The biggest questions surround the potential trades that could happen this season, as goalie James Reimer and defenseman Jake Gardiner continue to be thrown around in rumours, leading up to the season. Those are two substantial pieces that could get moved and could have some significant returns, if the deals are done well.
Also, there are roster spots available up front in the forward ranks and has that reach to Europe done the Leafs any good? This is a big question for us poolies, as there could be a potential for points and possibly a sleeper or two, if we're paying attention.
Nevertheless, I think the Leafs have some real potential this season, but their gains may not be enough to make that leap into the playoffs.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Phil Kessel||75||8.000||Cody Franson||40||3.300||Jonathan Bernier||65||2.900|
|James Van Riemsdyk||65||4.250||Jake Gardiner||35||4.050||James Reimer||25||2.300|
|Nazem Kadri||55||2.900||Dion Phaneuf||30||7.000|
|Joffrey Lupul||50||5.250||Stephane Robidas||20||3.000|
|Tyler Bozak||45||4.200||Morgan Rielly||20||0.894|
|Mike Santorelli||35||1.500||Roman Polak||15||2.750|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||0.833|
|Leo Komarov||30||2.950||Petter Granberg||10||0.800|
First Round Picks
Scoring depth for the Maple Leafs may be at a premium going into the 2015 season, which I think hurts the team's top players, as it doesn't give the opposition much else to worry about. I think this could be the downfall of Phil Kessel, who has been consistently either 12th or 13th in pool scoring over the last three seasons and he could finally fall a little bit, not worthy of an opening round pick. However, there will likely still someone who picks him up in the draft early, he has been consistent enough to be there.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
There was some high expectations placed upon forward David Clarkson, heading into the 2014 season. Clarkson signed a high-profile contract to head home to play for his boyhood idol team and his season fell right on its face with an early 10-game suspension. There was another smaller suspension and a number of injuries in his season, which kept him to only 60 games, scoring only 11 points. For the two seasons previous, he was a solid hockey pool forward and I would say that I'm intrigued to find out whether or not he could return to that form in Toronto.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
I get the feeling that the Maple Leafs will be able to improve on their 2014 season, but it will be on the shoulders of a team effort, rather than the superstar individuals. Phil Kessel is still destined to be a top end pick, but I think his numbers may dip a bit, but only slightly. James Van Riemsdyk may also dip, but will still be a solid pick. Nazem Kadri will feel a bit more confident in his role in Toronto, which will make him a better pick this year and then there will be some quality depth up front as well.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The Leafs have a wealth of offensive defensemen, which should share the load of points coming in from the blueline. Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf should all be reasonable defender picks for points, but they don't project to be among the elite today. The Leafs are also working with some more potential below them, which could make this team much more interesting down the stretch or at the season's Waiver Drafts.
There is a fair assumption in Toronto that Jonathan Bernier has indeed won the number one job in the Maple Leafs' crease and we're just waiting to see what happens with James Reimer now. Bernier should pick up some quality minutes this season, but if Reimer sticks around, he may have to share. If there is a move that sees Reimer leave town, I would adjust the numbers for Bernier quickly.
Team To Pick From Late?
Yeah, I think the Leafs will be a good scoring team this season and a team that fights for a playoff spot. That is the kind of team that you can gamble with some late round picks on. Mike Santorelli or Morgan Rielly do come to mind as some decent options late, players that could possibly score on the upside of their projections.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Leafs don't have any major restricted free agents left to sign and have a number of spots left open on their projected roster, still to be won. The table above has a projected roster of 20 players at $63.2 million, leaving roughly $5.8 million for the last four spots and if those spots are going to be taken up by those just off the roster, then the Leafs should have no problems fitting underneath the ceiling, leaving some space for another move or two at the deadline.
The only real injury concern at the end of 2014 was winger Joffrey Lupul's knee and his post-season prognosis was good. I think we should all expect him at training camp, but be weary of his place on the injury prone lists.