Going For Depth, Not Stars
Yes, the Leafs wills be in the bidding for Brad Richards on Friday, but all the while knowing that unless Richards has a special desire to become a Maple Leaf, it won't be happening.
You never know. But the sense out there is Richards' preferences may lie elsewhere.
For the Leafs, the target then has to be depth, not impact players, and you can even debate whether Richards is quite the impact player some believe he is. He would surely be Toronto's No. 1 centre; beyond that, it's a bit of a projection. One GM said he thinks Richards has three good years left. To get that, a team will have to be willing to pay him for five years. Or more.
Christian Ehrhoff, clearly, interests the Leafs. The Islanders, after dealing for his rights from Vancouver, have the inside track and tons of cap room. Some might sneer at Long Island, but they attracted Mark Streit and aren't so far behind the Leafs (12 points last season). In fact, based on prospects and young talent, the Isles may have more upside.
Some might say the Leafs don't need another expensive defenceman, and that's true. But Ehrhoff's an asset, and it would allow the club to move another blueliner - Carl Gunnarson? - in order to address other needs. That may be the way Brian Burke and Co. have to approach this.
Various reports in the past few hours have linked the Leafs to Max Talbot of the Penguins, an eight-goal scorer who may command somewhere around $2 million a year in this inflationary market. The Penguins were willing to send his rights to the Leafs for a fifth round pick and let the Leafs talk to Talbot's agent first, but the two sides couldn't come up with a deal. It's suggested the Leafs were willing to do something in the neighborhood at four years, $1.7 million per, but there was no agreement and Talbot will see what kind of offers he can attract on Friday.
Would Talbot be an impact addition? Of course not, but he's experienced, can kills penalties and knows something about winning. The price might seem high, but UFAs are commanding those dollars this year - look at Brooks Laich's deal - and you're either in the game or not. Having teams (like the Islanders) looking to spend freely to get north of the $48 million floor just adds to inflation. The Florida Panthers are another one of those teams, and reports today suggest they're going to give Tomas Kopecky $3 million a year. So the numbers are, indeed, a bit goofy.
Richards, Laich and Kevin Bieksa were at the top of the Leaf list; two of the three are gone, and Richards is going to be tough to snare. To get the No. 1 centre the club needs, the Leafs are probably going to have to wait into the summer and look for trading partners (Colorado and Paul Stastny?) once the the landscape begins to become clear.