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Future of the Toronto Maple Leafs Part 2: Pending Restricted Free Agents (and some Prospects)

Editor's Note: Say *plan the parade one more time*... continues his four part series looking at the upcoming decisions facing Brian Burke. This installment focuses on the pending restricted free agents as well as the prospects that he deems most likely to make the big club next year.

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.ca  Cap and salary figures - nhlnumbers.com Capgeek.com  Statistics - NHL.com  Marlies stats -torontomarlies.com Prospect information forcaster.faceoff.com

Onto Part II - Pending Restricted Free agents.  In addition to our RFAs I have added in a few prospects that I feel have some shot at playing some games with the team this year.  There are a lot of prospects I didn't include on this list because due to the current circumstances I really don't see them making the team next season.  If you disagree, feel free to explain your position below.

It looks like we have 5 major RFAs after this season - Gustavsson, Mitchell, Hanson, Kulemin and White.  I'll also touch on the following prospects who might have a chance to make the team out of camp - Oreskovic, Kadri and Deveaux.  Before you start saying ‘we have guys with a lot more talent that you haven't listed.'  I didn't say these are guys with more talent but these are probably the guys that have the best shot to make the team because of what role they will be asked to play.

Let's start with the Goalies:

Jonas Gustavsson   Position:  G  Age 25  HT 6'3"  Wt 192  Catches L  Salary/Cap Hit: .81/.9

2008-2009

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL  GA   SV%   SO

SEL(FSD) 42                             1.96   .932    3

(I googled the hell out of this...if someone can find his win/loss record, I would appreciate it... sleza?)

2009-2010

League     GP  W     L   OT/SL  GA   SV%   SO

NHL          30    9     12   8         2.98  .901    1

My take:  Jonas was considered to be by many as the best goalie not in the NHL last year.  There were a lot of suitors with Dallas and Toronto being the eventual front-runners.  He eventually signed with the Leafs amidst speculation that he picked Toronto because he had the best shot at being the starting goalie with the team.  There was much hype, but as we have come to learn with our little exercise the SEL is not the NHL.  The hope was high in Leafland as now we had a great prospect for a goalie and a revamped defensive squad.  Oh how wrong we were.  After suffering through multiple medical issues, he eventually joined the team full-time.  We will never know how good Jonas could have been in his first NHL season had he had a competent team in front of him. 

Strengths of his game include his developing technical abilities, his size, his reflexes and his flexibility.  His weaknesses are poor rebound control, poor puck handling skills and occasionally losing his net.  Luckily, he has raw talent and arguably the best goalie coach in the League to strengthen his game.  Obviously, letting him walk is not an option.  The Leafs should qualify Jonas on a multi year deal.  How much we should be offering is up for much debate.  Chemmy speculated somewhere south of 2 million per, while others were figuring something over 3 million a year.

I think the number will be closer to 2 million than to 3.  There is only so much you can pay for potential.  He has a chance to gain experience down the stretch as Wilson has promised him the lion's share of the starts.  Is he good enough to be a good/elite goalie in the NHL?  Only time will tell. 

Ian White   Position:  D  Age 25  HT 5'10"  Wt 185  Shoots R Salary/Cap Hit:  .950/.850

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-      PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          71     10  16   26  +6      57          2          22:50

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          54      9    17  26  +3     37          2          23:44

My take:  First off, full disclosure - 2 training camps ago I had written off Ian White as being too small and unable to handle the big forwards down low.  That year I speculated that Wilson should play him as a forward.  White started the season as a healthy scratch for 11 games but finally got his shot -as a forward - in the 12th game.  That only lasted for a while because injuries soon forced him back to D - and he has never looked back.  He has really become one of the bright spots on this dismal team.  After adjusting his game and proving night in and night out that he is one of the hardest workers on the team, he has put together 2 pretty significant seasons. 

Most people felt that last year he had a really good season - he has already matched his point totals this year.  Yes, he didn't get to play all 82 games last year, but he did play some of them as a forward.  Much has already been discussed about Ian White through some great fan posts by clrkaitken.  The lower range he might sign for is somewhere in the 2.25 million area.  If he was a UFA, he would probably make north of 3 million.  Is he ripe for an offer sheet?  Many of us have speculated that if he gets tendered an offer that would see the Leafs get a 1st and a 3rd we should let him walk.  What do you think?  I think we should lock him up to a reasonable deal with a significant term.

Phil Oreskovic   Position:  D  Age 23  HT 6'4"  Wt 217  Shoots R Salary/Cap Hit:  .525/.525 - 2 way contract 50k in the AHL

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          10     1     1     2     -2      21         0          16:13

AHL          65     1     10   11   +17   103        ?          ?

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

AHL        41        0     2     2   -14     98          0         ?

My take:  He and the Marlies are having a pretty rough season this year.  He isn't an offensive powerhouse as you can see by his numbers.  He is a tough, physical defenseman who has seen very limited time with the big club.  If we move either White or Kaberle, Phil could see some time as the 6th/7th defenseman.  He probably can do Exelby's job, but with less suck.  The reason why I don't have Mikus or Blacker on this list is because these aren't the guys you want to give bottom 2 minutes to, and I don't see them displacing any of the top 4 guys we have.  Maybe 2011-12 will be Mikus' and Blacker's time.

Andre Deveaux   Position:  C/RW  Age 25  HT 6'3"  Wt 240  Shoots R Salary/Cap Hit:  .5/.5 - 2 way contract 85k in the AHL

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          21      0     1     1    -3      75          0         7:14

AHL          38      14   11   25  +4     75          9          ?

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

AHL          44     12   15   27   -9     111        4          ? 

