Now that the 2012 draft is complete, it’s time to examine the organizational depth chart from top to bottom.
From the depth chart below, it will be easy to see the areas of weakness heading into the frenzy of free agency on July 1. It will then offer some suggested courses of action based on the positional depth. The rankings will separate professional players from junior and college and will highlight, in brackets, the actual level or potential of a particular player. Furthermore, for some players with positional flexibility one will be selected for the sake of simplicity.
This list will not include the pending UFAs in the organization.
1. Mikhail Grabovski (2nd line Centre) Cap hit of 5.5 for 5 years.
2. Tyler Bozak (2nd/3rd line Centre) Cap hit of 1.5 for 1 year.
3. Tim Connolly (2nd/3rd line Centre) Cap hit of 4.75 for 1 year.
4. Matthew Lombardi (3rd line Centre) Cap hit of 3.5 for 1 year.
5. David Steckel (4th line Centre) Cap hit of 1.1 for 1 year.
6. Joe Colborne (Potential 2nd line Centre) Cap hit of 1.1 for 1 year.
7. Greg Mckegg (Potential 2nd line Centre) Cap hit of .870 for 3 years.*
8. Spencer Abbot (Potential 3rd line Centre) Cap hit of 1.775 for 1 year.
1. Sam Carrick (3rd or 4th line Centre) Cap hit of .631 for 3 years. (OHL)
2. Ryan Rupert (2nd or 3rd line Centre) Unsigned draft pick. (OHL)
3. Andrew Crescenzi (3rd or 4th line Centre) Cap hit of .561 for 3 years. (OHL)
4. Dominic Toninato (2nd line Centre) Unsigned draft pick. (USHL/NCAA)
5. Tony Cameranesi (2nd or 3rd line Centre) Unsigned draft pick. (NCAA)
Despite the fact that many wingers are willing to play both sides they will be separated into right and left.
Right Wing (Pro):
1. Phil Kessel (1st line/ Elite winger) Cap hit of 5.4 for 2 years.
2. Clarke MacArthur (Fringe 2nd/ 3rd line winger) Cap hit of 3.25 for 1 year.
3. Matt Frattin (Fringe 2nd/ 3rd line winger) RFA.
4. Nazem Kadri (Top 6 winger) Cap hit of 1.72 for 1 year.
5. Colby Armstrong (Bottom 6 winger) Cap hit of 3 for 1 year.
6. Leo Komarov (4th line winger) Cap hit of 1.2 for 1 year.
7. Carter Ashton (2nd/3rd line winger) Cap hit of 1.04 for 2 years.
8. Greg Scott (4th line winger) Cap hit of .537 for 1 year.
9. Colton Orr (4th line fighter) Cap hit of 1 for 1 year.
10. Kenny Ryan (4th line winger) Cap hit of .900 for 2 years.
11. Tyler Brenner (AHL player) Cap hit of 1.156 for 1 year.
Right Wing (Prospects):
1. Tyler Biggs (2nd line winger) Unsigned draft pick.
2. Connor Brown (2nd/3rd line winger) Unsigned draft pick.
Left Wing (Pro):
1. Joffrey Lupul (1st line winger) Cap hit of 4.25 for 1 year
2. James van Reimsdyk (Top 6 winger) Cap hit of 4.25 for 6 years.
3. Nikolai Kulemin (2nd/3rd line winger) RFA.
4. Mike Brown (4th line winger) Cap hit of .736 for 2 years.
5. Jerry D’Amigo (Fringe 2nd/3rd line winger) Cap hit of 1.08 for 2 years
6. Brad Ross (Fringe 2nd/3rd line winger) Cap hit of .9 for 3 years.*
7. Nicolas Deschamps (3rd line winger) Cap hit of .845 for 1 year
8. Marcel Mueller (3rd line winger) RFA.
9. Jamie Devane (3rd/4th line winger) .701 for 2 years.
Left Wing (Prospects):
