It’s common knowledge that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to need to look at inexpensive ways to improve and round out their roster when the 2020-21 season eventually begins. That could mean letting players like Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci leave, or trading names like Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen.
James Mirtle of The Athletic took a look at some different free agent targets the Leafs might explore, essentially trying to find themselves the next “Jason Spezza”
Spezza came to the Maple Leafs last summer and the idea was to add leadership and skill that might have been far past its prime, but could still offer more than the $700K he was being paid for one season. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start for Spezza under coach Mike Babcock, but eventually, with nine goals and 25 points in 58 games, he offered fair value and more.
Mirtle suggested there might be more players like Spezza out there for the Leafs to uncover and he started with players he called cheap options who could out-perform whatever money they’d be earning. His list of names included Kyle Clifford, Tyler Ennis, Josh Leivo, Patrick Maroon, Jesper Fast, and Matt Nieto.
From there, Mirtle moved on to players he believed might be reclamation projects but still had the potential to be offer payoffs as the season progressed. In that group he had Alex Galchenyuk, Conor Sheary, Colin Wilson, Jimmy Vesey, Michael Frolik, and Derek Brassard.
If the Maple Leafs really wanted to follow in the footsteps of what Spezza did, they could go after a former star whose best years are behind him. Leading that pool of players would be Joe Thornton, Ilya Kovalchuk, or Corey Perry.
What Were Mirtle’s Top Choices?
In the end, Mirtle was able to narrow it down to a few names. He explains:
Dom Luszczyszyn pulled together this handy chart of game-score projections for the next three seasons for all of the players listed above. Of the more realistic targets for the Leafs, he’s highest on Ennis, Leivo, Maroon, Wilson and Fast.
Would any of these names work for the Maple Leafs next season? We know the Edmonton Oilers are interested in retaining Tyler Ennis and he’s already done his thing as a Leaf. Patrick Maroon always seems to find a home last minute and could be an option.
Who would you pick be?
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