Don't Expect Many More Moves From Leafs
Wednesday, 07.6.2011 / 4:09 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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It would seem that this is all there be.
“For now we’re done,” Leafs General Manager Brian Burke told the media, Wednesday.
For Leaf watchers, vacillating between panic and elation, it has been the perfect introduction to summer. There is plenty of time for worry and just as much time to dream.
Burke met the notepads at the MasterCard Centre to sum up the club’s entry draft and cautious dip into the free agent pool.
The Maple Leafs landed Cody Franson, a six-foot five defenceman the team believes can be a top four rearguard with offensive pop and Matthew Lombardi who missed all but two games last year with Nashville because of a concussion. Lombardi hopes to be back by opening night . Burke is content to wait out the symptoms.
“Players routinely come back from serious concussions,” he said. “We think this player is going to.”
Burke signed former Buffalo centre Tim Connolly to a two-year deal. “We needed a centre. We like his offensive dimension,” he said of Connolly. “We think he’s an upgrade offensively.”
The blue line is nine deep with Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, John-Michael Liles, Mike Komisarek, Carl Gunnarsson, Franson, Jeff Finger and, when they are re-signed, Luke Schenn and Matt Lashoff.
All that looks great but Burke said his priority was to land a number one centreman before the draft. There was only one of note available through unrestricted free agency and Brad Richards signed with the New York Rangers.
Burke believes long-term front-end loaded deals where the player leaves a pittance on the table in the last days of his career deliberately circumvent the spirit of the CBA.
“I personally do not believe the players are going to serve out the term of their contracts,” he said. “I’ll be very anxious to see the explanations that occur when these players don’t finish out their contracts. That’s why I don’t do them.”
There is only one viable candidate for the Leafs: restricted Tampa Bay free agent Steve Stamkos.
The CBA permits offers on restricted free agents.
“I do not contemplate signing a player to an offer sheet,” Burke said. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it but we’re not contemplating it.”
None of this is new, of course, and no other team has rushed to tender an offer to Stamkos but for anyone hoping for a hint that Burke was contemplating an offer…too bad.
Likewise a trade for a front-line centre. The Leafs will set sail with Connolly, a gifted player who has never scored 20 goals or cracked the 70-point barrier.
There is the potential for a bullpen by committee approach to centre, especially if Lombardi, a remarkable skater and competitor, comes back. Connolly can dangle and look for Phil Kessel. Mikhail Grabovski showed himself to be speedy playmaker and the recently re-signed Tyler Bozak certainly has the hands to play higher in the lineup than the fourth line.
The defence is durable and malleable.
So there it is: no big time first-line centre, plenty of defencemen and few if any moves to be made.
Summer really starts today for Leaf fans. Look for clear skies with storms forming as always around October.