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Rate your disappointment over specific Maple Leaf “non-signing” summer decisions…

Let me start by saying clearly: in today's column, I am not criticizing the Maple Leafs for not going on a spending spree in an effort to buy up free-agents left, right and center.  Nor will I chastise them for not having (yet) pulled the trigger on major trades that would have brought in certain “big names”.  Let’s face it:  like everyone else, they have roster and cap realities.  These days, it seems not many high-end free-agents really and truly want to come to Toronto (in any sport).  Also, the Leafs are clearly trying to protect the young assets and draft picks they have assiduously built up in recent years.  This all conspires to make for a difficult environment within which to upgrade the roster.

That’s not an excuse or a case of defending the organization just to sound positive.  It is simply the current reality, as best I can tell. (As you know, I have no difficulty assessing and criticizing their decisions, past and present, when I believe that is the fair thing to do...)

But what I wanted to do today, as simply an enjoyable off-season conversation piece, is to ask you to “rate”, if you will, your disappointment with what the Leafs have not done/have not been able to do this summer.  I’m not asking you to consider salary cap realities or any of that.  For the sake of discussion- which is always entertaining and thoughtful here - take a look at the following list of names (add some if you’d like…) and send a note saying how much, on a scale of 1-10, you would have liked to see the Leafs acquire any one of the players listed below.  (A 10 means you would have really loved the Leafs to get their hands on a particular player, and that number can also represent how disappointed you are that the organization hasn’t been able to make it happen. Choosing the number 1 means you had no interest in a particular player…5 means you don’t much care one way or the other.)

Again, I stress that this is more of a "wish list" than a rigorous and realistic assessment of what they could have/should have done.  The intent is simply, who would you, as a Leaf supporter, love to see here- regardless of "reality", their desire to play elsewhere or the usual constraints that often would make attracting or signing such players impossible:

Here are some names…

  • Peter Mueller
  • Wojtek Wolski
  • Robert Luongo
  • Zac Parise
  • Ryan Suter
  • Alex Semin
  • Shane Doan
  • Rick Nash
  • Ryan Getzlaf
  • Bobby Ryan
  • Anders Lindback
  • Patrick Marleau
  • Jaromir Jagr
  • Jordin Tootoo
  • Patrick Kane
  • Jordan Staal
  • Olli Jokinen
  • Jiri Hudler
To be clear, it’s entirely possible that you are perfectly satisfied with the team’s off-season.  A lot of fans are in fact very pleased that the Leafs have been patient so far this summer and  have not over-spent, and are glad that the organization seems intent on giving some of their promising “kids” a legit shot at training camp in September.

Meanwhile, they picked up some nice youngsters in the draft and as we all know, they now have van Riemsdyk in the fold as well.  It’s not like they have done nothing this summer.  And “insiders” continue to suggest the Leafs will indeed make a “big trade” before training camp, though that is hardly a revelation, right?  What team isn’t looking to upgrade their roster?  The Leafs should be, for sure.

In any event, think on this and let me know who was (maybe still is?) on your “want” list- and why.  There are still some very useful UFA's out there, not big-names but guys who can help a good team be better.


  1. I think there were few realistic chances of getting most of the guys on this list....Parise, Suter...not a chance on those guys.

    However there was one guy that I think would have been good and affordable: Jaromir Jagr

    I think Jaromir Jagr could have provided an offensive spark, great on the powerplay, along the boards and in front of the net, plus he would have been a terrific veteran influence with all the Leafs youth. I would guess quite number of young Leaf players grew up idolizing Jaromir Jagr.

    The the trademark Jagr goal celebration salutes to the crowd in a blue and white Leaf uniform is a very pleasant imaginary image in my head. I wish it had come true.

  2. I'd take Semin in a heart-beat. After that, it seems that the FAs were/are all over-priced, replicate something we already have players doing, or made up their minds about which teams to join in a way that never really let Toronto into the running. I'm glad we didn't sign the Tootoos, Muellers, and Scotts of the league. As for trades, the demands for the top name players - Nash, Luongo, etc. - just seem silly. Of course, that's all rumour, but you have to believe that a deal would have gotten done with someone by now if the demands weren't at least near the stupid levels that we've heard floating around. (Did Columbus honestly think they were going to get SKINNER+ for Nash...? Are they on 'shrooms?)

  3. Thanks DP...exactly what I was looking for.....

  4. It looks like Semin is still "out there", Adam. He may be an interesting addition to a lot of teams, especially if he signed for only one year.

