Free to Dream
|Scott Gomez has experience scoring goals against the Ottawa Senators, something the Maple Leafs are sure to be interested in.|
Paul Holmgren, it's fair to say, beat a lot of his colleagues to the punch, just as he did a few times during his NHL playing career.
Now the GM of the sad sack Flyers, Holmgren added former Predator stalwarts Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timmonen to the Philly lineup for more than $10 million per season in salary cap costs, but before other NHL teams could even get a bid in. Holmgren moved a first rounder - actually, returned a first rounder - to the Preds to get exclusive rights to negotiate with Hartnell and Timmonen before the unrestricted free agent season opens July 1st, and got the names of both on contracts.
Add Timmonen and Hartnell to a new-look Flyer core group that includes Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, Martin Biron, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and its fair to say fortunes are looking up in the Flyer kingdom.
This takes a couple of bodies out of the July 1st mix, but doesn't change things terribly, particularly up front where the Maple Leafs, among other clubs, will be hunting for bargains.
|Which of the top five free agent forwards should the Maple Leafs chase? |
The top five free agent forwards remain Ryan Smyth, Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Jason Blake, with the next level including Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Ladislav Nagy, Alexei Yashin, Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko. Nobody's quite sure yet what's going on with Peter Forsberg, Gary Roberts or Brendan Shanahan.
So if you were the Leafs, who have $8-10 million to spend, and could have the pick of the crop, which free agent shooter would you gun for?
It's not easy, is it? Smyth would bring guts and all kinds of intangibles, but enough skill for $5-6 million? Is Gomez better than a 13-goal scorer? Can Briere deliver in the post-season enough to put a team over the top? Will Drury put up the same numbers elsewhere that he's put up with the flashy Sabres? Even though Blake potted 40 last season, is he just too old to spend big money on at age 33, 34 in September?
I change my mind on this question every day, but the guy who seems the best fit for the Leafs would be Gomez, a legitimate No. 2 centre behind Mats Sundin and the Swede's successor down the line.
But then again, Smyth has all that character, and Briere can sure skate, and . . .