Leaf's positioned well to move some forwards in trades.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have – even by their standards – had a very quiet offseason. Since late May, GM Brian Burke has focused almost entirely on improving the forward corps for the 2012-2013 season with the signings of both Leo Komarov and Jay McClement; and trading for potential sell-low steal of the year, James van Riemsdyk. The acquisitions have mostly been lauded as beneficial to the club, in particular for infusing some snarl, defense and skill into the beleaguered club’s front ranks.
But it takes only the most cursory of sifting through tea leaves to discover that these moves, while improving the team, are a precursor to even more change in the appearance of the forward ranks heading into next season.
Even without the additions of Komarov, van Riemsdyk and McClement, the Maple Leafs already have 13 forwards under contract for next season who played at least 10 games for the club in the 2011-2012 season.
At present, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski will join newcomer van Riemsdyk in the top six. Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, Mike Brown, Matt Frattin (when healthy) and David Steckel are set to compete with Komarov and McClement in the bottom six. And then there’s Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne and Carter Ashton who – despite showing promise – haven’t yet proved capable of cracking a top-tier offensive corps.
This was as much the reason for both Colby Armstrong and Joey Crabb being let go. Both would have challenged – at best – for an already full-to-bursting bottom six, regardless of their unappealing salary or salary demands.
Of course, Nikolai Kulemin is as yet unsigned, and while his drop in production could most diplomatically be described as precipitous, his two-way play and skillset suggest that his re-signing is a given. The benefit of Kulemin’s 200-foot ability is that he can hypothetically be slotted seamlessly onto any line. Putting on my GM hat, a one-year, 2.5-3-million dollar ‘show me’ contract should be appealing to both sides.