  5. I am of two minds. 1) I'm happy Burke & co. didn't go crazy and sign less than stellar players to overpriced contracts, signalling they are going to continue to build within. But 2) I think a lot of people identified the Leafs are not good enough a C, D or G and have done nothing to improve that. I would have enjoyed Suter (not sure at that price) and Luongo (or stable vet for Reimer) to be added but as the days slip by, it looks less likely.

    As for centre, the options weren't available without a trade and I'm guessing with the CBA negotiations a lot of teams are looking to hold on to what they have. I don't see signing another winger (i.e. Semin) as a big step forward. They need a #1 and it looks like another year to wait for it.

    So, happy that the team is fairly structured but unhappy that I don't see the playoff team suddenly emerging.

    ~ Phil

  6. zero dissapointment thus far, no panic moves, no inflated signings and lots of off season left

  7. Good post Anon/Phil....that's likely how a number of Leaf supporters feel: there is a fairly solid "structure" in place, but some gaping holes still.

  8. Thanks for chiming in on this one, JaredFromLondon- as you say, there is still a lot of summer left!

  9. Basically, I would have waited and seen who became available at July 1st before making that Schenn-for-JVR trade, which might have been a decent "plan B".

    And, as it happened, there were quality players out there, like Jagr who would probably have been a fine addition, as DP points out. Semin and Doan are still out there, either one would sit very well with me.

    Carlyle's idea is to try and plant JVR as the 1C, and maybe that's why he was acquired, but just can't see him being much of a hit there. Hudler was available, and while he mostly played wing in Detroit, he is naturally a centerman, a position where Detroit is loaded, and I imagine Calgary plans to play him in the middle. Sure he's small, but he is also a very creative playmaker. We could have used one of those.

    Going along those lines would have still left us with Schenn, and I wasn't completely comfortable seeing him go at this point. If him not going wasn't an option for one reason or other, maybe we could haveused him in a trade to help with goaltending. If we couldn't get our UFAs, I doubt the JVR option would have been gone at that point. After all, if a number of teams were after him, I should think the cost would have been higher than just Schenn.

    I think it's just common sense to see what you can get in exchange for money alone, before going trading. The two players I would have hit the trade market for were Jordan Staal (provided he would have been keen on sticking around after his contract year) and Bobby Ryan. But Staal is now gone to Carolina, who gave up a significant package in return, and I don't think Ryan is going to be much cheaper. Not too certain we had the pieces to seriously go after him to begin with, and less so now that Schenn is gone.

  10. All solid points, CGLN.

    The whole JVR at centre thing...sometimes that's just coach-talk in the summertime, I think. You know, the old "blue sky" stuff, thinking out loud. Maybe it is part of "the great plan", but I wonder.

    Kadri could play there as well. As Ive posted here before, I've always thought of him as a centre, but maybe I'm all wet...

  11. Difficult to honestly rate my interest in these players when we know some of the players had/have no interest in coming to Toronto. So I'll concentrate on the more prominent players who (for what we have heard) would have, or would consider Toronto.

    On the high side from your list: Getzlaf (10), Staal (9), Ryan (7), Doan (6). From off the list and not discussed much: Sharp (9), Stastny (9), Weiss (9). From way off the list: Zibanejad (10), this kid is going to skyrocket once he gets some playing time in NHL.

    On the low side: Luongo (2), Semin (1)

  12. Here is my list below:

    •Peter Mueller - 4
    •Wojtek Wolski - 4
    •Robert Luongo - 10
    •Zac Parise - 9
    •Ryan Suter - 9
    •Alex Semin - 6
    •Shane Doan - 8
    •Rick Nash - 0
    •Ryan Getzlaf - 10
    •Bobby Ryan - 8
    •Anders Lindback - 7
    •Patrick Marleau - 7
    •Jaromir Jagr - 8
    •Jordin Tootoo - 7
    •Patrick Kane - 7
    •Jordan Staal - 10
    •Olli Jokinen - 6
    •Jiri Hudler - 2

    As you could probably tell on my list, I'd love a 1G and 1C. Why oh why are these assets not readily available? :( Nash is a 0 because the asking price is insanely high for an asset which is neither a 1G nor a 1C. That, and I'm frankly sick and tired of talking about the guy.

  13. Well done, TML__fan. I like your breakdown. Staal and Getzlaf would be high on my "list", too. And who wouldn't want Doan for a couple of years?

    I think you are right on young Zibanejad- but he's not going anywhere, unless the Senators are getting something awfully good in return!

    I'm also with you on Luongo....

