The Toronto Maple Leafs havent made the biggest splashes this offseason in terms of free agency, the nhl entry draft and trades but they have been quietly (for them) making progress.
There has been a lot of debate over whether teams still need enforcers to fight, throw checks and take penalties in the new NHL with the more stringent rules and penalty calls. Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke has left no doubt what his view on the issue is. He recently signed free agent enforcer Colton Orr who had a goal, four assists with 193 penalty minutes over 82 games with The Rangers last year. Don’t plan on Orr to put up major points or log a lot of ice time for the Leafs next season but he should add an element of grit and toughness to the Leafs team.
They have also stocked up on tough defencemen by signing free agent defencemen Mike Komisarik who last year logged an average of 20:37 of ice time a night as well as leading Montreal in blocked shots and penalty minutes. He is a former first round draft pick and was assistant captain for Montreal last year. The also traded for tough guy Garnet Exelby from the Thrashers, the hard hitting defenceman lead the Thrashers in hits last year with 151. Then the Leafs signed Francois Beauchemin from Anaheim to a 3 year contract. He is a solid defender who reportedly has a very hard slapshot. Beauchemin won the stanley cup with Anaheim in 2007.
Finished toughening up and re-tooling their defence the leafs looked to the goalie position, signing free agent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson who dominated the Sweedish Elite League last year and was considered by many to be the best goalie in the world not playing the NHL. With his big size, athleticism and skill he will start the season in the backup role but could gain the starting position if he plays well and Toskala continues to struggle. There were several teams attempting to sign the Sweedish goaltender and the leafs manage to land him. He is sure to be a fan favorite in Toronto, they are printing the Gustavsson Jerseys already.
This doesn’t mean the leafs are done though, their forwards still need a lot of help, Jason Blake the only one really considered a top six forward. All these signings have also left them with tons of defencemen with limited positions available. It is widely rumored that Brian Burke is planning on trading one of his defencemen for help on forward.
The Leafs aren’t a Stanley Cup contender just yet but there have been a lot of positive changes so far this offseason and it is not over yet. Look for a tougher, stronger and more defensively sound Leafs team to take to the ice next season.
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