The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. That prompted Toronto Sun columnists to speculate about the club’s off-season roster moves.
Terry Koshan notes center Dave Bolland reportedly sought a seven-or eight-year deal worth upward of $40 million before contract talks broke off in February. Given that the Leafs inked David Clarkson to a seven-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $5.25 million last summer, Bolland could seek a similar deal.
If Bolland becomes a free agent in July, Koshan claims there’s talk the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers will pursue the 30-year-old center. Koshan’s colleague Steve Simmons believes the Leafs should re-sign Bolland even at the risk of overpaying him.
Koshan also reports defenseman Cody Franson could be shopped this summer. Simmons, meanwhile, thinks there will be a lot of interest in former Leafs winger Leo Komarov, who signed with the Kontinental League’s Moscow Dynamo last summer. The Leafs could try to bring him back, but Simmons claims the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning could be among those pursuing the 27-year-old in this summer’s free agent market.
Lance Hornby reports agent Gary Greenstin, who represents winger Nikolai Kulemin, recently had informal contract talks with Leafs management. Kulemin made $2.8 million this season, but Hornby doubts he will be back for that price.
The future of Leafs goalie James Reimer led Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe to muse over how much it might cost the Jets to acquire him. Wiebe feels that could mean trading or buying out current Jets’ starter Ondrej Pavelec.
Salary cap space will be a significant factor in whatever moves the Leafs make this summer. They currently have more than $49.5 million invested in 12 players. If next season’s cap ceiling reaches $71 million, the Leafs will have $22 million to re-sign or replace key players.
Bolland is a more proven commodity than Clarkson, so it’s understandable why he would seek a comparable deal. Doing so, however, would see the Leafs tying up more than $10 million in two third-line players. Not a wise investment, even for a deep-pocked team like the Leafs. Still, they might not have much choice if they fail to find a suitable replacement for Bolland.
If the Leafs trade Reimer, they’ll need a suitable backup for starter Jonathan Bernier. Given Bernier’s recent spate of injuries (including a strained left MCL), an experienced netminder who can play 20-25 games would be a worthwhile investment.
Reimer and Franson are both restricted free agents. Shopped singly, they might attract a decent player, draft pick or prospect. Packaged together, they could fetch a better return. As for Komarov, he wants to return to the NHL and hasn’t ruled out a return to Toronto. Reuniting with the Leafs, however, will depend on his asking price and how much money the Leafs have left once they’ve made other significant acquisitions.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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