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You can only have one choice to add a roster player to the Leafs this summer: who is it?

My sense is Leaf fans are expecting the blue and white will receive a boost from a number of young Toronto Marlies by the time training camp rolls around next fall.  Whether the Leafs will be able to bury contracts, make trades, draft an instant contributor, buy guys out, whatever, there may well be some new (or at least a number of young) faces on the squad come October.

We also know that the Leaf brass has publicly identified what the rest of us well know:  the team will be looking to add a front-line center, a goalie, and additional toughness.

So, for the sake of our discussion today, let’s assume the Leafs will indeed integrate, on a full-time basis, some combination of Kadri, Frattin, Colborne, (D’Amigo?), etc. next season.  And let’s further assume they can’t move all the players and/or contracts they would ideally prefer to move. And if the above holds true, let’s also therefore project that, given cap realities, the Leafs can realistically only add—via free-agency, restricted free-agency or trades—one big-name player not currently with the organization.

If that were the case, who do you want?

Here is a list of players who either will (likely) be available as free-agents (UFA or RFA) this summer, or could be moved in a potential trade.  I’m sure there are many other names we could include, but have a look and make a decision.  Who do the Leafs need most (recognizing your perspective may be impacted by what the Leafs would have to give up, etc.)?  Again, for the sake of discussion, assuming the acquisition costs in all cases would be reasonable (i.e. the contract we take or, or the assets we would have to give up, are manageable…), check off the player you want most:

  • Alex Semin
  • Tim Thomas
  • Roberto Luongo
  • Josh Harding
  • Jordan Staal
  • Zach Parise
  • Barrett Jackman
  • Jason Arnott
  • Paul Gaustad
  • Miikka Kiprusoff
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Shea Weber
  • Ryan Suter
  • Mike Green
  • Evander Kane
  • Patrick Marleau
  • Shane Doan
  • Insert your choice here

While this is mostly a fun off-season exercise, give it some thought and let me know what you think would be the right fit for the Leafs- and why.


  1. Jordan Staal.

    A young centerman who is coming into his best years. A stanley cup champion already. A guy who plays behind not one but two of the top 5 centerman in the world. He has shown he can put up the offensive numbers when called upon to do so. He does everything well and will do so for the next 10-12 years. This is a proven NHL player who as a number one center would in my opinion be amongst the elite. Exactly what the Leafs are looking for.

  2. My immediate thought is that the Leafs need goaltending and that leads me to Luongo. Harding doesn't provide the veteran presence the Leafs need as a mentor of sorts for Reimer. And while Thomas is a world class goalie who could provide the guidance needed, I believe the goaltender the Leafs get needs to be the clear cut No. 1 and play the bulk of games next year and I don't think Thomas is up to it. His fantastic career has to slow at some point and I think this first round exit, while not Thomas' fault, is a passing of the torch. That being said, I didn't realize Luongo was 33 years old! I'm not too concerned about his past performance in the playoffs, but his age and the number of years left on the contract are concerns. But you build from the net out and, while the defense didn't help the cause a whole lot last year, the goalie needs to be your best player most nights. With what's available, that begins and ends with Luongo. Thanks, Michael. Keep up the great work.

  3. There's only one player that makes sense - Jordan Staal.

  4. In my opinion, the Leafs biggest issue that cannot be fixed via development of youngsters currently in the team's system is veteran leadership and toughness. We have goaltenders that show promise and some big bodies at forward position in the minors. I'll take Mr. Doan, thank-you!

  5. I like your argument, Willbur. Staal's your man. Thanks.

  6. Well said, Twisted Sittler...I've expressed my concern about Luongo's checkered playoff history in Vancouver, but I hear what you're saying. It's likely he would provide (most nights) stability on the back end. Good stuff. Thanks.

  7. Well said, Twisted Sittler...I've expressed my concern about Luongo's checkered playoff history in Vancouver, but I hear what you're saying. It's likely he would provide (most nights) stability on the back end. Good stuff. Thanks.

  8. Staal is young, just entering his prime years, and is clearly an outstanding all-around player who could certainly slide into a top-line role on a team like the Leafs. He would indeed bring a championship pedigree as well. The guy hates to lose. Thanks 27leafs.

  9. Ed...that's a vote for leadership, for sure. Doan has that in spades. Thanks Ed.

  10. Zach Parise is the best overall player on that list. He has heart for the game.

  11. Parise would be the sexy choice, but I think the Leafs NEED Ryan Suter more then any player on that board. I just feel he brings that Defensemen we have missed for years. His style of play and presence would increase any netminders confidence in my opinion

  12. You make a very good case for Suter, LeafluvrCC. There's no question he would provide instant toughness and leadership on the back line, and take some pressure off Phaneuf, and, as you cite, make our goalies' lives considerably easier. Thanks.

