If you're a fan of hockey and don't really give a crap about CBA-related stuff then August has been a pretty slow month.
While there isn't much in the way of Leafs news to talk about, there are a lot of things worth thinking about as the season (hopefully) draws near.
If there's a storyline we've missed, drop it in the comment section -- we're always looking to start a conversation during the dog days of summer.
1) Kadri has spent his summer training with Gary Roberts. He's on a full meal plan and workout regimen and will be looking to add some size and strength. After a very good season with the Marlies last year, there isn't much left for him to prove at the AHL-level and apparently Carlyle really likes what he brings to the table. The Marlies moved Kadri back to center for the majority of the AHL playoffs and one has to wonder whether that was Eakins' decision or whether it was a mandate from upper management.
2) The Leafs bought out the final year of Colby Armstrong's deal and currently sit $9M under the cap. I think it's unlikely that they would have done this if they didn't intend on using the added cap space which means that Burke's "we're not done" comment is probably more than just noise.
3) A great deal of what Burke will be able to accomplish will depend on the new CBA. If the cap goes down without a corresponding drop in existing contracts then the Leafs will have less available space than the $9M they currently have. That said, this kind of cap adjustment would put Boston, Minnesota, and Vancouver in a bind and we all know that Vancouver has one particular asset that the Leafs covet.
4) If existing contracts do take a hit, what happens with buyout dollars? I expect they'd take a commensurate drop --at least in terms of their cap hit-- but if not, the Armstrong and Tucker buyouts will sting even more than they already do.
5) Reimer says he's symptom free, so that's good. I guess now we see who the real James Reimer is.
6) What kind of a coach is Randy Carlyle? Looking at his last full season with the Ducks (2010-11), of the 13 forwards who played more than 40 games with the team, Perry, Getzlaf, and Selanne were 9th, 10th, and 11th in offensive zone starts respectively. He doesn't seem to mind putting his best forwards in tough situations but one has to wonder if Kessel and Lupul are up to it. They had the highest zone starts among qualifying forwards on last year's team.
7) There are an awful lot of centers on this roster. Grabovski, Bozak, Connolly, McClement, and Steckel are all centers while Kadri and Lombardi have split time between center and the wing. With so many players who are used to the position, why are we jamming Van Riemsdyk between Kessel and Lupul? There may be only one true top-6 center on the team but moving JVR to the middle suggests that the organization has very little faith in Bozak, Connolly, and maybe even Kadri's prospects at filling that spot successfully.
8) Rielly has been getting rave reviews after his play in the Canada-Russia Challenge. He certainly looked good in the four game series but I wouldn't get your hopes up as far as his being fast-tracked to the NHL is concerned. Burke prefers to take his time with prospects and this is probably especially true of Rielly who lost a significant amount of development time to a knee injury.
9) Kadri, Colborne, Deschamps, and Holzer will all be RFA at the end of the season. This is a really big year for some guys who all have something to prove.
10) Speaking of 2013 RFAs, Carl Gunnarsson has really made his mark on the Leafs' defense in the past two seasons and he'll be due for a pretty nice raise. He's probably not a guy that you're going to notice on a night-to-night basis but he's the kind of steady 3-zone defenseman every team needs. I hope we're able to lock him up to a multi-year deal.
11) Still no contract for Ben Scrivens or Cody Franson. Franson will almost certainly get done but I wonder if Scrivens' deal hinges on what happens with Luongo or whichever other veteran goalie the Leafs may have interest in. Scrivens is ineligible for waivers and after a good regular season and a remarkable playoffs in the AHL last year, it would be tough to fault him if he felt that he deserved a backup job at the NHL-level next season.
What about Lupul? Can he repeat last year's performance and solidify himself as a first line forward?
That's a great question. Until recently, I would have thought there was no chance but Eric's work at NHL Numbers (check it out if you haven't already) shows that Lupul faced the toughest defense competition in the league last year (and still produced offensively).
I'd still expect a bit of a drop off, to be sure, but I'm starting to think that he may not be as mis-cast as we may have previously thought.
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