At the end of the 2012-13 season the Toronto Marlies had enough personnel available to technically ice another AHL team and it became fairly obvious that they would most likely undergo a fairly significant shake up over the summer as they dealt with buyout candidates, Restricted Free Agents (RFA) and finally Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA). The team unfortuantely appeared to stall over the second half of the season as their lack of having a bonefide high end scoring threat on the roster began to take its toll. Although the additional playing time was a great experience for a number of the younger players such as Reilly, Broll, Biggs and Leivo which allowed them to getting their feet wet at the professional level, the team still suffered from a scoring drop off. It is noted on HockeyFuture’s that the Maple Leafs prospect system is actually in need of a pure sniper (or two) so expect management to do something about that in the upcoming draft (personally I think they should target Valentin Zykov but that is material for another article :P) or perhaps sign AHL level deals with available vetern scorers to bolster, albeit temporarily, the Marlies ranks (such as Alexandre Giroux or perhaps Keith Aucoin again).
Summerized from the Marlies own website below are the players from the season and what I believe to be their status to be this coming summer (don’t hesitate to let me know if any of these are incorrect).
Given the circumstances and his own acceptance of a move to the AHL to continue playing, one can safely assume that Mike Komisarek will indeed be bought out this summer to free up cap space for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I should mention that during his tenure here in Toronto he has been nothing but a consumet professional with respect to the entire situation and placed the team well ahead of himself, an example every pro player I would hope would follow and definitely wish him all the very best this summer. The contract really wasn’t his fault and hopefully he can regain some confidence and continue to play at a high level for a club looking for experienced depth. The same could be said for Tim Connelly who was unfortunately plagued by injuries and unable to assist the Marlies at any great capacity during their playoff run, his scoring ability and elite level passing was something they desperately missed. His departure will however free up significant cap room for the Maple Leafs and another roster spot for the the Marlies.
Rumour has it that Jussi Rynnas is considering a return to Europe which would be unfortunate after he showed glimpses of elite level goaltending but was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. That being said this would definitely open the door for Drew MacIntyre to continue on as a member of the Marlies for the upcoming season which given his performance last season would be a savvy move by management (happy to say they resigned him since this was written) while they continue to focus on getting Owuya and Sparks more time in game situations while diving into the draft for another prospect. With that, expect to see some young undrafted goalies attend not only the the rookie but the main Marlie training camp as well as the pipeline with respect to goaltending is a little on the thin side in terms of prospects.
Unfortunately for the Marlies it was also recently announced that Greg Scott who had spent the last four years with the club had signed a one year agreement with SEL league team Brynas of Sweden for $2 million; you really can’t fault him given that kind of offer for accepting. His strong two way play and ability to be a clutch goal scorer in the playoff’s will definitely be missed but this was an incredibly savvy pickup by Brynas who are getting a quality player (and person) who will continue to develop into a strong two way forward for years to come and wish him nothing but the best.
The Marlies defensive core was overall pretty solid and with the additions of Marshall, MacWilliams and Reilly was really bolstered with talent but did create a logjam at the personnel level. With the number of possible returning defensemen it seems quite possible that Mike Mottau will be allowed to seek alternatives this summer as will RFA Simon Gysbers who in my opinion has become a really solid two way defender that other AHL and NHL teams should take a hard look at this summer. One has to remember that the Marlies are still a development team and chances are management will want to allocate more ice time to rookies like Percy and Reilly unless they can send them back to junior (which they may be forced to do). Another question mark on defense is the status of Paul Ranger who clearly demonstrated that his play has returned to an NHL level and I am sure both the Maple Leafs and Marlies are curious as to what he will decide to do during the off season. The organization does have some luck on their side as it appears Ranger’s return was partly due to geography, so if he doesn’t want to ride the bus anymore chances are the parent club will give him an extended look at camp this year which could affect whether Liles, at the six spot, is the odd man out and possibly traded or bought out with one of the available compliance buy outs negotiated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
With the number of available players left on the list above, even if we completely disregard all the UFA’s there are still a number of players that remain. Assumptions can be made that some if not all of the youngest players would be sent back to junior for an overage year if at all possible (assume Sparks, Leivo, Percy, Biggs and Broll) and would leave us in no particular order a squad that resembled something like the below (not taking into account free agency, possible draft day trade scenarios, promotions or even draftee’s joining the club):
Abbott — Colbourne — Hamilton
Ashton — Zigomanis — McKegg
Lasch —– Carrick —– D’Amigo
Ryan —– Crescenzi — Ross
Holzer —– Marshall
Blacker — MacWilliams
Yeo ——– Reilly
spares: Acton, Devane and Syvret
Taking a look at the breakdown the one thing that jumps out at you is they are a pretty young squad. With the experience of last year and the emergence of players like Abbott and McKegg rounding into their respective roles there is still plenty of room for the team to improve with the personnel they currently have. Ryan Lasch came over in a late season trade and although on the smaller side has considerable international playing experience and if they can pair him with a larger line mates (e.g. Crescenzi and D’Amigo) may find more room to display the deft hands we already know he has.
One should also take into consideration that there are some very interesting prospects in the wings like Petter Granberg, 6’6″ monster Eric Knodel and even former draft pick Jerome Flaake whom perhaps could be viewed as a late bloomer whom they really should consider bringing over to the rookie tournaments for another look given his numbers in the DEL this past season.
Finally, it still amazes me that more AHL teams don’t invite ECHL players to their camps. I understand that teams have a preference for inviting young dark horse players that weren’t drafted but in all honesty the larger, older and somewhat more mature ECHL player might make more of an immediate impact. Take for example 26 year old Ryan Zapolski who was named the ECHL Rookie of the Year after posting some pretty solid numbers with a 1.62 GAA and .944 SV% or maybe perhaps 22 year old David Pacan, the 6’3″ 210 pound rookie forward and former Chicago draft pick who put up 52 points in 57 games. Even former camp invite Adam Hughesman who played for the Las Vegas Wranglers would be worthy of another look…in my opinion of course. Players do continue to mature at different rates so perhaps leave that 5th round selection in junior for one more year and give the shot to a guy that has been working his way up the hard way. Anyways as always thanks for reading and food for thought.