Leafs Roster Just About Set
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 9:41 AM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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What you see seems to be what you will get.
With only Luke Schenn remaining to be signed - a virtual certainty according to the Maple Leafs, Schenn and his representatives – the Leafs are running out of cards.
They have already added forwards Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi as well as defencemen Cody Franson and John-Michael Liles. You knew all that. Pressing for a spot in the lineup, soon if not now, are forwards Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne and defencemen Jake Gardiner and Korbinian Holzer. Without an injury to one of the top six, the Leafs will be looking at one job left for Mike Komisarek, Carl Gunnarsson or Matt Lashoff. When Lombardi comes back (Brian Burke has said he anticipates him at training camp) Tyler Bozak, a first liner last season could fall to the fourth unit behind Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski and Lombardi.
This is a level of depth the Leafs have aspired to for years.
If you have gotten this far, the least you deserve is a name, someone obtainable who can gain the Leafs the few extra points expected to be the difference between making the playoffs and falling short.
With 5.1 million left to spend, maybe one to two million more than it will probably cost to sign Schenn, Leafs’ GM Brian Burke has a little money for an unrestricted free agent.
With the exception of Teemu Selanne, a 31-goal wonder at 41, the list of unrestricted veers between longtime underachievers and oldsters. Former Leafs Robbie Earl, Anton Stralman, Jeremy Williams, Kyle Wellwood, Bryan McCabe and Fred Modin are on the list. So are Sergei Samsonov, Rob Schremp, Mike Grier and J.P. Dumont.
The answer friends, is Trent Hunter.
Bought out by the Devils, Hunter is on the rebound from surgery to repair a MCL tear in his left knee. He passed his physical with the Devils but was never in the club’s plans. He is 31. He has missed 118 games with a variety of injuries and he would help the Leafs.
Well, first because he is six-foot-three and the Leafs have a pressing need for more size up front. Hunter is one of the most popular Islanders with his teammates, he uses his body judiciously, does not take stupid penalties and is an effective checker. He is a third-line player who can still score a little and at 31 he should have a year or two left in him. He could play the left side with Colby Armstrong and with, say Lombardi, at the pivot, substantially help in the creation of a shutdown line with enough bite to cashier any opportunities his teammates generate.
Most teams will steer clear of him because they have already set their payrolls or because of his recent history of injuries. But for a group needing a heavier emphasis on defence from the forwards and a touch more veteran leadership, Hunter looks like a terrific bet. He has two twenty-goal seasons and his influence would be substantial.
Just so you know, it is 25days and counting until the Leafs open rookie camp.
The pre-season starts September 19. The Leafs open against Montreal Oct. 6.