2013 Maple Leafs Free Agency and a Possible Lack of Focus on the Importance of Cap Space

Recently stumbled across this video summarizing the past season and for once my ADD didn’t kick in, an amazing collage and my hats off to the individual that spent countless hours putting it together, worthy of a LeafsTV spot. The video actually managed to capture and highlight a couple of points that should remind us of just how far this team has actually come.

Firstly, one cannot deny the affect Brian Burke’s tenure had on the overall makeup of the team, he may have not been able to build the championship winning team as quickly as everyone had envisioned but his ability to stock the cupboards deserves plenty of credit. Those prospects have not only begun to yield tangible NHL results, from Kadri to Colbourne to Fraser but have also been utilized by Nonis to garner additional returns in the likes of the Benier acquisition. Burke’s staunch refusal to give in to signing free agents to long term deals left the Maple Leafs in an enviable salary cap position and not yielding to outside pressure to signing players in panic moves, especially when goaltending appeared to be an ‘issue’, left us with one of the healthiest collection of player contracts in the league. The Leafs are definitely in a better spot due to his leadership.

One cannot deny that Mark Fraser is a heck of a lot better than anyone had expected and his refusal to accept the initial two way qualifying offer you have to applaud. You hear media and social circles cite that he is at best a 5-6 defenseman and is easily replaceable with comparisons to Clitsome and Scudari but in all honesty they really aren’t upgrades over Fraser and here is why. I am not arguing that he is anything more than an as stated 5-6 defenseman but what I am arguing that he is one of the better options. He lead the team defense in plus minus (and was one of the highest in the league if I remember correctly), played reserved albeit smart minutes, allowed Cody Franson to focus more on his stronger offensive production while appearing to rub off on Franson’s overall grit level and in the end fits into the very mold of truculent. After Clitsome was signed to a 3 year contract that averaged $2million per season I would hope that we can fit Fraser in around the same, he is after all still only 26 years old and is coming into his most productive seasons, why not offer him some security and term playing in Toronto, he really has earned it.

The next point is bound to get me roasted alive on a very large fire in the middle of Maple Leaf Square by a mob of angry pitchfork wielding fans but has to be said as it leads into a larger argument. I hope they resign Tyler Bozak…

..there, I said it; it wasn’t an easy decision to make but in all honesty there really aren’t a lot of options available out there unless you dream up a crazy trade scenario or two of which there are plenty out there. This is not to say that the Maple Leafs should over extend themselves to sign him but a reasonable 3 or 4 year contract at decent term is worth it…and here is why.

Bozak is still coming into his best production years as a 27 year old. His statistics have expressed a marked improvement every year whereby he would have reach the mid-50 point mark had the year run its entirety. He possesses both decent speed and size compared to some other available free agent centers available and believe it or not is a serviceable face off performer, just look up the stats. He has developed into a dangerous shorthanded goal scorer at the NHL level which also means he see’s PK time. With the Grabovski buyout there is now not only available cap space to resign Bozak to a more reasonable and I stress the importance of the word reasonable contract while adding some valuable cap space with it dropping this year. It also allows them to place him on the second line where he would appear to be better suited.

Fans have been calling on management to improve the defensive core and get better goaltending but appear to forget about the logistics of just such requests. You have to consider where the money is going to come from to pay for those players in a cap centric world, it’s a balancing act. You also have to taken into account of just where these ‘better’ players are going to come from. The cap space is pivotal to the Leafs bringing on just such players, whether it be via trade or free agency.

I agree they just should have bought out Liles and not resigned Orr if they were attempting to just save cap space but this hints at something more. Obviously there are bigger moves to be made that we are just not yet aware of. Perhaps one could speculate that another team is going to trade a less than stellar contract of a relatively high value center to the Leafs for cap relief now that we have the space e.g. Colorado and Paul Stastny or perhaps another comparable player. Anyways enough ranting but as always food for thought!

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