  13. Are you voting for Shane Doan or is it mere coincidence that his name is on the list three times?

  14. I completely missed that- my bad! Thanks Anon. I'll eliminate him (at least once)...

  15. I lack enough knowledge about most of those players to say, so I would like to expand on the Roberto Luongo discussion in the wake of the Dreger tweet that “Luongo will submit short list of teams he'd waive no-trade to go to next week. Leafs will be on it,” and reports that he has all but asked for a trade. Frankly, I usually find trade speculation to be a tedious exercise, however in this case a trade appears to be a definite possibility, given several factors. These elements include the Canucks’ goaltending bottleneck which includes Schneider and Eddie Lack, Jonas Gustavsson’s inability to play to his potential (at least in Toronto) the (presence of?) Luongo mentor Fran├žois Allaire, and the apparently short list of teams Luongo would consider as his new home.

    I argued a few days ago that Vancouver should not expect much of a return for Luongo and a VLM commentator made an intelligent counter argument to my position. Nevertheless, in the following days several off the record reports from an NHL executive(s) indicated a consensus favouring my opinion. It seems clear that, barring any irrational exuberance of Brian Burke, the offer for Luongo should be measured and limited. Speculation has it that the two Florida teams would be on the list and the others are unknown, but might be two other teams. My sense is that the appetite for Luongo’s contract may be limited, especially given that the buyer will have to eat about $5 million for nothing in the transaction, owing to its front-loaded characteristics.

    Given these conditions, and the jury still being out on Luongo’s ability to provide clutch performance when it matters most, even at age 33, I think that a little hardball is in order. Therefore, in direct contradiction to my usual rule of avoiding trade speculation, this would be my proposal for a Luongo trade (assuming it takes place before contracts expire and that it does not end up being a multi-player blockbuster). To Vancouver: Jonas Gustavsson or a third round pick, or a middling Marlie prospect and salary going back in the form of something like Komisarek or Armstrong, if their limited NTCs allow it. To Toronto: Roberto Luongo and that albatross they call his contract, along with a fourth or fifth round Vancouver pick coming back to keep the prospect pool flowing. If the Leafs do not get Luongo, no big deal, move on. Fantasy worlds of stats junkies notwithstanding, you cannot transpose Luongo’s save percentage onto the sad sack 2011/12 Leafs team and get a similar number. This is not Patrick Roy we are talking about, at least not so far. So, take or leave it, because as Vancouverites should know, there are other fish in the sea.

  16. My vote goes to Jordan Staal - For all the reasons metined above but also...Pittsburg is a hockey town but I think he would relish the opportunity to be on the big stage in Toronto. He has his ring and I'm sure the thinking is "I can lead this franchise out from the ruins"!

    BTW - Question for the Luongo admirers - will he bring his own goalie coach as the here in Toronto hasnt had very much success lately!

  17. You are likely quite correct in your assessment, Bobby C., when it comes to "how much" a team should expect/be willing to offer in return for Luongo.

    I guess it's impossible to know how much any given organization may covet or feel they "need" a guy with Luongo's pedigree as an elite NHL goalie. (As I've made clear here, I'm not a Luongo guy, in terms of his playoff history, but I recognize others disagree vehemently...). Will Tampa want him enough to offer more than, say, the Leafs might? What about Chicago or Detroit? Will Burke be hamstrung by his previous public statements about his dislike for long-term, cap-circumventing contracts? Is he even interested? Would he deal with Gillis in Vancouver?

    I understand your general reluctance to engage in what is usually meaningless trade speculation. It does seem clear, however, as you state above, that Luongo will be going somewhere this summer.

    If I had to guess, and this is but a guess, of course, my sense is Gillis would look to extract more from the Leafs than salary dumps. And if that's all the Leafs offer, I'd be inclined to think he will move Luongo elsewhere.

    Thanks Bobby C. Great post.

  18. I can't even begin to imagine what Staal would "cost" in a trade, but he is an intruiging thought. Of course, 29 other NHL teams would love to have Staal, too, but for the purposes of our discussion today, David, you've selected an outstanding talent. And I agree, I sense he would embrace the challenge of playing in Toronto.

    Good point on Luongo/his coach...

  19. Here is the problem. We are adding ONE person via trade, FA, offer sheet etc that isn't under contract by MLSE. Meaning the other additions come from the AHL or re-signing.

    Could the Leafs survive and compete for a playoff spot with the same Forward corps, minus a couple, add some Marlies? Yes.

    Could the Leafs survive and compete for a playoff spot with the same defence corps, minus a couple, add a Marlie or two? Yes.

    Could the Leafs survive and compete for a playoff spot with Reimer, the resigning of Gus or the promotion of either Rynnas, Scrivens, or Owuya (with the others being the call-ups in injury situation)? No.