  14. Unless I'm completely mistaken, Kadri was drafted as a centre. So it wouldn't seem unreasonable for me to give him an actual shot there before declaring him a lost cause.

  15. Thanks BlueSasquatch.

    I share a lot of your rankings. Not so much Luongo- not because he's not a great goalie, but I've written enough about him here before and I won't go over all that again!

    It's funny, a lot of people seem down on Tootoo, but I see something there, still, and the Wings must, too. A fresh start may help?

    Getzlaf, for sure.....

  16. The three important upgrades I would like to see are
    - 1C
    - veteran goalie
    - shutdown defender
    The first two are not trivial but Staal, Getlzaf, Statsny and Luongo fit the criteria provided the trade price and opportunity exists.
    n general I would like to see a 1C, focus around

    Around the shutdown defender, I was hoping for someone to either pushdown Gunnar in the depth chart or someone in the 3/4 role that could offload hard PK minutes from Phaneuf. There is a gaping hole on defence and Komisarek or depending on a rookie year from Holzer is not the solution.

    Also a player like Semin would be ideal for the top 6 if the leafs trade out from the top 6 for 1C or Goalie.

    The above would be pretty much what I would have liked to happen. The other thing that bothers is there is too much depth on the leaf forwards with meh hockey players. This makes it hard for a waiver exempt player like Kadri to make the team as Burke will likely to continue to choose to retain an asset he may lose on waivers. Ideally what would have happened at the last Feb trade deadline is Burke would have cleaned house of some of Connolly, Lombardi, Komi, Bozak, Frattin, Steckel, Kuli and/or Mac where it makes sense and taken a one year trial on someone like Mueller, Boyes or Latandresse. If it works out, that is another asset to "flip" at the deadline or possibly resign and if it doesn't that leaves the leafs room to bring up another kid to play in the NHL. There is great risk/reward and this is exactly the thing a rebuilding team should be doing.

  17. A well thought-out post- thanks leaferboy (I wonder if Semin was/is on the radar?)

    I, too, believe they are lacking a true elite defender....

  18. I am going to attach a zero to each of those names because the cost in each case would be too high in terms of assets going the other way, or contract term (with the possible exception of Jagr, While concurring with points made by DP, $4.55 seems a little over the top to me – earning him a 5). The problem with free agents, beyond their inflated monetary value, is their often diminishing value on the ice. However, they can also create a bottleneck when it comes to player development, an impediment to promoting cheaper players with potentially greater upside. Free agents are often untradeable until we reach the end of an expiring contract, when they sometimes fetch a prospect or draft pick (providing that there is no no-trade clause in the way).

    Management appears to have shifted their emphasis more along development lines, which I understand and agree with. To develop players does not only develop players, but can create tradeable assets as well, whereas you are usually stuck with expensive free agents. Underperforming free agents can become an immovable object which gets in the way of developing players, which is reason enough to shy away from them. As we see with the Marlies, several players appear to be on the cusp, perhaps Kadri, Scrivens, Holzer and D’Amigo for example. And let’s not forget Colborne, who should be viewed in a different light upon revelation of his injury, which logically would account for his production drop in the Fall. It is probably better to promote these players than place immoveable objects in their path.

  19. Very fair points, Bobby C.

    I was probably looking at this post today in more "fantasy" terms...recognizing there were/are impediments to acquiring just about all of the players listed.

    In other words, if those realities were not present, which if any players on that list would we want?

  20. To this point, its hard to be really critical of the actions/in-actions of Burke. Sure, there are a lot of players on that list that I would love to see in a Leafs uni next season, but like was said before, the price, either through trade or signing, has been pretty high for some.

    Like most fans, I believe that an upgrade in net and at centre are priorities, and in that order. I like Reimer, and I even like Scrivens for that matter, but having them as a 1-2 punch all season after struggling through the Gus/Reimer duo last year makes me cringe. Getting a Luongo would be nice, but with 10 years on his deal @$5.3 mil cap hit each, thats a steep price for a goalie that won't be playing all 10 of those years, let alone playing well.

    What I would love to see is an addition at goalie, preferably of a veteran that isn't going to cost much, and can take a mentor role much like Giguere did in his time. Someone to fall back on when our young goalies inevitably have their struggles.
    I've heard Bernier's name thrown around a lot. While he's not even close to being a veteran, I like him and think he has a lot of potential, but thats a risk I don't know if Burke is willing to chance at this point.

  21. A lot of people really feel like Jagr would have been a great signing. In some ways, I totally agree, but I do also see a lot of drawbacks to it.

