According to CBC Sports, the San Jose Sharks are on the verge of signing free agent grinder Jamal Mayers. The Sharks announced on their website their plans for the veteran forward. "Jamal is a fast, physical, team-first player who brings the ingredients we were looking for to this role,â€ said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. "He is an extremely fit athlete who can kill penalties and we think he will mesh well with our group of forwards."
When Brian Burke added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin to an established Leafs cast of Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White and Jeff Finger it looked to all that the Toronto GM had built himself an enviable problem. A premium blueline, arguably one of the finest in the Eastern Conference, that also came with a premium price tag.
Of course, what began an enviable problem on paper quickly devolved into an actual problem when the new additions failed to mesh into a cohesive unit with defensive and special team frailties more apparent than those of an comparatively budget offense.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Colton Orr, profiled by Alec Brownscombe:
Acquired via free agency on a 4-year, $4 million contract last July 1, Colton Orr arrived in Toronto to operate as the club's resident heavyweight, a position left unoccupied since fan favourite Wade Belak was shipped to Florida in February, 2008.
What the Leafs were said to be getting in Orr was not only a player with a winning track record as a pugilist (he was voted as either winning or tying 15 of his 18 fights in 2008-09 according to hockeyfights.com), but also a player capable of skating a regular fourth line shift due to his forechecking energy, passable on-the-puck abilities, and defensive diligence.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.
The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs' management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you're ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Jeff Finger, profiled by Alec Brownscombe.
A former 1999 eighth round pick, Jeff Finger came to the Leafs via unrestricted free agency as a 29-year-old who was skating in the ECHL the last time Toronto made the playoffs. After his first steady NHL season with Colorado in '07-08, Cliff Fletcher rolled the dice on a $3 million-per-year raise for the journeyman that will cost the Leafs 3.5 million against the cap annually until 2012. Fletcher obviously thought there was a lot more to come from Finger in his late development as a two-way defenceman, but let's just say on that fateful day in July, 2008, the optics weren't good.
Lots of reading today: Gus chips in an Â analogical look at the NHL playoff series; Alex has your links with a look at potential Leaf Jussi Rynnas.
In what was Brian Burke's first summer on the job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear from the get go that he put an onus on improving specialty teams, and also team defense. Â The brash Toronto GM made a lot of moves as it related to improving these areas, and on paper they looked like a sure recipe for change and improvement.
Now that the Leafs' most important pending free agent -- goaltender Jonas Gustavsson -- has been signed to a two-year contract extension, it is time to take a look at their remaining free agent players.
Notably, the list of expiring contracts includes pending RFAs Nikolai Kulemin, Christian Hanson and John Mitchell. Pending UFAs on the Leafs' roster include Wayne Primeau, Rickard Wallin, Jamie Lundmark, Garnet Exelby and Mike Van Ryn.
When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey. Â A new beginning. Â With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials. Â Who had a winning pedigree. Â Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.
A man who wouldn't take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM's lacked in between the time of Fletcher's first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.
Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the "Big O", and they weren't faking it either.
It was a light day practice wise as the optional skate drew only a handful of players to the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
For the sixth and final time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face their rivals, the Ottawa Senators, this time in enemy territory at Scotiabank Place.
Tonight's game will close out the season series between the two teams. The series currently stands at 3-2 in favor of the Leafs, who have won their past three against the Senators.
The Leafs are coming off Sunday's loss to the New York Islanders in which the players appeared completely spent (5 games in 8 days, culminating in back to back games, will have a negative effect on any club).Â However, prior to that debacle, Toronto had won three in a row on merits of effort-laden, energetic play.Â With a much-needed day off under their belts, the players will look to return to their winning ways with a strong effort against their bitter provincial rivals.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their homestand tonight against the visiting Oilers, in a game that marks former Leafs' coach Pat Quinn's return to the Air Canada Centre.
The Oilers have had a disappointing season, to say the least, and are the leading contenders for the Hall/Seguin sweepstakes this summer. Edmonton fans are salivating at the thought of Taylor Hall one day lining up alongside Canadian Junior team hero Jordan Eberle, wearing copper and blue.
For the time being, however, the Oilers are a team in the midst of yet another rebuilding phase, a process with which Leafs' fans can certainly relate. In many ways, the two teams are quite similar: inconsistent youth, underachieving veterans, untimely injuries and weak goaltending have plagued both rosters throughout the season. The Leafs look to have begun the process of righting the ship; the Oilers will look to make similar moves (purging of veteran contracts in favor of youthful exuberance) during the summer.
Final Deadline Trades:
Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.
Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke's trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it's a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.
There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the '08 deadline.
From Garrett Bauman: