In seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning the playoffs past, the core showed up. Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares and Rielly accounted for 15 goals and 34 points. Outside of those five, the rest of the team combined had 8 goals and 29 points.
- Mikheyev had two goals, both empty netters
- Muzzin and Kampf each had two goals
- Bunting, Blackwell and Kerfoot each had one/
Last year, in seven games against the Montreal Canadians, they were carried by Nylander’s 5 goals and 8 points. Spezza had 3 goals, Muzzin had 2, and the rest of the team combined had 7.
The year before against Columbus, Toronto got 7 goals from Matthews, Nylander, Tavares and Rielly. The rest of the team combined had 3 goals. In the last three final elimination games combined, Toronto scored 2 goals.
The long and short of it is that Toronto’s depth has not been helping them actually score goals. It’s all well and good to have good depth that can have good fancy stats or shut down the other team to a null result, but I’m tired of having that being the only kind of player Toronto has in their depth. We don’t have Spezza anymore carrying the entire bottom six.
That’s why I am begging for Toronto to pick up some kind of good offensive depth for the bottom six. I don’t mind having a shut down line featuring Kampf and Engvall and someone else of the same mold. I’m not fine having our other bottom six line featuring Simmonds, Clifford, and some poor schmuck who also can’t score.
So hear me out. Whatever Toronto does, they’re very likely to make the playoffs. They have great offensive stars, they have the best defensive group they’ve had in the current era, they have.... goaltenders who will tend the goals. By the time they get to the playoffs, they are likely to have Matthew Knies join the team. Fingers crossed, by the end of the season they could also have a healthy Nick Robertson who finally has an impact in the NHL.
Ideally, I would like Toronto to find a way and sign one more free agent (or trade for someone else, I’m not picky) who can help form good offensive depth. And there’s one guy above all the others that I want.
ENTER DYLAN STROME
The best option out there is probably Dylan Strome. He’s a former third overall pick that never seemed to really earn the love of either Arizona or Chicago, despite having good offensive numbers. Maybe not exceptional numbers you’d want from a third overall pick, but good. Last season he had a career best 22 goals, as well as 48 points in 69 games. He’s also had a 51 points in 58 games season. If he had played full 82 game seasons, he’d have topped 50+ points in three of his last four seasons.
He also has solid impacts, offensively and defensively and finishing especially — just what I would love for the Leafs to get.
The thing is, he was a second line center with Chicago. He is 25 years old and probably wants a bigger pay day than Toronto can easily fit under the cap. He just finished a two year, $3 million AAV contract. Evolving Hockey has predicted his most likely contract to be around 3 years and $4.5 million AAV. That’s very likely outside of what Toronto can possibly afford.
BUT! There are a few things to maybe pin your hopes on, like I am. First, Strome is a Toronto boy and a big Leafs fan growing up.
Second, he is good friends with Marner. Third, Toronto can pitch him coming to Toronto to play as an offensive third line, with maybe some time playing on the second line if/when they need more offense, or to fill in for injuries. The Leafs have talked about starting to have a backup or transition plan for John Tavares as he gets older and less effective. Instead of playing Marner at center (seriously, what?), why not use Strome at times if needed? He’s more of a natural center than Kerfoot anyway.
Could Strome get more on the open market? Probably. But playing for Toronto also invites the chance to raise his profile, have 2-3 great seasons before becoming a UFA around 27/28 years old, when the cap starts going up again, and try and cash in for a bigger deal then. Sell him on playing with his buddy Marner on his hometown team along with that, and see if you can get him to agree to a cap hit that is manageable.
MAKING THE CAP WORK
So let’s address the elephant in the room — the cap space.
We already know they’re likely going to have to trade Justin Holl just to afford re-signing Sandin and Engvall. There’s also some other signings they may have to do around the margins for other depth, AHLers, etc. So affording Strome on top of that seems like a long shot. But here is what I would propose.
They can also clear $3.5 million in cap hit by trading Alexander Kerfoot, only taking back draft picks — no players with contracts back. You can then use that $3.5 million and offer it to Strome. To be clear, Toronto will have a better idea of their cap than I do now. They can negotiate with Strome now and find out what he’d be willing to accept. If he’s open to what they can offer him, they can wait to make any deals to free up that cap space until then. That could get Toronto to a point where they can give Strome a slight raise from his previous contract for a short term deal.
The reason why I would do this is because I view Strome as an upgrade over Kerfoot. Kerfoot’s point production is not as good as Strome’s, despite coming off a career year in points with 51 in 82 games. Kerfoot’s overall impacts aren’t as good either. He’s been a useful and valuable player at his cap hit, but Strome to me fits more of what Toronto sorely needs right now in my books, and that’s better secondary offense.
It might still not be possible to make it work under the cap, especially now that they’ve already signed a few smaller free agents. They still have guys like Clifford and Simmonds on the roster too. But I’m envisioning a lineup come playoff time that has some more scoring threats outside of the usual suspects. Where they don’t keep throwing out the same grinders and shutdown specialists who don’t score. Maybe someone like Strome, and any reinforcements they can get around the deadline, can maybe help them score more than one bloody goal in an elimination game.
Do you think it’s worth signing Dylan Strome?
|He’s what we need. Make it work, Kyle!||768|
|I don’t know if he’s good enough an improvement over Kerfoot||222|
|No way, he’s too slow and hasn’t really won over any of his teams for a reason||95|