The Maple Leafs cannot realistically win every game but the disaster that was their most recent game in Vancouver this past Saturday against the Canucks was further shadowed by the indefinite loss of David Bolland to an errant skate cut to an ankle tendon by new Toronto public enemy Zach Kassian. Although the surgery was thankfully successful, local media speculate that he may not return until March which puts some significant pressure on the organization to shuffle the deck or to look at making a trade to shore up the position.
Although the Leafs will attempt using JVR at center for the interim, local media are already reporting that the club has been making phone calls around the league to inquire about the availability of players. Assumptions are that they will be looking at centers who will be Unrestricted Free Agents in 2014 but one must assume that cap space will have to go in the opposite direction in order to get a deal like this done, potentially John-Michel Liles $3.75 million contract, although at multi-year may be difficult to move. That leaves little in terms of available players but figures that do appear to match JML’s cap hit would be players like Calgary Flames Matt Stajan, Anaheim Ducks Saku Koivu or perhaps Andrew Cogliano. All very possible stopgap moves to shore up the bottom six, although there are a couple other avenues that have not necessarily been mentioned by traditional media as alternate options however.
One possibility could be to sign a current free agent that is playing in the AHL or Europe to a two way one year deal that could be assigned to the Marlies once Bolland returns. David Steckel is familiar to the leafs organization and had a 54.5% faceoff percentage last year splitting time between the Maple Leafs and the Anaheim Ducks. The 31 year old is a bigger body at 6’5” 217lbs and has experience with the team. The same could be said about Matt Lombardi or Tim Brent who as a defensive specialist and hometown kid could be a great stopgap signing if he has on out clause included in his current KHL deal.
Another would be to potentially consider a larger scale trade for an over performing AHL prospect like the New York Rangers J.T. Miller. Perhaps the Calgary Flames would consider trading Roman Horak for a draft pick or for a package with a younger prospect center and a draft pick; the San Jose Sharks have Freddie Hamilton and the Edmonton Oilers Anton Lander. Smaller scale trades could perhaps be considered for former Boston Bruin and current Norfolk Admiral Maxim Sauve or perhaps the Vancouver Canucks would consider trading current Utica Comet Zac Dalpe; perhaps the New York Rangers would part ways with NHL veteran Darroll Powe although his salary may make that move difficult.
Finally, perhaps the Maple Leafs would consider burying a bottom 6 players contract to free up enough cap space to trade for Scott Gomez who is currently playing for the Florida Panthers for a one year, $900,000 or perhaps Brad Boyes who is on a one year $1 million dollar contact although I would personally assume trading for a significant prospect who is further along in their development may be the best option given the contract would give the club flexibility to move the player down as other players come off the LTIR. As always food for thought.