Free Agents Galore
It's Fabian Brunnstrom all over again.
Well, not quite. But the pursuit of Farjestad goalie Jonas Gustavsson is causing quite the stir in NHL circles, with a host of clubs attracted by the 6-foot-3 goaltender's terrific play both this season and in the Swedish elite league playoffs.
Dallas, looking for a successor to Marty Turco, is right there, with Swedish scout Johan Garpenlov and goaltending coach Andy Moog having been in contract. The Stars won the Brunnstrom lottery last summer, so clearly the Les Jackson/Brett Hull duo has some expertise when it comes to luring Swedish free agents.
The pitch from the Stars will be that Turco, 34, has one more year left on his contract, and that Gustavsson will have a chance to be the club's No. 2 goalie next season and a shot at being the starter the following year.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are in this game as well, and possibly with a better pitch.
See, with the club having all but given up on Justin Pogge, they can offer the 24-year-old Gustavsson a shot at competing with Vesa Toskala next season. In theory, he could be the Leafs' starter if Toskala doesn't bounce back after hip surgery. Leaf goalie coach Corey Hirsch played in Sweden and has scouted Gustavsson extensively.
The Leafs are also awaiting the conclusion of Saturday's NCAA championship game between Boston University and Miami (Ohio) for the chance to beginning negotiations with BU defenceman Matt Gilroy, the hottest U.S. college free agent on the market this season.
Leaf GM Brian Burke has been on the Gilroy trail for almost two years now, and believes Gilroy could step right in next year as a puck moving defenceman.
The key to deciding this sweepstakes is if there's a team out there willing to give Gilroy a one-way contract. That likely won't be the Leafs, who probably won't be outbid on salary, however. (Update: Gilroy captured the Hobey Baker Award as the outstanding player in NCAA hockey last night.)
. . . . .and one final note.
The debate over the Leafs possibly getting Bobby Ryan last fall has been raging in this blog for months. Hopefully, this will put the discussion to bed.
Burke says that when he was in Anaheim, there were discussions between the Leafs and Ducks over Ryan, but that a deal was never close.
Knowing the optics at the time, Burke wasn't involved. Bob Murray did all the negotiating for the Ducks, while Al Coates, a former Anaheim exec, was the person in the Leaf front office who was pushing then GM Cliff Fletcher to make a pitch for Ryan, knowing Anaheim's salary cap woes.
A deal would only have made sense for Anaheim if it would have potentially given them a shot at the No. 1 pick overall and John Tavares. Fletcher was never willing to discuss a deal that didn't give the Leafs lottery protection.
So while discussed, a Ryan-to-the-Leafs deal was never close. Are we done on this now?