NHL free agency officially begins on July 1st, but for all intents and purposes, it begins today. The negotiation period has begun, and teams are now able to court pending unrestricted free agents.

This might be the worst free agent class since the 2005 lockout, headlined by names like Andrej Sekera, Martin St. Louis, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Green. Good players, to be sure, but they aren’t changing a franchise by any means.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs Leafs, it would be tough to imagine them getting into a bidding war for any free agent of quality. The team is building and needs to introduce youth into the roster. At the same time, there are too many holes on the NHL roster and not enough players ready to play an entire season to plug them with. Here is what the current depth chart looks like:

JVRNazem Kadri (RFA)Phil Kessel
Joffrey LupulTyler BozakWilliam Nylander
Leo KomarovPeter HollandConnor Brown
Richard Panik (RFA)Sam CarrickMatt Frattin
Josh LeivoZach HymanCasey Bailey
Brendan LeipsicFrederick GauthierNikita Soshnikov
Morgan RiellyDion Phaneuf
Jake GardinerRoman Polak
Martin MarincinStephane Robidas
Tim ErixonTJ Brennan
Stuart PercyPetter Granberg

This doesn’t take into the likelihood of the Leafs trading away veterans, particularly if they trade them away solely for draft picks. That will benefit the team long term, but in the short term holes will need to be filled.

Last summer, the Leafs signed veterans to bargain-bin one-year deals and then flipped them at the deadline for draft picks. Whether the team wants to be competitive next year or not, they need to plug holes. With that in mind, here is a collection of potential bargain free agents that can be signed to shorter, cheaper deals. Bringing back last year’s additions – Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli — is a possibility, although it is likely both will want some term this summer. It is important to note that the best strategy is to wait out the frenzy and see who is left after the dust settles.

  1. Sean Bergenheim – 31 years old, 56GP-9G-10A-19PTS, 53.6 CF%

He was a healthy scratch in Florida before putting up just one point in 17 games with the Wild. He has traditionally been a versatile top nine winger capable of handling tough assignments and chipping in at .35PPG.

  1. Tomas Fleischmann – 31 years old, 66GP-8G-19A-27PTS, 51.8 CF%

The scoring has fallen off from the top six forward he once was, but he’s always been able to take a positive shift and the Leafs are in a position to push a guy up the line-up like this, increase his value, and then sell.

  1. Shawn Horcoff – 36 years old, 11G-18A-29PTS, 52.6 CF%

The veteran center can handle some defensive zone starts, provide some leadership to a rebuilding group, and is still a good bet to hit double digits in goals.

  1. Marcel Goc – 31 years old, 74GP-3G-6A-9PTS, 50.0 CF%.

Coming off of a 9-point season, he is firmly a 4C now, versus the 3C he once was. Goc can handle some secondary defensive duties and can move to the wing if need be.

  1. Tomas Kopecky – 33 years old, 2G-6A-8PTS, 48.0 CF%

He has had issues staying healthy the last few years and his scoring has fallen off a cliff, but he scored double digits in goals four years in a row prior and can play every forward position.

  1. Kyle Brodziak – 31 years old, 73GP-9G-11A-20PTS, 44.8 CF%

A defensive zone start specialist, he isn’t a shutdown center by any means, but he can push play up ice, chip in some scoring, and make life easier on the younger centers.

  1. Eric Fehr – 29 years old, 75GP-19G-14A-33PTS, 50.4 CF%

Fehr struggled the one time he left Washington, but he has shown he is capable of playing center, scores goals in double digits, can score roughly 30 points, and is 6’4.

  1. Erik Condra – 28 years old, 68GP-9G-14A-23PTS, 50.7 CF%

A right-handed Daniel Winnik, essentially. Strong at pushing play up ice, penalty killing, being a checker, and struggles to score (has never hit double digits in goals).

  1. Steve Downie – 28 years old, 72GP-14G-14A-28PTS, 49.6 CF%

The agitating winger had 14 goals and over 200 PIMs last year. His CF% was fine in a vacuum, but poor compared to his teammates, although he played with Brandon Sutter for the majority of the year, which is a tough assignment defensively.

