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Apr 20 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs Pdefenseman Ryan O

The Future of the Toronto Maple Leafs Part 1: Free Agents

With being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs it is time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to seriously take stock of the pieces that are missing from the franchise. There are a ton of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, coming up this year and next and a big question of which ones will be back next season. Let’s take this player by player.

May 10, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) scores a shorthanded goal past Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the second period in game five of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The center of a lot of discussion this season has been Tyler Bozak. He is an unrestricted free agent come July 1st and I think the Leafs would be crazy not to sign him. He is their best face-off guy, he is 5th on the team in points and he is the only one on the team with a short handed goal, he was also the only one on the team to have a short-handed goal in the playoffs. To me his playoff performance secured his job with the Leafs and I will honestly be very surprised if he isn’t back in the blue-and-white next year.

The restricted free agent that I have no questions about is Nazem Kadri. He was a phenom this season with 2 hat-tricks and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a Leaf next year. The question lies with his sometimes line mate and  unrestricted Free Agent Clarke MacArthur. In my opinion MacArthur would be worth signing. He has certainly found his stride this season and I am very excited to watch him going into next season. It is definitely not a done deal as to whether he will be with the Leafs next season but I would certainly like to see it.

Then you have the new kids. Leo Komarov, Joe Colborne, and Mark Fraser are all restricted free agents and Ryan Hamilton and Mike Kostka are unrestricted free agents. Of these players I definitely see Komarov and Colborne getting signed. Komarov is a heavy hitter and fits well into coach Randy Carlyle‘s Style of play. Colborne did really well filling in during the playoffs and is definitely a great asset to have. If Mark Fraser’s skull injury doesn’t cause any set backs in his career I can see him getting signed as well. Hamilton and Kostka are definitely question marks that could go either way, if they are signed they will probably spend most of their time in the AHL.

There is also question of the tough guys. Colton Orr is an unrestricted free agent and Frazer McLaren is a restricted free agent. With the Leafs style of play it is entirely possible that these two both get signed and I wouldn’t be at all opposed to that. Orr and McLaren aren’t just tough guys as they both have contributed to scoring, they are valuable commodities that the Leafs should not let slip through their fingers.

There is also a good chunk of defensemen whose contracts have expired as well. Ryan O’Byrne is an unrestricted free agent and Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson are both restricted free agents. There might be a question surrounding O’Byrne due to a few playoff blunders but him and John Michael Liles have good chemistry which could help his case. I don’t know what to say about Gunnarsson but Franson’s playoff performance may have secured his job.

Next year sees the expiry of a couple of big contracts in Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. Now I know what you’re thinking and I promise I’m not going to tear them down again. You are no strangers to my feelings about these two but I promise right now I’m looking at this unbiased. I do not see Kessel and Phaneuf suiting up for the Leafs next season. They are the team’s only trade commodity. Kessel is not physical enough to fit with the teams new style of play, and Phaneuf does not have the leadership skills to be captain (I will get further into that at a later date). The Leafs can trade them to get a piece they really need (maybe Jordan Eberle). I know my dislike of them might make me biased but there are a lot of others out there that are too much the other way. It is time to objectively look at these two and really think about their future with this team.

What do you think the Leafs should do moving forward?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below, on facebook, on twitter (@kcapp22 or @TMMotS), or by email ([email protected]).

Tags: Carl Gunnarson Clarke MacArthur Cody Franson Colton Orr Dion Phaneuf Frazer Mclaren Free Agents Joe Colborne Leo Komarov Mark Fraser Mike Kostka Nazem Kadri Phil Kessel Ryan Hamilton Ryan O'byrne Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Bozak

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