Yes, it’s early, but it’s never TOO early to start thinking about the Toronto Maple Leafs summer plans. The exciting thing is that there is potential for a lot of different direction as far as roster moves are concerned. There are looming free agents, core vets, and a bunch of kids trying to make the team next year. So what free agent signings make the most sense for our beloved Leafs?
For myself, I have a pretty good idea of how I would like the Leafs roster to look come October. Keeping in mind this is very subject to change with free agency not even beginning yet. Generally I find free agent signings almost always end up being over paid and overrated. But what I’m thinking of would be the Leafs biggest free agent signing in a long, long time. John Tavares. His contract is up on Long Island, and many people including myself believe he is ready to move on. Now there are a couple of suitors who will be lined up for his services, including Montreal who can pretty much give Tavares any amount of money he wants and a guaranteed top line spot. However, I highly doubt Johnny will be leaving the Islanders only to play on another non playoff team with zero scoring depth. Toronto seemingly fits the bill here. Competitive team? Check. Local team he grew up cheering for? Check. Enough cap space to fit in a long term contract? Check (though requires some maneuvering).
So how do we fit Tavares and an estimated $10 million per year contract? Let the UFA’s walk and replace them with our own internal home grown talent. The Leafs current UFA’s are Tyler Bozak, JVR, Thomas Plekanec, Dominic Moore, Leo Komarov, and Roman Polak. Tavares makes Bozak redundant, and Plekanec, Moore, Komarov and Polak are afterthoughts. It’s tough to replace JVR’s 30+ goals but not impossible. Not to mention having that kind of elite center depth would be invaluable. So if the Leafs were bold enough to let all of them walk, that is about $12.5 million a year shed off the books, plus another $2 million gained with the Tim Gleason and Jared Cowan buyouts finally paid off (what a disaster!). I realize this is a lot of roster players gone, but would you really miss more than 1 or 2 of them? Not me! The Leafs have plenty of prospects ready to take their spots. Andreas Johnsson, Josh Leivo, Carl Grundstrom, Miro Aaltonen and Calle Rosen to name a few. If you can trade Matt Martins contract, then that’s just gravy.
Other than Tavares, the only other additional expense I would have to consider is the raise that Nylander is due, since he is an RFA. I guess he earns $6 million per year.
So with all that said, here is how my ideal Leafs lineup looks going into the 2018-2019 season, and fitting under the cap.