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Future of the Toronto Maple Leafs Part 1: Pending Unrestricted Free Agents

Editor's Note: Say has a good summary of the Toronto Maple Leafs' pending unrestricted free agents as well as his thoughts about their possible value. Share yours in the comments.

Hello my fellow long-suffering Leaf fans!  This season is done in all but name.  We aren't making the Playoffs, and are unlikely to even play our way out of a Draft Lottery position.  I have been watching the Leafs since 1989 and this is by far the worst season(results wise) that I have ever seen. 

This team is bad, but I think it is actually better than the results show.  I am not going to make excuses or offer reasons for the lousy play.  This season has been Murphy's Law for the team - anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. 

This is one of a series of four posts in an attempt to gain some consensus in the community on how to build next year's team.

The first of the four posts will be 'Pending Free Agents'  in which we will discuss what to do with our UFA's this year.  The debate will center on their trade value, how much we would re-sign them for, or if we let them walk.

The second will be 'Pending Restricted Free Agents.'  The discussion will be based around if we should trade them, sign them(money and term), the possibility of other teams tendering offer sheets, and what role do we see them having on next year's team(Depth placement, another season in the Marlies ETC.)  Also, this is probably the best place to discuss our prospects and if any of them have a chance to make the Leafs out of training camp.

The third post is titled 'Players Under Contract.'  Here we will speculate on what should be done with our signed players - Trade them, buy them out/waive them or keep them.

In the fourth post 'Free Agent Frenzy' we will touch upon what might still be available and who could potentially be a good fit for our team. 

Please be aware that these posts are interconnected.  Although we are focusing on one thing at a time, be mindful that there is a big picture to consider.  This is a discussion on how we would like to see our team built.  Speculation is welcome - crazy deals and flights of fancy are discouraged.  Let's try to stay within the realms of reasonable possibility.

Credit where credit is due:   Basic information(Height, Weight etc) and other league info - TSN.  Cap and salary figures - nhlnumbers.com  Statistics - NHL.com  Marlies stats -torontomarlies.com

Before I get to our pending Free agent list let me first start by saying I did not include every player who's contract is ending at the end of the season.  You won't see any ECHL players and even many Marlie players won't be on this list.  If you feel I missed someone, go ahead and add him to the discussion.

Jonas Frogren  Position: D Age 29  HT 6'2"  Wt 194  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit:  .9/1.065(Not Counted-Marlies)

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI    

NHL           41    1    6      7    0       28         0           13:26

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

AHL           42     3    5     8     0        33            0       ?

My take:  Frogren was a victim of a changing of the guard.  He did get a pretty good look last year, but his fortunes changed when Schenn pretty much took his ice time away.  His signing by Fletcher ended up costing us a 4th round pick - look in the Dictionary under 'Farce.'  He wasn't that bad, but then again wasn't that good either.  He didn't stand out - which normally you would think is a good thing for his position - but he always seemed one step behind.  He was a great D-man in the SEL, but it hasn't really translated to the NHL yet.  With all the back-end signings in the off season, Frogren's fate as a Leaf was pretty much sealed.  Unless he gets a shot with another NHL club, he will go back to Sweden.  If we can get a 6th or 7th round pick for him - even if it is conditional that he signs - I am fine with that.  He will probably walk away for nothing.  He may be offered a 2 way contract to stay with the Leafs organization, but I doubt he will accept.

Mike Van Ryn  Position:  D  Age 30  HT 6'1"  Wt 198  Shoots R  Salary/Cap Hit:  3.350/2.9(Not counted LTIR)

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           27    3    8     11   +2     14         2           19:37

2009-2010

Will not play - Injury

My take:  Ahh Mike.  At first you were an afterthought to most of us.  You were what we had to take back in the McCabe dump.  After looking a little deeper, we thought we actually got a pretty good player.  Unfortunately, the injury bug didn't bite you, you were swarmed by the little bastards.  If you want to see a list of Van Ryn's injuries, go to TSN because I don't have time to list them here.  If he had been healthy we probably would have only needed to sign one D-man this offseason.  Also, he could have taken some of the offensive load off of Kaberle and White - than again White probably would have remained as a forward.  So many possibilities.  He will not play another game with the Leafs.  Hopefully for him he can put together some sort of hockey career down the road - or at the very least have a good quality of life after hockey.  Mike Van Ryn, we hardly knew ye.

