There's been a lot of debate in Leaf circles on whether Burke should pursue Kovalchuk and Marleau; makes sense. Our boys haven't been in the playoffs in years and last season was tough so of course we're going to think about making the big splash.
There have also been debates about guys like Torres and Colby Armstrong -- fairly talented bottom six guys.
There's an obvious desire to see the team improve among fans and management alike but what makes sense? Here's my take.
Since Burke took the helm he's tried to change 'the culture' of the team, which essentially has meant shipping out everyone. Well, everyone but Kulemin. What he's brought back in have been cheap, young players with talent and blueliners that make significant coin.
My opinion on this offseason is to not spend a dime on anyone external to put into the bottom six. That simply isn't where we're at. Team Building 101 tells me that you get the talent core, then you round it out. We've got Kessel, Phaneuf and some other decent pieces but we're a little ways away from the 'rounding it out' stage.
Lots of people are against spending the kind of coin Kovalchuk will command on one player, often citing the Blackhawks 'no superstar-sized contracts' model. Those people are silly. There are only two ways to get players as talented as Kovalchuk; tank hard and win the draft lottery, or overpay in free agency. Burke isn't willing to tank (intentionally).
Maybe you don't want to give Kovalchuk the kind of money he could get elsewhere or give him that kind of term. Ok. That doesn't mean you don't pursue him. Sell him a bill of goods. Toronto can offer other things. It's arguably the biggest hockey market in the world and offers a huge stage. Who knows what kind of endorsement money a player of his calibre might reel in if he were playing in the Toronto market. Give him the best offer you're comfortable with and then try to sell him on the other positives Toronto offers. If he doesn't buy it, at least you tried.
If you're lucky enough to land him, plug those third and fourth line roles with the cheap talent you spent the last 14 months acquiring. You're not going to be a cup contender by year's end, but at least by this point next season we should be in 'round out the lineup' phase.
It isn't overstating things to say that Kovalchuk might be one of the top free agents to ever hit unrestricted free agency. Why not take a run at a guy like that?