Leafs: Analyzing Their Forward Core Going into Next Year (Post Free Agency)
General Manager Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs made huge steps towards solidifying the bottom six of the forward core with his free agency moves this past weekend.
After seeing Travis Moen re-sign with the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Prust join him on the Habs, the quality available of bottom six forwards were steadily decreasing. Burke quickly scooped up one of the few remaining high-caliber grinders, signing former Colorado Avalanche and St.Louis Blue Jay McClement to a two-year deal. Burke also retained restricted free agent Matt Frattin, signing him to a two-year deal.
I have heard many criticize the lack of moves that Burke made this past weekend. However, I for one am actually impressed with the moves that he made. He openly stated that the big holes on the roster would likely be filled by trades as opposed to free agents, so the addition of McClement was a pleasant surprise.
In McClement, he has an extremely defensive center who thrives on the penalty kill. He led the Colorado Avalanche in short-handed ice time and was third in the entire NHL for forwards in that regard. He has also shown the ability to chip in on the scoreboard, averaging 10 goals per season over the past four years.
The addition of McClement provides the Leafs with two bona fide PK centers in both him and David Steckel. With a penalty kill that allowed 55 goals and ranked 28th in the league, the ability to throw out two lines that both possess quality defensive centres is a huge step forward. McClement also gives the Leafs a glut of players down the middle with Tyler Bozak, Michail Grabovski, Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, McClement and Steckel all listed as centres. This will give Burke a little bit of extra ammunition should he decide to pull the trigger on a big trade.
While Frattin was a Maple Leaf last year, he took huge strides toward being a full time NHLer with the Toronto Marlies during their playoff run. He led the team with 10 goals and 13 points in 13 games before going down with an injury. He was as dynamic a player as you could find in the AHL during the Calder Cup playoffs, and once he returns from his injury next season, he should be able to be an impact player for the Leafs.