1. Joshua Leivo (2nd line winger) Unsigned draft pick
2. David Broll (3rd/4th line winger) Cap hit of .606 for 3 years.
1. Dion Phaneuf (2nd D-man) Cap hit of 6.5 for 2 years.
2. J.M. Liles (Top 4 D-man) Cap hit of 3.875 for 4 years.
3. Jake Gardiner (Top 4 D-man) Cap hit of 1.116 for 2 years.
4. Carl Gunnarsson ( 4th D-man) Cap hit of 1.325 for 1 year.
5. Cody Franson (4th D-man) RFA
6. Mike Komisarek (3rd pairing D-man) Cap hit of 4.5 for 2 years.
7. Korbinian Holzer (3rd pairing D-man) RFA
8. Jesse Blacker (2nd pairing D-man) Cap hit of .87 for 2 years.
9. Petter Granberg (4 to 6 D-man) Cap hit of .8 for 3 years.
10. Mark Fraser (6/7th D-man) RFA.
11. Simon Gysbers (7th D-man) RFA.
1. Morgan Rielly (1 D-man/Elite) Unsigned draft pick
2. Stuart Percy (Top Pairing D-man) Cap hit of 1.1 for 3 years.
3. Matt Finn (Top 4 D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
4. Tom Nilsson (2nd pairing D-man) Unsigned draft pick.*
5. Dennis Robertson (4/5 D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
6. Max Everson (2nd pairing D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
7. Andrew MacWilliam (6th D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
8. Eric Knodel (3rd pairing D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
9. Viktor Loov (3rd pairing D-man) Unsigned draft pick.
1. James Reimer (1B starter) Cap hit of 1.8 for 2 years.
2. Ben Scrivens (1B starter) RFA
3. Mark Owuya (Back-up) Cap hit of .9 for 1 year.
4. Jussi Rynnas (Back-up) RFA
1. Garret Sparks (Starting goalie) Unsigned Draft pick
This organizational depth chart demonstrates that it is not all doom and gloom in the Leafs’ future; however, it does point out some glaring weaknesses. The first area of obvious concern, from both the standpoint of current NHL calibre and organizational depth, is in net.
It can be assumed that Jussi Rynnas, who is an RFA, will not return to the organization next season. That leaves Toronto, assuming Ben Scrivens is resigned, with only four goalies in their entire system.
After being drafted in the seventh round in 2011, Garret Sparks improved all areas of his game and has established himself as a legitimate prospect for the long-term. However, he is destined to play at least two more seasons of junior hockey and even then is a long way away from being an NHL goalie.
Reimer has shown flashes in the NHL, but the jury is rightfully still out on his top potential.
Ben Scrivens has proven people wrong at many levels before, but establishing himself as a quality NHL starter may be one leap too far.
This lack of calibre and depth in net highlights the need for Brian Burke to either trade for Roberto Luongo or sign a veteran free agent.Luongo would provide an upgrade in goal and allow a strong tandem of Scrivens and Owuya to patrol the goals at Ricoh Coliseum.
If he elects to sign a veteran free agent such as Chris Mason or Ty Conklin, there would be little actual improvement, but at least there would be a stable presence. The lack of depth could possibly result in Burke signing a second goalie to offer insurance to the Toronto Marlies and add another long-term prospect.
A perfect example would be German Niklas Treutle, who is a free agent after being passed over again in the draft. There are, of course, many other European options or London Knights goalie and the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player, Michael Houser. The reality is that Burke has to do something this summer. It does not have to be a blockbuster trade, but for the sake of security, one free agent goalie, at least, must be brought into the fold.
When Mats Sundin was in Toronto the Leafs spent years looking for an elite winger to pair with him. Now Toronto has one or two elite wingers and several other solid options, but the centre position is painfully weak. It was expected by many that the Leafs would solidify their centre prospect pool in the 2012 draft. The Leafs would take two centres during the latter stages; however, they did not draft an elite talent that could become that future number one guy.
Toronto picked up elite talent with their first two picks, but with the hole at centre and the subsequent draft picks by division rivals Montreal and Buffalo of big and talented pivots, the 2012 draft certainly left many dissatisfied.
Mikhail Grabovski is a strong second line centre, while Tyler Bozak can fill in adequately when playing with elite wingers, but neither player is a true first line centre. Bozak, in particular, would probably be better suited to play in a third line role.
Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi were both huge disappointments last year and pending surprising improvement, will not offer the Leafs much going forward. Thankfully for the team, they are both at the end of expensive cap hits.
David Steckel offers a solid fourth line option, while Joe Colborne will likely wind up back in the minors. He is very close to being able to fill a second or third line role and will offer solid injury cover at the very least next season.
Greg McKegg will be entering the pro ranks next season and it will be interesting to see if his offensive talents translate. The Leafs drafted two centres in the 2012 draft, which gives them five players in junior or in college. These players, particularly Dominic Toninato, have some interesting tools that could make them top-six players, but they are all longshots.
Sam Carrick is a heart and soul player who likely projects as no more than a third liner.
