July 1 has come and gone and the Toronto Maple Leafs have failed to do anything significant in the free agent market. The Maple Leafs did manage to sign Jay McClement from the Colorado Avalanche who will fill a need on the third or fourth line next year and contribute to the penalty kill, but that signing does not make the team appreciably better.
Brian Burke was quoted in his press conference yesterday afternoon saying that he believes his group (general managers) makes more mistakes on July 1 then they do all year combined. If this sounds familiar, it is, because Burke has also been quoted saying this every year at the trade deadline. What is even more ironic is that when Burke came to the Maple Leafs, he was quoted as saying that July 1 is his draft day. One must wonder, why the change in philosophy?
Well maybe it’s because his free agent record since coming to the Maple Leafs has been atrocious. Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Colby Armstrong, Colton Orr and Tim Connolly have all failed to live up to the contracts that Burke signed them to, or maybe because his statement is actually true.
Unless you are signing an elite level talent, teams greatly overpay for insignificant pieces. We saw it again this year with players like Brandon Prust, who is very enjoyable to watch, being grossly overpaid.
Although the Maple Leafs may still make more moves in free agency, Burke has said that he plans to improve his club via the trade market. One of the most significant moves made yesterday with respect to the Maple Leafs may have been one made by another team.
The Florida Panthers and the Maple Leafs have been the two teams believed to be in the running for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, with the Panthers appearing to have the inside track. However, the Panthers made a very interesting move yesterday, locking up backup goalie and unrestricted free agent Scott Clemmensen with a two-year deal. That leaves the Panthers with Jose Theodore, Clemmensen and blue chip goalie prospect, Jacob Markstrom, all under contract.
The Panthers’ goalie situation looks solidified and they don’t appear to be a team that is looking to trade for a goalie with 10 years and over $50 million dollars left on his deal.
With the Panthers potentially out of the picture, that leaves only one logical destination for Luongo: Toronto. There have been rumours that Luongo will not waive his no-movement clause for the Maple Leafs, but if his only choice is to wear the blue and white or stay in Vancouver to back up Corey Schneider, you’d have to believe he would choose the former.
Is Luongo the answer in Toronto? No one has the answer to that, but all signs point to him becoming a Maple Leaf this off-season.
One thing to note, with the CBA set to expire on September 15, the Canucks may just hold on to Luongo to see if there are any provisions in the new CBA to alleviate teams of undesirable contracts, which may open up the trade market.