Garnet Exelby   Position:  D  Age 28  HT 6'1"  Wt 215  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit: 1.725/1.392

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL(ATL)  59   0     7     7    -2      120       0           16:43

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL(TML) 32    0    3     3    -5       40         0           11:12

My take:  Known League-wide as a big-hitter, he doesn't do much else.  He has some grit but he is best suited as a depth D-man.  Basically a throw in for Kubina's salary dump, he has been in and out of the lineup.  When he is at his best, the only time you notice him is when he levels an opponent skating down the side boards.  I don't see much of a future in Toronto for him as we still have a glut of guys on the back end under contract... as well as guys like Gunnarson pushing for ice time.  Blacker and Mikus might knock on that door over the next few seasons as well.  We may be able to get a 5th or a 6th round pick for him by the deadline, but I wouldn't be surprised if he just walks after this year - and promptly re-signs with Atlanta.

Joey MacDonald   Position:  G  Age 29  HT 6'0"  Wt 197  Catches L  Salary/Cap Hit: .65/.65(Mostly uncounted-AHL)

2008-2009

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL  GA   SV%   SO

NHL(NYI) 49   14    4     0         3.37  .901   1

2009-2010

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL   GA   SV%   SO

NHL(TML) 6     1     4     0           3.2   .892    0

AHL(TML) 19   6     12   1           3.37 .879    1

My take:  What is Joey Mac?  Is he a starter that's not good enough or a career backup?  His AHL numbers are even less impressive than his NHL numbers.  He had a good year(if you can have a good year) with the Islanders last year.  He had respectable numbers on a team that wasn't very good.  He was brought in just in case Jonas didn't turn out the way we thought or there was an injury to either him or Toskala.  He is backing up Reimer in the AHL right now and we can be pretty sure that's not where he wants to be.  I don't see him re-signing with the Leafs to play in the minors.  Personally, I don't think there is a market for AHL back up goalies as far as trades go.  Pretty sure he will sign with another team or go overseas next year to be a starter.  He is walking away for nothing - which is fine as we didn't have a lot invested in him.  Later, Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo.

Vesa Toskala  Position:  G  Age 32  HT 5'10"(yeah right)  Wt 195  Catches L  Salary/Cap Hit: 4.0/4.0

2008-2009

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL  GA   SV%   SO

NHL           53  22    17  11        3.26 .891   1

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL  GA   SV%   SO

NHL           24  7      11   2         3.64  .874   1

My take:  We had high expectations upon Toskala's arrival, but he didn't (or couldn't) live up to them.  He has been injury plagued since his arrival, but most Leaf fans have been more worried about his attitude.  His comments seem to indicate that he thinks he is doing a good job, even when it is obvious he is not.  I doubt Burke will offer him a contract to stay with the Leafs, which is fine by me.  Unfortunately, I don't think he has any trade value.  Goalies are notoriously difficult to move during the year as they are a need that is addressed immediately and not by trade deadline.  I'm sure there has been some, but I can't remember the last time a UFA goalie was moved this late in the season.  Time for a fresh start.  Picks back by the trade deadline?  I don't know what his value might be to other teams, but I know what value he is to ours.

Rickard Wallin  Position:  C  Age 29  HT 6'2"  Wt 185  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit:  .8/.8

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

SEL(FTD) 55    18  27   45  +7    56           ?           ?

