Much attention has been devoted over the past half season to the UFA market this year. Names like Kovalchuk, Marleau, and Plekanec have all been tossed around as possible scoring forwards to aid what ails the Leafs - a lack of offensive production.
The Leafs do also have some RFAs to re-sign, but assuming they can keep Nikolai Kulemin in the fold I have a suggestion/solution for everyone's consideration.
He's only 30 years old, he's been a fairly consistent 20 goal scorer over the course of his NHL career, and he'd provide a decent 2nd line scoring option to play alongside Mikhail Grabovski and Kulemin if the Leafs went with that trio in support of the likes of Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, and Viktor Stalberg.
The main reason I contemplated this is the play of Afinogenov and Kulemin together on a line for the Russian Men's team at this year's LG Hockey Games, and the IIHF World Championships. Afinogenov registered 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points in 9 games at the World Championships, and he registered 61 points this past season with the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers took a one year flyer on him, paying him $800,000 to see if he could resurrect his career away from Buffalo, where he had played his entire NHL career.
Given the fact that his production shot back up playing alongside Nik Antropov and Ilya Kovalchuk, his 61 points should be taken with a grain of salt, but he would definitely increase the skill level up front for the Leafs, and give them a legit power play threat that would attract some attention away from the likes of Phil Kessel. I would be surprised if he cost the Leafs more than $3 million a year on a 2 or 3 year deal.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the idea below.