The frenzy that is the first week or so of NHL free agency may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few notable names that could find themselves on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. For a team that has struggled as much as the Toronto Maple Leafs have in recent years, that’s certainly good news; it means there are more options than just the trade route, albeit the options remaining in free agency are limited.
Still, one has to look at the forward, defence and goaltending positions on the Maple Leafs’ depth chart and wonder how each area can be upgraded.
After a rather large decline in production last season, will Nikolai Kulemin be able to regain his form from 2010-2011, or will a signing or trade need to be completed? Is James van Riemsdyk the answer to the hole down the middle on the Leafs’ top line? Is someone needed to replace Luke Schenn, or will a surprise Toronto Marlie be able to accomplish that? Will the duo of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens be enough to take the Leafs to the playoffs?
Just as the case is entering every season, plenty of questions surround the Maple Leafs. This time around, though, there are still options available in free agency more than two weeks after the market reopened.
Doan, 35, has been a lifelong Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes forward, which is making the decision to remain in or leave Phoenix that much more difficult. As reports suggest, it’s going to come down to whether or not Doan is confident in Greg Jamison’s ability to purchase the Coyotes.
Time is ticking however, and some 16 teams are said to be interested. Exactly who all those teams are is unclear, but it’s believed that the Maple Leafs are one of them. Problem is, the chances of the Leafs actually landing Doan are slim to none given that he is likely at the point in his career where he wants to win a championship, and he wants to win one soon. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take a run at him, though.
Doan, who has proven to be a very loyal leader in the Coyotes’ locker room, scored 22 goals and finished with a total of 50 points last season. While those numbers may seem somewhat average and aren’t exactly the statistics of most highly sought after free agents, he is a strong contributor to the Coyotes’ special teams and plays with a physical edge.
With his experience and talent, Doan would bring an all-around level of play to the Leafs that the team hasn’t seen for a long time.
Not many people think of Brunette when considering those who might fit well on the Leafs’ roster. However, what those same people don’t realize is that Brunette is a very underrated player who has posted statistics similar to Doan’s over the course of his NHL career.
Brunette’s struggles last season (12 goals, 15 assists in 78 games) related directly to a, get ready for it, foot injury. That according to this article from the Chicago Sun-Times, which also includes a quote from Brunette about the possibility of retiring.
“I’m not sure, it was a tough year,” said Brunette, who toughed out a foot injury late in the season and the playoffs. “You don’t want to leave this way but there’s times when the game tells you to leave and you don’t have decision. We’ll see, I’m not sure. I’m going to let it decompress, come up for air and make some kind of decision.”
This is where fans begin their usual scream against making a contract offer to a player such as Brunette. Injury troubles, 37 years of age, not a top-six forward. But one must realize that Brunette isn’t Tim Connolly or Colby Armstrong; it shouldn’t take a lot of money to lure him into a hockey-mad market such as Toronto.
What would Brunette bring? A physical presence, leadership and even some added offence to the Leafs’ bottom-six forward group. Not so bad, huh?
He’s no Roberto Luongo or Jonathan Bernier, but Roloson is someone who could step in behind James Reimer, provide the young netminder with valuable advice and play 30 games or so.
Sure, Roloson struggled last season with a save percentage of .886, but even if he’s not able to find his way this season, the confidence he would provide Reimer with would be second to none.
As well, one would have to believe that Roloson wouldn’t cost much more than $800,000, meaning he wouldn’t cause problems cap wise.
Hannan has struggled to find a permanent NHL home over the past few seasons for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a valuable addition to a team that is searching for stability on the back-end.
A stay-at-home defensive defenceman, Hannan is known for his physical play and ability to shut down the opposition effectively. He provides very little offence (only 197 points in 908 career games), but makes up for it in other ways. His experience and leadership are uncanny and are needed on the Leafs’ young roster.
Closing in on the end of his NHL career, Hannan likely isn’t searching for a lot of money. Given that he signed with the Calgary Flames for just $1 million last summer, one would have to believe that he wouldn’t be seeking anything above that this time around.
Doan, Brunette, Roloson and Hannan are all names that would prove to be solid additions to the Leafs’ squad in their own ways. Whether it be offensive production, defensive awareness or leadership qualities, all four would contribute positive aspects to the Maple Leafs organization.
Now it’s just a matter of dipping into the market and making some offers.
For every Leafs article on THW, follow @THW_MapleLeafs on Twitter.
Check out Maple Leafs Central, a THW Network site.