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          35     0     3     3    -7      18         0           11:57

My take:  Rumoured to have been signed as a favour to Gustavsson(possibly contingent on a deal) Rickard was billed as a shut down center to pivot our third line.  Again, it seems, the transition from the SEL to the NHL is a difficult one to make.  He has shown zero offensive flash and that would have been acceptable had he excelled in his shut down role.  You very rarely see him throw a hit and he is constantly being beaten in footraces and puck battles.  It seems as though he is lost out there - although some of that may be indicative of the Leafs poor play as a whole.  Unfortunately he has not been able to step up and prove he is a legitimate NHLer even on one of the worst teams in the League.  He has had his share of scratched games and now sees mostly 4th line minutes.  The experiment has failed in Toronto and the roster spot is too important to waste on a friend of the free agent goaltender.  I see little to no trade value as we approach the trade deadline - perhaps a conditional 6th round pick a la Brad May, I'd even take a 7th rounder, straight up.

Jamal Mayers Position:  R  Age 35  HT 6'1"  Wt 214  Shoots R  Salary/Cap Hit: 1.4/1.333

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           71    7     9    16   -7     82          0          10:32

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           41    1     4     5    -6      76         0           8:45

My take:  Another one of those Fletcher deals - a third round pick 2 years ago for Mayers.  As soon as this was announced I am pretty sure everyone in Leaf Nation was scratching their heads.  A third rounder for a fourth line role player?  Pretty sure we could have gotten someone to fill that role through free agency.  Mayers is a hard nosed player who can play good minutes but takes bad penalties at bad times.  He is an average middle weight when it comes to fighting, and he does play the game with passion.  It has been said he provides leadership and is good in the room.  These qualities are not enough when combined with his on ice contributions to justify offering him a contract in the offseason.  In my humble opinion, we need to get younger and at 35 Jamal doesn't bring that to the table.  I would be hard pressed to argue why Rosehill shouldn't get those minutes over Mayers.  Some team may be interested in his work ethic, grit and experience down the stretch.  We might be able to get a 5th, at best, for him.  Gettiing anything back would be a bonus - noticing a trend?

Wayne Primeau   Position:  C/LW  Age 33  HT 6'4"  Wt 225  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit:  1.4/1.4

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL(CGY) 24   0     4    4     -3      14         0           10:22

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL(TML) 37    2    3     5     0      24           0          12:57

My take:  Anton Stralman was going to be moved.  We had a glut of D-men and he wasn't considered bottom pairing material.  Add to this he had ample opportunity to show what he could do but failed to stand out.  He was no longer waiver exempt and had to go.  We traded a late round draft pick and Stralman for a higher round pick and Primeau.  I thought Primeau was just an afterthought and I wondered if he would see any time playing with the Leafs at all.  I have been pleasantly surprised with what he has brought as far as compete level.  He uses his size quite well and he is a better skater than was advertised.  He is injured right now and I have not seen a timeline for his return, so that could impact on what we do with him as far as movement/re-signing.  He is also a pretty good faceoff guy and seemed to be willing to go to the front of the net where other Leafs fear to tread.  This is the first guy on the list so far that I would consider offering a short term contract to.  1 or 2 years at about a million per would be acceptable in my mind for someone of his work ethic.  On the other hand, it wouldn't bother me terribly to see him go.  If he can get back to playing before the trade deadline, I think he could be worth a 5th rounder to a team who needs a third or fourth line center.  Either way, unlike most of the players already covered he is not useless.

Lee Stempniak   Position:  RW/LW  Age 26  HT 6'0"  Wt 195  Shoots R  Salary/Cap Hit: 3.5/2.5

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL(STL)  14   3    10   13  -3      2           0           19:35

NHL(TML)  61  11  20   31  -9      31         3           15:52

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          54     14  13    27  -7      18          4          18:00

My take:  Stempniak was the last hurrah for Fletcher's run as interim GM of the Leafs.  He traded Carlo and Alex Steen to St. Louis for the Blue and White Ninja.  He seems like a guy who gets himself into the right position to score, but has a hard time capitalizing on most of those opportunities.  He has a pretty good one-timer but he tends to miss the net.  The term "high and wide" comes to mind when referring to a Stempniak shot.  Still, he has put up decent numbers over the past few seasons but has yet to reach his high water mark from 2006-2007 of 27 goals and 52 points.  People tend to forget that he is only 26 and is probably just entering the prime of his career.  This is one of those do we-don't we when it comes to trading or re-signing him.  The potential could still be there for regular 25+ goal seasons for years to come, the question is - does he fit into the long term plans of the Leafs?  The other question is:  how may players like him do we need and do we have a better option between free agency and our up and coming prospects?  Personally, I am leaning slightly towards re-signing Lee to a reasonably termed and priced contract(how much is up to the readers to decide.)  I don't think we have seen the best of Stempniak.  If he is not in our long-term future, I would think he should be worth a high 3rd/low 2nd pick as a rental player.