    I'm all for Jordan Staal. He would be my first choice of centres (even before my repeated push for Stastny) but he won't be available THIS year.

    Parise would be great but our forward corps truly lacks in the bottom 6, not the top 6. Too heavy upfront with Lupul, Kessel, and Parise contracts plus Grabo in the top 6. Money needs to be given for 3rd line support and a possible 2nd line upgrade if the MGK line fails again.

    Suter is a stud but our blueline is oozing with bodies. Komi, Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Liles, Schenn, Franson, Gardiner. Plus Holzer is making a strong case followed by Gysbers, Mikus, and Blacker. And how about the wild card in Justin Schultz, I'd much prefer him and his cheaper contract.

    Which leads me to goaltending. It should be evident now this is where the focus should be. In the events of the last few days, I'm fully supportive of chasing Luongo. Everyone for a moment forget the contract length. As of right now he is the best goalie available. He is the fifth best goalie in the league since the lockout, fifth! .913 was his lowest SV% in the last 6 years accompanied with 6 years of 31+ wins. He is still a work horse and Reimer is yet to prove he can play anywhere near Lou's performance over a full season. $5.3M is a modest cap hit and easily manageable within the cap system. Look at the upper and lower comparables in cap hit.

    Rinne (7), Lundqvist (6.83), Ward (6.3), Miller (6.25), Backstrom (6), Kipper (5.83), Bryz (5.666)

    Luongo (5.333)

    Broduer (5.2), Thomas and Fleury (5), Hiller and DiPietro (4.5)

  20. Very well thought-out post, Skill2Envy.

    Besides the "wishful thinking" aspect of my original post today, part of my intent was indeed to get us thinking realistically. The Leafs will not be able to sign/acquire everyone on the fan (or organizational) "wish list". So by asking people to focus on one addition only, I was hoping to capture some realistic assessments. I think that has been accomplished here.


  21. My reasoning involves some reading between the lines. It looks like Luongo wants out of Vancouver, probably owing to not being the go to guy in the LA series. Because of his NTC clause Gillis has a situation, so to speak. We have heard that there will be five acceptable destinations including Toronto, Florida, Tampa and two other teams. Given that none of these may have the means to eat at least $5 million and the desire to do so; Gillis could really have a situation. In any case, salary will probably have to go the other way, even if only for a year or two to sort things out. I know that Leaf fans have seen enough of Jonas Gustavsson, however the word is that he was one of the few Leaf players to garner interest at the trade deadline, probably owing to a perception that his considerable potential lies elsewhere. The offers were, according to Burke’s cryptic statements, a second or third round pick. The view that Leaf players such as Armstrong and Komisarek are defective is widely held by Toronto fans, however not necessarily by others. I sense this by watching out of market broadcasts last year in which these and others players loathed by Leaf fans were often praised by other teams’ analysts. The greater defect lies not within the individual players, it lies in the overall Leaf organism. Make of it what you will, the Luongo trade will be much like a garage sale: One person’s discarded objects becomes something useful to another person. In my opinion a low offer to take on Luongo’s contract is worth the gamble because low offers could well be the only ones that Gillis gets.

  22. It's really a tough one.

    Realistically, we aren't getting Suter or Parise. I don't think we have the assets to get Staal. I think the Pens will try much harder to keep Staal and trade MAF to free up some cap space. Weber, Thomas, Iginla, Vokoun are all going to play for a contender or stay where they are. Kane is RFA. The rest aren't really worth pursuing. So, realistically we have a shot at: Harding, Luongo, Semin, Green, Jackman. Of these I probably want Luongo, Harding, Green, Semin, Jackman in that order.

    In a world where we actually could get one of these guys, I'd have to say Suter has to be #1. We have one #1 pairing guy who is more of an offensive guy. Suter is the defensive #1 ace that this team desperately needs to be able to help phaneuf take on the #1 assignments each night. I know a lot of people want a center more, and I think Jordan Staal is legitimately a #1 center guy, but I think we're drafting Galchenyuk at #5 who will probably be NHL ready, or NHL ready after a year, and projects to a #1/2 center. We have zero defensemen in the system that could be #1 defensemen in the NHL. This to me, makes acquiring a #1 defensemen the #1 priority, but i'd also say it's pretty damn close between Suter and Luongo, as a legit #1 goalie should be pretty damn high on the list as well, both above a #1C.

  23. I think your analysis makes sense on all levels, Bobby C...I'm probably just of the school of doubt, which is to say if I'm Gillis, and I have what some people see as a superstar goalie still "in his prime", I want something really good back- even if my goalie carries a big ticket.

    That said, I couldn't agree more: if the market tells Gillis he is fishing without a pole, then by all means, a "low" offer is the way to go (and one that includes bad contracts going the other way), whether it's the Leafs or anyone else.

    I do think, Bobby, this will be one of the fun story lines to follow this summer...Thanks.

