As a lark, I thought it would be fun to see which former Maple Leafs are available in free agency, and whether you could build a team (of sorts) just by signing all of the available guys who at one time wore blue and white.
There may be others- and there may be players who have already re-signed with their current club. I’m not absolutely certain. But as of today, the names I’ve seen include (Van Ryn, Ondrus, Wallin, Primeau, Frogren and Exelby have been with the Leafs already but are also available July 1) the following:Goal
- Vesa Toskala
- Joey MacDonald
- Carlo Colaiacovo
- Martin Skoula (wasn’t he a Leaf for a day?)
- Brendan Bell
- Pavel Kubina
- Kyle Wellwood
- Adam Mair
- Lee Stempniak
- Owen Nolan
- Jamal Mayers
- Wade Belak
- Freddie Modin
- Alex Ponikarovsky
- Darcy Tucker
So, if the Leafs actually signed all of the above, and the six guys I mentioned who are currently with the organization, you would have a full team.
Not a great team, but a team.
I’d be interested in hearing if fans would like to have any of the above back.
Now, on a more serious note, most analysts agree this is not a “great” year for high-end free agents. That just means the smart GM’s have the opportunity to look for really good investments. A year ago, Bob Gainey went after some guys who were good players but not superstars, and the Habs experienced a pretty significant turnaround this past season. So you don’t have to grab a Patrick Marleau, necessarily, to be a “winner” in the free agent sweepstakes.
There are plenty of “interesting” names on the list. If I could have Kirk Maltby from 10 years ago, knowing what we know now about what he has meant to the Red Wings, hey, that would be tremendous. How can you not admire the career Mark Recchi has had, and the jump he had with the Bruins in the playoffs at the age of 42? But he is 42.
Wouldn’t everyone like (even an aging) Scott Niedermayer (who will be available, apparently)? Brian Burke has a history with Niedermayer. He seemingly wanted to come home to Canada at one point, but that means British Columbia, not Toronto.
John Madden has been an outstanding “third-liner” for many years and helped New Jersey (and now the Hawks) win Cups. But at 36, can he keep going to the hard-working well long enough to help Toronto when they become a threat years down the road? I have much the same thought about Tomas Holstrom.
Would someone like Nick Boynton fill a hole once Kaberle is dealt? Hamhuis is probably the best combination of youth, experience and talent that should be available come July 1. Could he be a fit in Toronto?
Interesting questions -- and lots to consider for the Leaf management team.
At the end of the day, I’m betting Burke surprises us, not only with a trade to get into the first-round, but one or two free-agent moves that we aren’t quite anticipating- but will provide what Leaf fans always cling to: hope.