FORWARDS ONLY (defense to follow)
This summer the free agent market might be pretty thin, but here are a few pending UFA's who could hit free agency on July 1st if their respective teams don't extend them first. I'm going to throw out some rough numbers of what it might cost to land each free agent, I have to speculate a bit here so its up for interpretation.
Ville Leino, PHI, age 27 - Leino is a perfect fit with this Leafs team. He is a good all around player. Good back checker, speedy, tenacious/gritty, good goal scorer around the net, versitile (C/W), and fits into a longer term plan given his age. I would go as high as 4 years and $15 million ($3.75 cap hit) or something in that vecinity to land Leino. There is a decent chance that he becomes a UFA, obviously Philly is trying to get something done to retain him but given their stacked team and limited cap space, Ville might be out of their price range. Leino had a staggering 21 points in 19 playoff games last year, if he comes close to matching that this year he will earn a ton on the open market, or else Philly will pay a premium to retain him.
Brooks Laich, WAS, age 28 - This guy has really come into his own over the last few seasons, he is big, tough, and can produce pretty consistant offense. He, like Leino can play an offensive or checking role and plays C/W, although he's better suited down the middle, where the Leafs are lacking serious depth. Laich could challenge Bozak for one of the top 2 center spots with the Leafs leaving a Laich-Grabo-Bozak tandem at center. For up around $3-4 million range on a 3-4 year deal, this guy could be a great addition. Given that Burke has signed and traded for players like Orr, Brown, and Armstrong, I would not be at all surprised to see him target a tough guy who can also play, and Laich fits the mold.
Marco Sturm, WAS, age 32 - A bit older, but I could see Sturm being someone who needs a comeback contract and could sign cheap. Sturm is coming off back to back years where he's battled through serious injuries but looks to be getting healthy now. He could potentially be had on a 1 year deal worth around $1-1.5 million to try to find his game and stay healthy. And at that price there is nothing wrong with playing him as a 3rd line energy guy who can step into a top 6 role when there are injuries. Good utility guy on the bench. Seems like a low risk, high reward scenario if it works out.
Simon Gagne, TB, age 31 - Maybe another guy who could come in on a 1 or 2 year deal and provide some offense. Gagne will score over 20 goals on a bad year if he's healthy, and if he's healthy he's probably the best available UFA after Brad Richards. Could come in on a 2 year deal worth around $7 million ($3.5 mil cap hit). This could be a gamble worth looking into for sure, as Gagne would really solidify our wingers.
Michael Ryder, BOS, age 31 - Streaky scorer brings size, speed and a heavy shot. Could be a big boost to a bad PP as Ryder is known for scoring goals both in the slot, and standing off to the side of the net. Knock on Ryder is consistancy, he'll be a 30 goal man one year and score 15 the next so he's not necessarily the best option out there but he would be an upgrade and welcome addition to the line up for the right price. I'd give him 2 years and $3 mil per at most, if he's seeking more then we need to look elsewhere.
Alex Kovalev, PIT, age 38 - I know that 'streaky' doesn't begin to describe Kovalev and he's aging, but he could be a great 1 year signing and give our PP a whole new look and is still a scary threat in 4 on 4 situations such as OT. His shot hasn't gone, and even if he only scores between 15-18 goals, if 7/8 of them are on the PP, and maybe get a couple OT goals and assists, on top of a few shootout goals, he could lead to 5-6 more points in the standings and be the difference between being a playoff or non-playoff team. 1 year at around $2 million, maybe $2.5 could be an interesting gamble.
Alex Tanguay, CGY, age 31 - Kind of a soft player, but with 54 pts so far this year he's playing well again. He's a purely offensive player, not sure he fits in with the team or Burke's plan, but I figure I'd mention him, because if a scenario arrives where Tanguay is unsigned later in the summer and could be had for less than market value, he could be a good spare part to have on the bench for $1.5 million, give or take.
Jussi Jokinen, CAR, age 28 - This is a guy who you could offer a multi year (3-4 year) deal to. Jokinen would give us another weapon at wing, and a great shootout player, plus he plays a strong two-way game. He's been a pretty safe bet for 60+ points the last couple years and would probably cost around $4 million per year on the open market.