  24. I have to believe that Leaf fans will be very happy if Burke can address one of the stated priority needs, whether it's a goalie, defenseman or centre. If he manages to import two quality pieces, people will be ecstatic. Anything more than that would require a statue....Thanks Darryl. Solid post.

  25. If, and it's a big if, Brian Burke were to reverse his stance on offer sheets to RFAs, I'd make like to see him make a run at Carey Price.

    Yes, as a Leaf fan I loathe the Habs and all their players, but I'd make the exception here. This would work on so many levels…I can't even imagine all the repercussions.

    I'll take Jordan Staal too.

  26. Hey Hogie, you went off the board- Price wasn't even on the list! But what back and forth dynamics that would create, eh?

    (And I like how you slipped Staal in for good measure...)

    Good stuff.

  27. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 26, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Not fair...not fair...not fair! With the Leafs needing a number one center, a number one D-man, and a number one goalie, you expect me Mike to only pick one! Again, as my old friend Herman Munster would say, "not fair...not fair...NOT FAIR!"

  28. You're absolutely right, Long's not fair!

    But I had no choice (well, I did, but I wanted to narrow things down so everyone here would have to make a tough decision about selecting either a center/scorer, a goalie or a solid "D" guy...).

    I just think it will be difficult for the Leafs to get more than one of those priorities dealt with, but we'll see.

    Thanks Long Suffering...

  29. Sorry, didn't have a chance to read all the comments yet, Michael, so I'll quickly respond to the original post.

    While I've always coveted Iggy and/or any of the Staal boys for the Leafs, the sudden Luongo talk has me intrigued. As I've said here before, I feel it's important for the "young" Leafs to get some playoff exposure--now. To help advance that cause, there's no better goalie of late than Roberto--in the regular season. He will at least get them there, we hope, and then maybe he can pull some of that 2011 magic or play like the Olympics.

    I maybe in the minority, but I do think he's a good fit (contract, etc. notwithstanding).


  30. Caedmon, I don't think there's any question that there will be significant conversation around Luongo, and not just within the Leaf fan base. I believe the organization will consider everything that is out there this summer, and that includes Luongo.

    You make a fair point about having a goalie that will at least get you to the playoffs, playoff success aside. I can't argue with that notion.

    Thanks Caedmon.

  31. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 26, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Clearly understand Mike, but boy is this a hard one. I believe once July 1st arrives Pal Burkie will go hard after Zach Parise, but I doubt he'll be able to sign him. Like Caedmon I would go after a goalie. Luongo would be nice, but I hate the length of the contract. No use looking at Tim Thomas, I think he is Chicago or Detroit bound. Josh Harding isn't an upgrade from what we already have. Kipo will stay put in Calgary. One RFA that you do not have on the list and is my wild card Anders Lindback. At 6'6 Lindback is just as agile as Pekka Rinne, and some believe he might be even better. Either way, I don't think we could go wrong with him. Who knows, maybe we might get lucky like we did back in 71 when Philly had two very good goalies. If this does become the case, lets hope we can do better with him than what we did with Parent.

  32. Interesting that you mention the '71 Flyers (Parent and Favell) Long Suffering. The Flyers, as you well recall, built their expansion franchise with those two really solid young goalies, which, as you suggest, is kind of where Nashville is now with Rinne and Lindback.

    I'm sure some would view Lindback as unproven, but he would be a very interesting guy to get our hands on.

    Unlike when we got Parent, at least there is no WHA to steal Lindback away!

    Thanks Long Suffering...

  33. I'd love to say Shane Doan, just to spite a friend of mine who is a Phoenix fan. I was leaning towards Jordan Staal or Rick Nash. But Skill2Envy's logic has me convinced: we need Luongo or a comparable goalie.

    Yet another top post anyway, Michael.

  34. Always glad to see you drop by, Peregrine.

    I have you down for Luongo (with an assist to Skill2Envy)!

    Thanks Peregrine.

  35. I think an interesting view would be to go after a guy like Thomas, who is on a short contract and who could take the major of game away from Reimer for the time being. This would then allow for the leafs to see if Reimer is the guy of the future with him playing in the similar fashion that Rask was given in Boston. I believe this situation would then give the Leafs a better view of Reimer as well as not handcuff them for the long term and allow for things to unfold as they will.
    But of course the likeliness of getting Thomas with all the trading in recent pass with Boston, might be a very difficult task to accomplish and the price might be too steep.

  36. Anon...the Thomas discussion will be out there, for sure, whether about his coming to Toronto or any number of other spots (Detroit/Chicago?). I think the Bruins make their move this summer.

    How he would be used here, as you describe it, makes very good sense vis-a-vis Reimer. But as you also mention, the recent trading history with the Bruins makes this a little more delicate, I would suspect.

    Thanks. Good post.