Matt Stajan      Position:  C  Age 26  HT 6'1"  Wt 200  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit:  1.75/1.75

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          76     15   40   55   -4      54        5           16:55

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           53    15   23   38  -1      30          7          18:46

My take:  Statistically, Stajan is on pace for more goals and less assists than last year.  He is also on pace for only a marginal drop in overall points.  Sure, he has seen an increase of almost 2 full minutes in ice time, but with the team performing the way they are, his stats are pretty good.  Pamplemousse will argue that Stajan is a #1 center.  I won't argue with him on that point, but the real question is:  Do we want him to be OUR #1 center?  I believe his best fit would be as a third line center on some of the better teams and a second line center on average teams.  Does this mean we should trade him?  Well, many feel that he has worn out his welcome.  I do have a nagging feeling that if we trade him he will automatically blossom into a 70 point guy.  Like Stempniak, he is only 26 and is characterized as a good team guy.  I don't think he deserves the bashing that we regularly dish out on him.  Let's face it, he played behind a pretty good center for most of his career.  For trade value I think he would net a high 2nd round pick, but should we trade him?  Is there another center of comparable age available that will give you the production he provides?  There may be a few, but would you be able to sign them for the term and money that Stajan might be willing to take?  If it is better for the team in the long run to trade Matt Stajan, than by all means you need to make that deal.  I'm not sure that deal is to be had.  Personally I think you could get him for a hometown discount and a decent term.  Yes, he has a raise coming to him but how much?  Some argue around the 3.5 million mark.  To be honest, I think that is pretty close to market value for someone of his age and ability.  We may be able to get him cheaper than that.  Also, even if we sign him he will still have marketability as he enters the prime of his career.  He may be worth more in 2 years time at his new contract than he is worth right now.

Alexei Ponikarovsky   Position:  LW  Age 29  HT 6'4"  Wt 220  Shoots L  Salary/Cap Hit:  2.5/2.105

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           82    23   38    61  +6    38          5          15:47

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          54     18   17   35   +3    40          4          16:37

My take:  He is on pace for 27 goals and 52 points - an increase in goals but a drop in over all production.  Also his penalty minutes are already over what he accumulated last year.  He is only seeing an average of about 50 seconds more ice time over last year.  Poni is somewhat of an enigma.  He has had a pretty steady progression over the years, he's big but doesn't always use his size to his full advantage, he always has one of the best +/- on the team which can indicate defensive responsibility, but for some reason I feel there is more for him to give.  Perhaps my expectations are too high, but like Stajan I feel if we trade him he will have 5 straight years of 30 goals.  He's 29 and probably at the apex of his prime.  If he had one or 2 more years under a reasonable contract I think we might have been able to swing a first rounder for him.  Saying that, as a rental he should score us a good 2nd round pick.  The same question I asked about Stajan still applies:  Is it better for us to trade him now or re-sign him?  Do we have anyone who can step in and provide what he provides?  Do we have someone who can develop beyond what Poni has to offer?  These are the tough questions that Burke et al need to ask.  How about you?  What is your take on the situation?

Well, that ends the list of notable(and not so notable) pending Free agents.  Please make your case below on what we should do with each player.  If you are trading a player, please outline what you think we can get and why the trade is worth it.  If you are re-signing a player, provide what you believe is a fair price/term for said player - be prepared to defend your points with facts and reasonable conjecture.

I am trying to take the pulse of the Leaf fans on the direction this team is going. Part 2 will focus on what we should do with our RFA's and possibly which prospects have a chance of making the team out of training camp next year.

Thanks for reading this tremendously long post.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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