Maxime Talbot, PIT, age 27 - Good gritty depth guy has been consistant for a while now as a 20-30 point scorer. He'd be a 3rd line center who would basically be an upgrade on a guy like a Darryl Boyce, if a legit top line (or at least 2nd line) center can't be acquired. Talbot on a 2 or 3 year deal at around $1.5 million (give or take) would be solid value and just bring quality NHL depth to the line up.
Zenon Konopka, NYI, age 29 - Picture a 4th line of Brown - Konopka - Orr, enough said. Konopka won't score much but he's a top end 4th liner, if such a thing exists. He would definitely fit in with the Burke mold if a guy like Timmy Brent leaves via UFA. This would not be a priority signing but rather an after thought, and I'd bring him in at around a mil.
Andrew Brunette, MIN, age 37 - Probably too old, like Kovalev to be on Burke's radar, but if he is looking for a veteran on a 1 year deal to help with a young team, then this guy would be perfect. Brunettes totals over the last 5 years range from 50 to 83 points on any given year and he's always in that range. This guy could provide some top line offense and could be a great addition for 1 year, especially if a deal isn't worked out with MacArthur. I would pay Brunette $4 mil for the season. Oh ya, and he's a great defensive player too thanks to years with Jacques Lemaire. Only concern is that it looks like age is starting to finally slow him down this year with just 16 goals so far, so he would still be a gamble.
Michael Handzus, LA, age 33 - He would be an interesting addition to address our depth at center issue. Handzus provides secondary scoring but more importantly he's 6'5" and plays a big game. He's a really good defensive center, penalty killer, faceoffs etc. Solid role player. I would sign him to a 1 or 2 year deal at around $3 mil per.
Brad Richards, DAL, age 31 - I have never been a big Richards fan but he is the top of the free agent list and he would fill a need. I would like to see the Leafs go after him on a 2-3 year deal but I don't want to see them go long term on a 5 or 6 year contract at big money. These are the types of deals we need to stay away from. Three years $18 million would be my top offer, if the Rangers wanna go 5 years $38 million, they can have him. If the Buds do something like that in the $7 mil + range, long term, it will be a mistake in the long run. Having said all that, it would be nice for the Leafs to land him and it would be huge news for Kessel and even Lupul.
Scottie Upshall, CBJ, age 27 - Very solid role player, can contribute with secondary scoring and provide an aggressive edge. Kind of like adding another Colby Armstrong type player. I could see him being someone Burke does target and at around $2.5 mil per year on a 2-3 year deal.
Tomas Fleischmann, COL, age 27 - Could a player who fits in with the long term plan of this team. Fleish was enjoying his best year after being dealt to the Avs before a season ending injury. He's a quality offensive player and a creative passer. He can also play C/W so he would give Wilson some options in the line up. I'd like to see the Leafs go after him, would probably have to commit 3-4 years and around $3-3.5 million range.
Eric Cole, CAR, age 32 - Used to be a 30 goal man but the power forwards' numbers have dipped to around 20 per year over the last 4 seasons. Still, a big body, pretty good all around player who could be an upgrade to our line up over players such as Crabb, Rosehill, etc. For around $2 mil per year on a 1 or 2 year deal I would sign this guy. If he's looking for more than that, we should move on.
Curtis Glencross, CGY, age 28 - Really been hyped up lately, and having a career year, Curtis Glencross is a gritty 3rd line winger (playing like a 2nd line winger, is it the real deal??) who does all the little things and scores those grinding goals. Some believe Glencross will earn upwards of $3.5-4 mil on the open market which is possible, and if so the Leafs should back away. But if he could be had for around $3 mil or less, he might be an interesting option. He'll probably look to cash in on his big season with a 3 or 4 year contract.
Tim Connolly, BUF, age 29 - Not sure he's the answer at center for us, but could be a good depth signing on a 1 or 2 year deal. This guy is not having a great contract year, with just 28 points so far, and for all his skill he never really reached his potential with his best year being last season at 65 points, and other than that he's posted around 55, 45 etc. Still he could come in and give us more options and depth down the middle and compliment Bozak and Grabo by taking some heat off of them. I'd give him a shot on a 1 year contract worth $2.5 million.
Pretty thin list of UFA forwards, I know, and in terms of building this team long term, really only Leino, Richards, Jokinen, or Laich, and possibly Fleischmann could be considered players of any real significance. But who knows, there could be a couple stop gap/bandaid UFA's in here who could make us a playoff team and kind of get a better handle on where we need to go moving forward.