The Leafs and Free Agency
LONDON--That some would blast Brian Burke as "selfish" for visiting troops in Kandahar on July 1st instead of getting down on bended knee to woo Brad Richards in person, well, some notions are just so pathetically weasel-like they just aren't worth addressing.
So let's move on.
Should Leaf fans be upset their favourite team didn't add significant players on Canada Day? Absolutely. Being demanding is part of being a fan.
Only problem is, no other team added significant players either because none were out there to be had.
Still, those who lament the money spent on Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin as unrestricted free agents two years ago are now upset that the Leafs weren't a big player on Friday when the UFA market opened.
To which you'd have to ask, why? Because they didn't get who? Because they didn't give Tomas Fleischmann $18 million, or try and land 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr, or got outbid on Ville Leino and Max Talbot?
Look there's was one difference maker out there, potential difference maker anyway, and Brad Richards still hasn't signed, although hopes are high it will happen today if only to end this soap opera.
The Leafs could surely use Richards, although it's worth noting at this point in time that it wasn't so long ago that Richards was viewed as vastly overpaid based on a deal he signed in Tampa Bay and took with him to Dallas. Also, he did suffer a severe concussion last season. So acquiring Richards isn't quite like acquiring a sure thing.
But he's a good hockey player, far better than most of those who moved on Friday. It was exciting, naturally, to see so many players move, to see new teams like Florida, Buffalo and Columbus get involved, and it made for good television, especially if you didn't have the time or inclination to sit down and watch hours of brilliant men's tennis from Wimbledon.
Actually, it was even better in some ways than trade deadline day, if only because it was like watching the NHL on crack, the way the dollars flew around.
All that aside, the Florida Panthers added eight players, and is there even one that you, as a Leaf fan, would have loved to see the Leafs acquire because that player would substantially enhance Ron Wilson's lineup? Maybe Sean Bergenheim based on his playoff efforts of nine goals, but given he scored just 14 during the regular season, one off a career high, and is 27 years old, Bergenheim's a player of uncertain calibre right now.
Maybe Scottie Upshall. Lots of energy, 22 goals between two teams last year. But that was the best of the lot on a day the Panthers spent about $80 million, not counting the acquisition of Kris Versteeg ($3.083 million cap hit) and Brian Campbell ($7.142 million cap hit). That GM Dale Tallon will rest this entire enterprise on the goaltending of Jose Theodore is more than a little curious, and one wonders what Stephen Weiss will make of having Fleischmann and Upshall paid higher salaries than he next season.
As of this morning, the Leafs are 22nd in payroll committments for next season, and the Rangers 26th. Little weird, that, given the histories of those two teams, but in both cases, keeping the powder dry and waiting for better bargains and smarter purchases may turn out to be rather sensible.
Buffalo has been very aggressive in landing Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Leino, but the Sabre season next year will still depend on Ryan Miller in goal and the return to form of Derek Roy as the club's No. 1 centre.
The two best teams in hockey last season, Boston and Vancouver, did very little on Friday, and those are well-managed teams that do have needs to fill. Perhaps they believed it was a day to watch, as well.