My take:  Some of us thought Andre might start on the 4th line with the Leafs this year, but we already had too many 4th line players.  He seems to be a secondary scoring contributor on the Marlies but used as an ‘energy player' with the Leafs.  If Burke can parley some of his mid level talent into picks and then sign some high level talent, he may get closer to his ideal Top 6/Bottom 6 mentality.  If he does that, you could see some room made for Deveaux on the Leafs.  A Rosehill/Orr/Deveaux line could provide energy and a strong hitting presence as the Leafs 4th line.

Nazem Kadri   Position:  C Age 19  HT 6'0"  Wt 177-190?  Shoots L Salary/Cap Hit:  1.75/1.75(bonuses of .85 included) Entry level contract not activated

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

OHL          56    25   53    78   13      31          ?         ?

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

OHL          37     25  34    59   24       81          ?         ?

My take:  First a few things about the stats - does any league besides the NHL have extensive published stats?  Also, his team site lists Kadri at 177 lbs, but recent reports put him around 188-190, so unless I see him on a scale I really couldn't tell you how much he weighs.  Either way, it is better than his draft listed weight of 167.  Also, he has played less games this year than many other OHL players because of the WJH Tournament.  So he has the same amount of goals in almost 20 less games from last year... that's promising.  Let's face it though, the only way he makes the Leafs next year is if he has an even better camp than last years.  There is no need to have him on our team unless he is centering one of the top 2 lines. 

Many fans are divided on Nazem making the Leafs next year.  Due to the fact we probably won't be any good next year, a lot of fans are of the opinion that a year in the AHL would do him good.  Others believe if he outplays most of the forwards in camp he deserves to be on the team.  We won't know for sure, but what are your impressions?  I think a lot will depend on his maturity, both physical and emotional.  One stat to look at is his penalty minutes...they have ballooned since a year ago.  Is he going to be a Getzlaf-type player?  We can only hope...  Would the coaching staff consider moving Grabovski to the wing and have Kadri as the second line center?  Who knows, but it is up to us to speculate.

John F. Mitchell   Position:  C/LW Age 25  HT 6'1"  Wt 182  Shoots L Salary/Cap Hit:  .5/.487

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          76     12   17   29   -8      31           2       13:48

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          33      3     8    11  -8       31            1       15:55

My take:  Full disclosure - I have never understood why some people like this guy so much.  To be honest, there is very little in his game that wows me.  Even when given some prime ice time, he has not shown a great deal of finish.  The whole team lacks finish this year, but I have to confess that I am not a fan and would rather see him in the AHL so we can give other guys more of a chance.  He was injured for a stretch this year, but he has had little impact in or out of the lineup.  I don't know what his top end potential is, but right now I don't see him as any more than a third line guy with a little scoring upside.  Is it time to give up on him and send him down/trade him?  I think it may come down to direct competition with other players that will decide his fate on the roster.

Christian Hanson   Position:  RW Age 23  HT 6'3"  Wt 202  Shoots R Salary/Cap Hit:  .875/.925 currently only a 58K cap hit-AHL, two way contract 65K

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL           5       1    1      2   -1        2            0         16:19

NCAA(ND) 37    16  15    31   ?        28          ?          ?

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL            6      0    1      1   -2       4             0         10:52

AHL          27     10  17    27  +8      31           3          ?

My take:  Hanson is another of the college players that Burke signed last year.  He played for Notre Dame and he had some decent numbers.  He's a pretty big kid with good hands, but we haven't seen enough of him to know what his potential is.  Before he was concussed he was tearing up the AHL, leading all rookies in scoring.  With a +8 and scoring at a point per game, there was some hope he could be called up to showcase his skills in Toronto.  Can he develop into a top 6 player, or will he fill a role in the bottom 6?  I think he is still worth more to us than what we could get in any trade.  Depending on how many bodies get moved by the trade deadline, I wouldn't mind seeing him up with the big club to get a better feel for his game and what his potential might be.  I'd re-sign him and hope he is good enough to crack the lineup next season.    

Nikolai Kulemin   Position:  LW/RW Age 23  HT 6'1"  Wt 183  Shoots L Salary/Cap Hit:  .85/.85

2008-2009

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

AHL           5       0     0     0   -2        0            0         ?

NHL          73    15    16   31  -8       18           2        13:48

2009-2010

League     GP    G    A     P   +/-     PIMs     PPG     TOI

NHL          50     10   10   20  +1      8           0         15:14

My take:  Even though the stats don't show it, Kulemin has had a great season.  He is only on pace to match last years totals, but I believe he will have a strong finish to the year.  When he first broke into the league, we hoped he would be a scoring machine.  Although that hasn't happened, he has developed into a great 2-way player.  He does all the little things that make the coaches(and fans) happy - forechecks, hits, fights hard for the puck.  He's still only 23 but is developing nicely.  He may not turn out to be a top scorer, but there have been some flashes this year that indicate he may be more than a third line winger.  I think we really need to re-sign this kid and see how he develops next season.  What do you think he is worth?  Can he cut it as a top 6 forward in the NHL?  How much potential does he have?

Well, that concludes part 2 of my analysis, Pending Restricted Free agents(and some prospects.)  These players aren't fully established NHLers yet, and they are unsigned.  We still have their rights, which direction do we go with them?  Have they worn out their welcome or do we keep trying to develop them?  NHL or AHL?  It's up to you to decide.

If you haven't read Part 1 - Pending Unrestricted Free agents - click on it to check it out.  Also, please stay tuned to Part 3 - Players Under Contract - Due out next week.

Thanks for Reading!

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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