  1. Jay Beagle – 29 years old, 62GP-10G-10A-20Pts, 50.0 CF%

You might remember him as a Dale Hunter favourite when Hunter coached the Capitals. Beagle is a right handed 4C capable of moving up the line-up and playing wing, and can score a little, too.

  1. Steve Bernier – 30 years old, 67GP-16G-16A-32PTS, 47.4 CF%

Bernier almost played his way out of the league in 2013-2014, before responding with 16 goals last year. He is a solid forechecker who is a good play-driving bottom six forward.

  1. Jason Akeson – 25 years old, 13GP-0G-0A-0PTS, 38.0 CF%

The 5’10 forward would be a complete shot in the dark, but he has 117 points in 127 AHL games the last two years, had a good showing in the playoffs two seasons ago in the NHL, and struggled to score this year. The Leafs are in a position to take gambles like this.

  1. Matt Bartkowski – 27 years old, 47GP-0G-4A-4PTS, 49.9 CF%.

He played top four minutes last season and handled them adequately. Bartkowski has some untapped game, and even if he never improves he can take a regular shift adequately.

  1. Matt Irwin – 27 years old, 53GP-8G-11A-19PTS, 51.6 CF%

A big, good skater who scores at a productive rate, he has only played 153 NHL games. Irwin has some upside and is already a solid NHL defenseman.

  1. Matt Donovan 25 years old, 12GP-0G-3A-3PTS, 49.0 CF%

The once highly touted prospect has shown well in the AHL, and in the NHL in limited minutes. After a strong showing in 2013-14, Donovan was a healthy scratch the majority of the year after the Isles beefed up their defense in training camp.  He played well when he was forced into playoff minutes this year.

Thursday Links:

  • Justin Cuthbert: Report: Maple Leafs price Tyler Bozak at a 2nd-round pick (The Score)
    The Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to have set the asking price on Tyler Bozak at a second-round draft selection, reports Sportsnet’s Damien Cox.
  • Staff: Craig Button on Maple Leafs Draft Options (MLHS)
    I see a lot of Jay Bouwmeester in Noah Hanifin. Quite frankly, I’ve said this all the way through, I don’t think Noah Hanifin is the best defenceman in this draft. I think Ivan Provorov is. I think Ivan Provorov is an elite, number-one defenceman. I think Noah is a top-two defenceman, but I don’t see him in the same class as Ivan Provorov.
  • Ken Campbell: Graeme Roustan will “definitely” apply for second NHL team in Toronto (THN)
    Roustan was spearheading the construction of the GTA Centre, a 20,000 seat venue, in the Toronto suburb of Markham, but the deal collapsed when the city council there quashed the deal. Roustan said he will look at all possibilities in the GTA for an arena, including revisiting the possibility of going to Markham.
  • Damien Cox: How Clark-Sundin draft blockbuster came to be (Sportsnet)
    “Cliff said, ‘Are you f—-ing crazy? If I put Clark’s name in the deal, you might as well put mine in there, too, because they’ll run me out of town.”
  • Lance Hornby: Leafs braintrust rolling up its sleeves for draft (Toronto Sun)
    “Just to see everyone in that room and the excitement and energy of the group has been a great experience,” said assistant general manager Brandon Pridham during a break in meetings on Wednesday.
  • Jonas Siegel: Trading Kessel right (if challenging) move for Leafs (
    Trading Kessel offers the club an opportunity to accelerate their rebuild, to cash a pricey, productive and sometimes frustrating asset into a potential trove of young players and/or draft picks for the future. Assets to join William Nylander, Morgan Rielly and whomever the club lands with the fourth overall pick later this week.
  • Ted Kulfan: Wings’ home opener against Babcock, Leafs (Detroit News)
    They’ll host the Toronto Maple Leafs – and former Detroit coach Mike Babcock – on Friday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m., according to a tweet posted Wednesday by the Red Wings.

MLHS Draft Profiles: