Free Agency Set to Explode
This time last year, Brian Burke was secretly flying to Sweden in hopes of signing the Sedin twins.
Vancouver GM Mike Gillis beat him to the punch, but Burke was unfazed and quickly signed defencemen Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek as well as enforcer Colton Orr, and also used the trip to do a little extra work on what turned out to be the successful courtship of goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
This year, Burke is staying put in North America - Boston, actually - but he could be just as active. Or more active.
Obviously, he's got the trading of defenceman Tomas Kaberle still to get done, and the market will likely intensify after teams find out what they can get from free agency over the next few days. There are still whispers of discussions with the Boston Bruins over the services of centre Marc Savard as well.
But who the Leafs will go after hard on Thursday when the market opens is still unclear.
With Kaberle set to be dealt, a defenceman is a priority and Dan Hamhuis is at the top of the list, although many are confused as to what Hamhuis is looking for after his rights were dealt to Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh in recent days, and he chose to sign with neither team.
A surprising name out there will be blueliner Paul Martin, who most expected to see re-sign with the New Jersey Devils after playing only 22 games last season because of a fractured arm. Martin is a multi-talented, underrated player who would have crossed Burke's radar because of his involvement with the U.S. Olympic program. If Hamhuis goes elsewhere, the Leafs might have interest in Martin, although his price tag might be high after he made $4.5 million with the Devils last season.
The Leafs missed out on Mike Cammalleri last summer and ended up trading for Phil Kessel instead. They hope to get a forward out of trading Kaberle, but they may be interested in some of the mid-range free agent wingers, particularly those with a bit of bite to their game. Raffi Torres and Colby Armstrong are two sandpaper-like players out there, and Armstrong might fit the Leafs' need. Ethan Moreau was a possibility until his rights were traded to Columbus, and there might be some interest in Calgary winger Eric Nystrom, who scored 11 goals and made $775,000 with the Flames last year.