The Toronto Maple Leafs head into the off-season with the understanding their roster could have a different look this fall.
Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun believes there are four key areas GM Brian Burke must address: find “a big-league producer” at center, a “true shutdown defenseman” who sets the tone for the team at both ends of the ice, a “veteran netminder” as insurance while young goalie James Reimer regains his confidence and veteran leadership.
Meanwhile, Longley’s colleague, Terry Koshan, looked at which Leafs will likely stay and which could be gone by training camp. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson and left winger Jay Rosehill, both unrestricted free agents, aren’t expected to return. Leafs fans would love to see defenseman Mike Komisarek gone, but his big contract and no-movement clause ties him to the team, unless he’s bought out of the remaining two years of his deal.
Koshan also suggested left wingers Nikolai Kulemin (a restricted free agent) and Clarke MacArthur and center Tyler Bozak shouldn’t assume they’re safe from being moved.
Gritty checking winger Joey Crabb is coming off his best season, but it’s unknown if he’ll be re-signed. The pending UFA had a one-year, two-way deal this season with the Leafs worth $750,000 at the NHL level and should be an affordable re-signing.
Defenseman Luke Schenn could be dealt if Burke revisits an attempt to acquire Philadelphia Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk, while blueliner Carl Gunnarsson’s $1.3-million cap hit make him an attractive trade target for an opposing club.
Acquiring van Riemsdyk, whose development has been slowed by injury, wouldn’t address any of the Leafs’ pressing needs. If Schenn – arguably the Leafs best trade bait – is shopped, it should be for a starting goaltender or a first-line center, though it would take more than him alone to land the latter.
The Leafs do hold another chip with their first round pick (fifth overall), but Burke dismissed suggestions of shopping it.
With more than $56.7 million tied up in 17 players, Burke won’t have much cap space to work with to re-sign his key free agents, let alone address those pressing needs, unless he swaps or dumps some salary in trades or frees up additional space via buyouts and demotions.
SUMMER OF SUBBAN AND PRICE
Whoever becomes the new GM of the Montreal Canadiens will have to negotiate new contracts for goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban, both of whom are restricted free agents this summer.
On Monday, Price told the media his preference is to sign a long-term contract. That should come as a relief for Habs fans, as well as put to rest Internet speculation Price prefers a two-three year deal, making him eligible sooner for UFA status.
Subban, a rising talent on the Canadiens defense, also appears certain to receive a long-term deal. There is, however, some concern over his attitude, which reportedly has rubbed some teammates the wrong way, including veteran defenseman Andrei Markov, who declined to comment about his teammate during a recent interview.
That will give rise to off-season trade rumors involving Subban, but the Canadiens are unlikely to shop him. Subban, 22, is a rising star who is immensely popular with Montreal supporters, especially their young fans. He and Price are considered the foundation upon which the Habs will rebuild.
Subban’s problem appears to be a lack of maturity, which should sort itself out as he gains experience.
Former Habs blueliner Hal Gill served as a mentor for Subban, so the next GM might consider finding another experienced defenseman to play a similar role.
THE SABRES: WHO GOES AND WHO STAYS?
The Buffalo Sabres, despite having the fourth-highest payroll, saw their playoff hopes doomed by a mid-season swoon.
Changes are expected for the Sabres, but WGRZ Sports Director Ed Kilgore doubted management will “blow up” the roster.
Kilgore doesn’t believe they’ll trade goaltender Ryan Miller, the subject of rumors during the Sabres’ mid-season struggles. Replacing a goalie of his caliber is almost impossible.
Other Sabres who Kilgore considered “untouchable” included forwards Tyler Ennis, Marc Foligno, Jason Pominville and defenseman Tyler Myers.
He suggested center Derek Roy and left winger Drew Stafford, who were also the subject of trade speculation, could be trade bait, as well as right winger Thomas Vanek.
Despite Vanek’s expensive contract, Kilgore believes he would “garner interest” if the Sabres shopped him.
In terms of salary, Roy – with only one season remaining on his $4-million-per-year-contract – would be the easiest to move. Stafford has three years and $12 million left on his deal, while Vanek has two years and more than $14 million on his.
Vanek and Stafford, however, still have upside as scorers, while Roy hasn’t been the same since suffering a left quadriceps tendon injury last season.
Pending UFA forwards Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht aren’t expected to be re-signed. Hecht, 35, has suffered three concussions in one year and while he doesn’t want to give up on his NHL career, could be hard-pressed to find another contract.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.