he took Defoe out as a precautionary measure, but downplayed
U.S. Mens National coach Jurgen Klinsmann was in attendance to watch
Bradley and three RSL players who will report to camp Sunday in Phoenix,
Toronto nearly made a game of it early in the second half, but three
scoring chances in a five-minute span all missed the mark against
goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who recorded his 110th MLS shutout.
Bradley hit the left post in the 54th minute, and Defoe and Henry
narrowly missed wide and high on good opportunities as the Reds failed
in their attempt to start a season 3-0 for the first time in franchise
Just another sign it wasnt going to be Torontos night.
"When you start the game and go down 1-0 early, and not too long after,
go down 2-0, it makes a difficult game even more difficult," Bradley
said. "We tried in the second half to get to 2-1 and see if we could
really push things."