Let’s take a break from the rumour mill, and have a look at where the Toronto Maple Leafs roster currently stands.
With the draft a little over a month away, and free agency beginning shortly thereafter, it’s time to take a look at the current Maple Leafs’ roster, who is and is not under contract for next season, and the resultant depth at each position.
Although there are many areas of this roster which need improvement, there are a number of players locked in for the 2009-10 season already, and salary cap restraints may make movement of many of those existing contracts rather difficult.Â Â However, several open spots on the roster, primarily up front, create a great opportunity for GM Brian Burke to make his team much more competitive during the summer.
Note: For the purposes of this roster breakdown, all players under contract who appeared in the NHL during the 2008-09 season are listed as returning players for 2009-10.
RETURNING PLAYERS, UNDER CONTRACT, 2009-10:
Forwards (10): Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Christian Hanson, Nikolai Kulemin, Jamal Mayers, John Mitchell, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty
Defensemen (9): Jeff Finger, Jonas Frogren, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Phil Oreskovic, Luke Schenn, Anton Stralman, Mike Van Ryn, Ian White
Goatenders (1): Vesa Toskala
NHL-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS, UNDER CONTRACT, 2009-10
Forwards (8): Alex Berry, Tyler Bozak, Chris Didomenico, Stefano Giliati, Dale Mitchell, Kyle Rogers, Greg Scott, Viktor Stalberg
Goaltenders (1): James Reimer
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Forwards (7): Brent Aubin, Darryl Boyce, Alex Foster, Mikhail Grabovski, Ryan Hamilton, Ryan Hollweg, Tim Stapleton
Defensemen (2): Jay Harrison, Andy Rogers
Goaltenders (1): Justin Pogge
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Forwards (8): Bates Battaglia, Andre Deveaux, Boyd Devereaux, Jeff Hamilton, Brad May, Kris Newbury, Ben Ondrus, Jeremy Williams
Defensemen (5): Josef Boumedienne, Eric Reitz, Jamie Heward, Jamie Sifers, Derek Walser
Goaltenders (3): Martin Gerber, Curtis Joseph, Olaf Kolzig
NO TRADE / NO MOVEMENT CLAUSES
Niklas Hagman:Â full NMC for 2008-09 season only.
Tomas Kaberle:Â limited NMC for length of contract, not applicable in offseason if the team does not make the playoffs
Pavel Kubina:Â limited NMC for length of contract, not applicable in offseason
Looking over the roster, who is under contract for next season and who is not, a few things stand out:
1.Â There are no forwards who would be considered top-line or star-calibre players under contract for 2009-10.Â The hope would be that eventually a prospect such as Bozak could develop into a solid contributor, but that will remain unknown until he plays.Â Certainly, none of the Leafs forward prospects have come with the fanfare, or scouting reports, associated with prospects considered to have top-line potential.Â Â It is relatively safe to assume that the Leafs’ first round pick will be spent on a forward who has such potential, and that at least one front-line forward (Cammalleri?) will be targeted in free agency.Â It is expected that Grabovski will be re-signed as well.
2.Â The NHL-calibre defensive depth is fair with nine players under contract for next season, but beyond that there are no prospects signed to contracts which would allow them to play in the NHL next season. Â Â So the depth here does need to be improved, albeit moreso at the minor-league level than the NHL.Â Â Â If an NHL-calibre defenseman is to be acquired in free agency (Bouwmeester?), one or two of the nine currently under contract would likely be moved (Kaberle? Kubina?) in exchange for additional roster depth in the form of prospects or draft picks.Â Â Expect one or both of the Leafs’ second round picks, if not moved via trade, to be used to add future talent to the defense corps.
3.Â Goaltending is dangerously thin. Â Only Toskala and Reimer are under contract for next season, as of right now.Â Â Toskala is injury-prone and inconsistent, and Reimer is at least another year away from the NHL, maybe two.Â Â Â The expectation is that Pogge will be re-signed, but a free agent who can play at the NHL level (Gustavsson?Â Gerber?) is a must.
What do you see as this team’s greatest needs?Â Â Will any of the UFAs be back?Â Â Will any of the RFAs sign offers that bring the Leafs draft pick compensation, and if so, would you match?
Looking forward to your thoughts as always.