Go to Cap Friendly, pick the Free Agents page, filter for UFAs and centres and then sort by TOI. That’s the list. It’s 46 names with the addition of unqualified RFAs yesterday. Let’s look at them all.
Wait, what? Why TOI? Because points is all about their own and their on-ice shooting percentage and cap hit is not the point, and they’re all too old, so who cares about age, and TOI is how the coach used him. This gives us a clue as to whether we’re looking at a possible number three guy or a depth call-up.
Obviously, the effect of adding a top-line centre is very different from padding out the depth. And if you add someone on the top end, that makes a 3C a moot point, but it still means the depth issue needs to be addressed. The Leafs likely need two centres this summer of some sort at the very least.
The 46 Free Agent Centres
Note: there’s a few late additions to this list now from teams who were slow to release their information on who they hadn’t qualified. Obviously, Riley Sheahan is likely worth consideration.
- John Tavares: sign him if you can, Kyle Dubas. Sure it might cause some friction with Auston Matthews over his usage and his contract, and all I can say to that is make the cup rings pearl-encrusted.
- Paul Stastny: you know, he looked good with Winnipeg. He really did. Re-sort that list by points, and you’ll see he’s still second. If the Leafs had a really hot young prospect rolling up the development path at C, I’d say yes. I’m not saying no, to be clear. But he is 32, so signing him means you think the internal development will catch up as he fades out. Naz turns 28 this year, you know.
- Joe Thornton: I think the Sharks will take him with whatever scraps of cap they have left, but sure, for the fun of it, for one year, I’d love it. Doesn’t solve even the medium-term problems though.
- Brandon Pirri: Small Sample Siren! He’s a PP specialist, and not really a C. Skip.
- Valtteri Filppula: We can’t sign him because I can never remember which letters in his name are doubled. Has he changed his mind on Big Bad Mike since the last time? He’s Bozak (pass before shoot every time) only better defensively but older and slower. Pass.
- Tomas Plekanec: Pleky! The Habs passed on Filip Zadina, what are you thinking still pining for them? You won’t get to finish your career being dad to a hot prospect, so come back to Toronto and win instead.
- Tyler Bozak: Two years? Yeah, thought so, enjoy Vancouver/Denver, Tyler.
- Derek Ryan: Yes. Hand him the pen.
- Riley Nash: The Nash - Nash - Krejci line was a real problem for Toronto while Boston’s super line was behaving as expected. But I think the lesser Nash won’t quite be worth his contract. He wouldn’t make the team worse, though. This one likely needs deeper analysis to decide. How much C did he even play?
- Nick Shore: The only good RFA added to the list, Shore played for years in a depth role in LA, and then went to both Ottawa and Calgary and didn’t add much. He’s not an exciting choice, buy he’s at least young among unexciting options at 25.
- Brian Gibbons: Who? Wow, he played 59 games, his most in the NHL ever, and he had 26 points. Huh. Sounds like Ben Smith on a sh% binge. Pass.
- Antoine Vermette: Nope.
- Matthew Peca: AHLer.
- Daniel Winnik: Does he play hockey? He plays wing these days, and nope.
- Chris Wagner: Sigh. Who? Good god, he’s the Islanders’ 3C. Pass.
- Kyle Brodziak: Yes. As a depth C, this guy is the business. Would St. Louis not just re-sign him, though? He’s 34, which means you get one or two years, but I’d go for it.
- Tim Schaller: He plays a Boston Grit style to perfection. They should re-up him.
- Jay Beagle: Won’t he just sign with the Islanders so Trotz can overplay him?
- Eric Fehr: If the Sharks don’t re-up him, they’ve lost it. He was hot like burning late in the year with his two zippy Euro wingers. And yes, it is odd he didn’t do that in Toronto, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Maybe the big ice time in the AHL all year helped him.
- Mark Letestu: He has a shot on the PP that kills you. And nothing else. Pass.
- Connor Brickley: You know...maybe. He’s a cheap, decently young, borderline AHLer/fourth liner, and if Florida has better options, I’d take him. He’d clear waivers and be a genuine call-up option.
- Torrey Mitchell: Nope. No one from LA can play at Leafs speed (I think this about Nick Shore too).
- Matt Cullen: I assume he’s retiring finally?
- Logan Shaw: A poor man’s Nick Shore. The Leafs aren’t a poor man, so pass.
- Alan Quine: This is not the Islanders’ centre we want. But as a call-up, he’d be fine on the AHL if he’d clear waivers.
- Zac Rinaldo: Aha ha. Ha. No. No, you see the worst player on the Leafs is still a hockey player.
- Shawn Matthias: I think he should see if that name will get him a DEL gig.
- Derek Grant: His career is weird. Bad on terrible teams. Good on the Ducks. He should stay there, likely.
- Daniel Catenacci: One game played. Skip.
- Kyle Rau: Three games played. AHLer.
- Matt Stajan: If i could turn back time...
- Lance Bouma: Nope.
- Josh Jooris: Nope. He’s a classic 4C of the old school. His day is done.
- Freddie Hamiltion: He’s got all the work ethic and drive of Dougie, but not quite enough skill. He’s been in the NHL for two years in a Leivo role, and he needs to just go to Europe or the AHL where he’s excellent.
- Dominic Moore: He’s a good guy, but at 37, he just doesn’t bring anything. He’s a desperation option and comes after a lot of other team’s rejected RFAs.
- Paul Carey: He’s an AHLer the Rangers played while quietly tanking.
- Jordan Nolan: He was the best player on the ice for the Sabres in at least two games where they played the Leafs. He’s still not good.
- Chase Balisy: AHLer.
- Rocco Grimaldi: AHLer with a fun name.
- Carter Rowney: AHLer.
- Marek Hrivik: No clue.
- Wade Megan: Played one game.
- Nic Dowd: Call-up for a bad team.
- Andrew Crescenzi: Two games.
- Chris Kelly: He still plays?
- Tyler Graovac: The Caps thought he’d be better on a better team, they were wrong. AHLer.
And there’s the list! Doesn’t that get, er, interesting fast? There is not even more than a few legit tweeners there, players that you want on your AHL team who could play NHL hockey in a pinch, and the Leafs need one of those.
As for 3C potential, short of Plekanec, or Mr Bozak himself, you got me, unless Riley Nash is better than I think he is. The choices are to either underplay Nazem Kadri at 3C because you have two 1Cs — a lovely problem to have, even if there will be 18 million articles about friction in the room — or forget about it, play William Nylander there, and call it a character building exercise when he has bad days.
Either way, the depth still needs to be addressed, because just like with Miro Aaltonen, assuming in advance that Par Lindholm is a lock to play in the NHL is what bad teams do.