Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Flurry of Acquisitionss

Leafs talk.

Since the July 1st floodgates opened, the Leafs have acquired (largely through free agency): Curtis Joseph, Jeff Finger, Niklas Hagman, and Mikhail Grabovski.

Joseph - Once again the Leafs grab a player for the second time. Cujo ain't what he used to be, but he's just fine as a backup goaltender. Definitely an improvement over Raycroft. I think his real value will be in mentoring Toskala, and possibly Pogge. I imagine there be plans afoot to keep him in the office once he's done playing. He's also the most likely member of the team (barring a Sundin return) to be the locker room leader. We need some sort of veteran presence, and Jason Blake don't cut it.

Finger - Who? He'd just be a footnote if not for the fact he was signed for 4 years at $14 million. Seriously? Dude played 72 games last year for the Avalanche, was benched for 10 of their playoff games, and made the league minimum I think. Hell of a pay raise. Word is he's a solid stay-at-home defenceman, with a +12 rating and 19 points last year. Toss in our draft pick and I think we can see where the Leafs are heading - Detroit emulation. Cheaper, decent goaltending, and a strong defence corps. Not that they'll achieve Red Wings-like success for years. It's a good start though, and definitely the only way they'll be remotely competitive for the next couple seasons.

Hagman - 4 years, $12 mil. 27 goals, 41 points last season with Dallas. A bit of a journeyman at 28 years old. Last year was a career year for him, so naturally the Leafs stepped up and overpaid. I don't really know enough about him to predict, but here's hoping he can repeat. At least 20 goals would be nice.

Grabovski - Young guy traded from Montreal. 24 years old, 24 games last year, 10 points. Cliff sees an upside from his Worlds performance, let's hope he's right. Some Habs fans seem unhappy with the trade, so that's a good sign.

The elephant in the room is still Mats Sundin. Offered $20 mil for 2 years from Vancouver, as well as decent offers from Montreal and New York, he's still at home deciding. It could take weeks or a month for him to make up his mind if he even wants to play. Is there a chance he comes back to Toronto? Sure, but it's slim. He claims to love the city, and the fans love him. If he said yes, signed a 2 year deal worth round $15 mil... he'd get a standing O when steps on the ice in October. I still think he's just as likely to retire as accept an offer.

Then there's McCabe. Greedy, overrated, or easily influenced by his greedy agent or wife depending what you listen to. A simple waive of his no-movement clause and he's off to a team that wants him and it helps the Leafs. But no, he's stubbornly refusing to move, which means the Leafs either play him or buy him out. Buying him out makes no sense financially, so it won't happen. They could be better off leaving him at home until he changes his mind, because right now his presence would be a cancer to the team, regardless of his attitude. If they played him, he'd need to have career years from here forward to stave off the wrath of the fans.

But what the Leafs are doing right now is exactly what they need to. Medium-quality players and young guys who could develop into something... and if not, no major harm. This is a team that's rebuilding, and seriously needs to tank this season to get some more quality youth in the Blue & White. Finger's price tag is nuts, but if he pans out to be a good pairing with Schenn on penalty kills and against tough lines? It's money well spent.

They still won't amount to anything this season, but they could win a few low-scoring games and trap like it's their job - because it is.

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