The Leafs do not need to and probably should not do anything in free agency when it comes to centres. They lack elite talent and there is no one in the free agency pool that offers an upgrade over the current personnel available. However, with Mike Zigomanis and Philippe Dupuis both unrestricted free agents, the Maple Leafs will likely target a similar centre or two that can offer training camp competition and eventually veteran leadership for the Marlies.
The wing positions are one of strength in the Maple Leafs organization.
The acquisition of James van Riemsdyk helped to solidify the left side. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul lead the right and left wings respectively. Clarke MacArthur, Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri offer decent offensive depth on the right side. They are then supported by a hopefully healthy Colby Armstrong and the newly-signed agitator Leo Komarov. The right side also features Carter Ashton knocking on the door and strong Marlies contributor and a fourth line candidate in Greg Scott.
Colton Orr may once again become a factor under Randy Carlye as well. Tyler Biggs also gives the team a prospect with top-six power forward potential.
The left side looked a little thin, but the trade for van Riemsdyk instantly changed that. Behind Lupul there are now two scoring line options in van Riemsdyk and Kulemin. Furthermore, several of the right wingers could possibly switch to the left side if needed.
After those players, Mike Brown offers the perfect fourth line compliment if he can remain healthy. The Leafs are then fortunate to have several Marlies and prospects on the cusp.
Jerry D’Amigo and Nicolas Deschamps are coming off solid regular seasons and standout playoff performances in the AHL. They will offer training camp challenges and regular season depth.
Brad Ross and Jamie Devane will enter the professional ranks and also offer some hope for the future. Like Biggs on the right side, Joshua Leivo is another 2011 draft pick who could turn into a top-six forward if his development continues to progress positively.
The Leafs do lack elite prospects on the wings with the exception of Kadri, but they boast solid depth of players that can fill a second or third line role. In free agency there will be some elite options such as Zach Parise, but given their holes in net and at centre the Leafs would be better served to save the cap space and merely attempt to re-sign Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton or a similar calibre player to offer depth and quality leadership for the Marlies.
The Leafs have struggled defensively for years and last year was no exception. Nevertheless, the blue line is the strongest position within the organizational depth chart. The NHL top four following the trade of Luke Schenn has Phanuef, Liles, Gunnarsson and hopefully a sophomore slump-free Jake Gardiner.
There are plenty of options to fill the final three spots next season. The long-heralded Korbinian Holzer will likely take one of the bottom three spots despite being an RFA. Mike Komisarek and Cody Franson would be the other two obvious candidates should they return. However, given the challenges coming from below and the possibility that Burke will again trade from a position of strength to acquire help elsewhere, the top seven may look somewhat different.
The primary challengers include Jesse Blacker, who is coming off a strong rookie season in the AHL, Petter Granberg, who is coming to North America, and veteran Mark Fraser. Stuart Percy and Morgan Rielly offer some highly talented, but unlikely options as well. The plethora of quality defensemen in the professional ranks is supported by a strong and varied prospect group.
Aside from the first round talent of Percy and Rielly, they also have 2012 second rounder Matt Finn, who was ranked in the first round. Tom Nilsson and Viktor Loov both played a full season in the Allsvenskan, the second level of Swedish pro, last year and offer some future quality.
Finally, the Leafs possess a stable of NCAA defensemen that, although lacking elite potential, offer them some quality future depth. When July 1 rolls around, the first priority for management should be to lock up RFAs Holzer and Franson immediately. They should then look to securing their depth defenseman who are restricted, but more expendable. These include Simon Gysbers and Mark Fraser.
If Toronto cannot resign these players or are unwilling, Burke will likely sign one or two players of a similar age and calibre. They have already lost Juraj Mikus to the KHL and Matt Lashoff, a pending UFA, is not looking likely to return.
The Leafs enter free agency with 38 players under contract and 11 RFAs. Three of those restricted free agents are virtually guaranteed not to return. Therefore, if the Leafs do choose to resign the other eight RFAs, which is unlikely, they would have 46 players under contract.
The Leafs probably wish to enter training camp with at least one contract open, therefore they have between three and six contracts to dish out depending on how many RFAs they resign. Based on the organizational depth chart presented, the Leafs will need to add at least one goalie either through trade or free agency, but two is a very real possibility.
The remaining contracts will likely be used on a couple of depth forwards to replace the lost ones. Given the nature of Brian Burke and the needs of the team I feel that one notable free agent will be signed, but most improvement will be attempted through trades.