July 1st Letdown
More and more, it seems very possible the Maple Leafs won't be making the big splash on Friday many of their fans are hoping for.
There just may not be the players there to sign, after all, as demonstrated by the announcement today that centre Brooks Laich has re-signed with the Washington Capitals for $27 million over six years. This is a player the Leafs were very, very interested in, particularly since they seem to understand their chances of landing centre Brad Richards via free agency are small.
If Richards wants to win, there are other teams closer. If he just wants the dough, there are other teams that will probably offer more or offer one of those front-loaded, 10-year, back-sliding deals that Brian Burke says he won't do. If Richards fondly remembers the climate in Florida, well, Toronto is Toronto. Most seem to think Tampa Bay is where he'll end up.
For Laich, that's amazing dough for a 16 goal scorer. The deal is front-loaded with $6.5 million next season then $4 million for each of two years, followed by $4.5 M in 2014-15, then $4 million for each of last 2 seasons.
The Caps also added winger Troy Brouwer from Chicago at the draft, so they're obviously determined to keep the grit they have and add more.
Kevin Bieksa has re-signed with Vancouver, so that's out. His teammate, Christian Erhoff, is probably the best UFA defenceman left.
So no Laich, and probably no Richards. Who's left in terms of centres? Well, Michal Handzus of the Kings is a big, experienced body, but he's 34 years old. There's Max Talbot of Pittsburgh, an eight-goal scorer last season, but he would give the Leafs an upgrade on the likes of Darryl Boyce and Tim Brent.
But more and more, it appears that if the Leafs are going to really add a player or players who will make a major impact for next year, it will have to be via the trade route.
The paucity of front end forwards, in particular, is obviously why Jaromir Jagr is making noises about coming back to the NHL. He smells a big dollar, and by waiting, he'll only get more.