    I love what he would bring to the dressing room in terms of a veteran presence, experience, respect. I for one do not think too highly of Phaneuf as a captain, so having a guy like Jagr in the room would help distribute that leadership.

    At $4.5M for the 1 year deal he signed, I feel like it would have taken more to get him to Toronto. At that price, it seems like a bit much.

    Secondly, the addition of another forward would add to the congestion that already exists up front. On the flip side of that, a signing like that could have opened up some avenues for trades to happen, but unfortunately we will never know.

  22. There's a fair bit to chew on in your comments today, dizzard. I have a feeling something will happen with regard to the centre position. Maybe it will be one of van Riemsdyk or Kadri earning the spot, maybe a trade.

    I don't know what the "solution" is in goal. If Reimer rebounds and is healthy, and if Scrivens can play consistently as he often did in the AHL, well, that's a start.

    Bernier seems like he's been around forever, though he is still so young. We'd all like to see more of a sample size from him, but these things don't tend to work that way. He will still cost a lot, I would suspect.

    As for Jagr, it's funny. When he was with Pittsburgh in the early '90s, I thought he was one of the most exciting, skilled guys I'd ever seen, up there with Bure, etc.

    Now, I know he brings things to the table, and the experience you mention. Maybe leadership, too.

    At a million a year, I could see it. 5 million, probably not so much. I'm guessing Burke felt the same way.

    Great stuff. Thanks dizzard.

  23. i'm gonna go ahead and disagree with DP on this one... i don't have anything against jagr, but to me, it takes the organization back a generation. stay with me here... after gilmour moved on from toronto, i noticed that almost every year the leafs would pick up a player past his prime (not down-and-out, or a year from retirement necessarily, but... past his prime). just off the top of my head: mogilny, lindros, niewendyk, leetch, ron francis, jeff o'neill. these guys were huge names in the peak of their careers... coming to toronto i feel like they either a) got injured, or b) got a case of 'blue and white disease' (pardon the cringe-worthy expression). in MY opinion, these guys may have piqued the attention of fans/media, but none of them had that spark to take the leafs all the way. i feel like the leafs signing jagr this year, would have just been the most recent 'past his prime' superstar, who would last a year... two... and then disappear, all while providing nothing of long-term value to the team. maybe that's a bit harsh, and i'm not looking up stats etc... just my opinion. that said, i think semin has several years left in his career and might be at his prime right now! cheers gang!

  24. Hey Alex...I happen to agree with a lot of what you said. No knock on Jagr, an all-time player, for sure. Just not sure the timing would necessarily have worked in Toronto's favour, but that's what I enjoy about these discussions, we all seem to see things a bit differently.

    Some want Luongo, others don't. You can go down the list and that's the way it is with a lot of players- divided opinions. That is especially the case when you throw in salary, what it might take to acquire them, etc...

    Thanks for posting on this one, Alex!

  25. Well for me, these would fall into 4 categories: (1) good players to fit important holes; (2) average players to fill important holes; (3) good players for general benefit and (4) surely you can't be serious.
    I'd say category (1) scores 8 - 10, (2) scores 6 - 7, (3) scores 3 - 5, (4) scores 0 - 2.

    Given that, I'd score your list as:
    Peter Mueller 6
    Wojtek Wolski 2
    Robert Luongo 8
    Zac Parise 5
    Ryan Suter 10
    Alex Semin 5
    Shane Doan 5
    Rick Nash 5
    Ryan Getzlaf 10
    Bobby Ryan 5
    Anders Lindback 6
    Patrick Marleau 7
    Jaromir Jagr 5
    Jordin Tootoo 2
    Patrick Kane 5
    Jordan Staal 9
    Olli Jokinen 8
    Jiri Hudler 4

  26. Interesting, KiwiLeaf. As I mentioned earlier, if I were Burke, I would be looking for the always hard-to-find "shutdown" defenseman. Suter would be an example, though I know some Leaf followers did not see him in that category.

    I'm interested to see that you only rated Doan at a 5....I understand the logic, I just wonder if his leadership value would make him a bit more attractive.

    Great breakdown, thanks KiwiLeaf...

  27. Doan was the one score I didn't feel comfortable with given my logic as well, curiously enough. It's hard to imagine him not making us a better team, but he plays the same side as Kessel so it's not like he would comfortably walk onto our front line without significant adjustment for someone already playing well.

    So would we end up with a second line of JvR/MacArthur-Grabovski-Doan? Come to think of it, that's not too bad. Shucks.

    I guess the point I was trying to make here and before with my scoring system was let's focus on building around what good things we have.