This was a free agency day that came with little expectations. Most knew going into today that GM Kyle Dubas had little money to spend with too many spots to fill. He did manage to secure a good goalie to form a tandem with Jack Campbell and some solid depth pieces though, so let’s go through it all.
The big prize of the day, Petr Mrazek signed a 3 year deal worth 11.4M dollars (3.8M AAV). His career has been a bit streaky, with some good and bad stretches, but the good times are certainly more plentiful. With the team walking into next season with a good tandem locked in at 5.45M total, it would seem that the crease is in good shape.
The biggest issue here is that Mrazek has had a tough time staying healthy and the same can be said for Jack Campbell. Campbell played just 21 games last season, while Mrazek played only 12. If they can stay healthy this is a good tandem, but if they can’t then you’re looking at a situation where the team is turning, once again, to Michael Hutchinson, and that’s something that needs to stop.
Bunting is dividing Leafs Nation and it seems unfair. At 25 years old he has just 26 games of NHL experience. He played 21 of those games in Arizona last season and scored 10 goals by way of a 26% shooting percentage. While that percentage is unsustainable, he has managed to put up decent AHL numbers (38G, 109pts in his last 126 AHL games, dating back 3 seasons) and may have just needed a real shot in the NHL. He’s from Toronto, so this seems like a fine spot to go to try to get that opportunity. His contract is one that can be buried if he doesn’t imrpove the team, so there’s really little risk here. Outside of that, his scouting report is one that speaks of a player that is high on effort and drive. Here’s hoping he’s a diamond in the rough.
This signing has a lot of people scratching their heads, but it has me wondering if Kyle Dubas is finally ready to admit that you need a decent penalty kill in order to be a competitive team.
Kampf was Chicago’s go-to faceoff man last season, as he lead the team in draws taken (777) and win percentage (52.8%). While those stats aren’t eye popping it may be because Leafs Nation is spoiled, the Leafs are a tremendous faceoff team that can only help Kampf improve on what is already a solid skill for him.
He also lead the Hawks in SH/TOI/GP and started 67% of his shifts in the defensive zone. He’s a trustworthy defensive player that can win draws and help your PK, he can be part of a shutdown line and help Sheldon Keefe if he wants to play a matchup game. He isn’t about to score many goals for you (just 17 in 235 career regular season games), but that’s not what he’s getting paid for. What we’re looking at is a solid role player/4th line centre, who is absolutely worth the 1.5M they’ll be paying him.
It’s possible that Kurtis will find himself in the minors, as the Newmarket, Ontario native played just 11 NHL games last season. He’s a throwback to the olden days, as he can’t be described as anything else but an enforcer. Unfortunately for him that’s a role that barely exists in the NHL these days and, currently, is being filled by Wayne Simmonds (kinda). I’m not even sure why I’m including him in this roundup. It’s possible that they missed Simmonds’ presence in the lineup last season after he hurt his wrist and wanted a backup in case something of that sort happened again, but then again, maybe they just wanted to add more muscle to the AHL Toronto Marlies.
Other Signings: Michael Amadio, Alex Biega, Carl Dahlstrom, Josh Ho-Sang (PTO)
It isn’t my assumption that we will see any of these players in the Leafs lineup for more than a game of two next season. There is the outside possibility that Ho-Sang impresses at camp, earns a contract and makes the team, but at this point I find it unlikely. As for the rest? They can serve as good depth, considering they all have a little NHL experience, but they aren’t NHL regulars. With that said, they are good players that will help in the minors and in a pinch should the Leafs need them.
The Leafs aren’t done. Depending on what they do with players such as Joey Anderson, Adam Brooks (both of whom need waivers to go to the AHL), Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin (both of whom are still wiaver exempt), and if they demote Amadio, Biega, Dahlstrom and Gabriel, they could have upwards of 4.7M to spend. Which brings up to this:
I’m of the opinion that you don’t wait around for players to come to you. If you know who/what you want you go get it, but I digress. There is room for a good winger to play in the team’s top 6 forward group, but the question now is who is left? While I love the idea of a big power forward like Nick Ritchie joining the team, he tends to take bad penalties at inopportune times. With that said, he’s the only true power forward (IMO) left on the market worth signing. They could swing back to Alex Galchenyuk, but I think that would be illadvised. I’d suggest “Uncle” James Neal, but Kyle Dubas had this to say about signing veteran players this summer:
There’s a clear message being sent to the young star players on this team right now. It’s all on you to get this team to where it needs to go. If a player asks for a massive paycheque, they need to be able to back that up and produce when the chips are down. So far they haven’t, so it’s time to stop treating them like children that need to be lead and treat them like the hugely paid, hugely skilled leaders that they’re supposed to be.
This will be even tougher this season, considering that at the moment, on paper, the team has taken a step back.