Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking overseas to bolster their depth at centre.
Sportsnet has learned that the team is on the verge of signing free agent Petri Kontiola to a one-year contract. Sources indicate that the deal will be completed as soon as the player gains his official release from Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL.
Kontiola is a former seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks and spent the last five seasons playing in the Russian-based league. The 29-year-old Finn also won a bronze medal while representing his country at the Sochi Olympics and earned a silver at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in May.
from Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post,
On the afternoon National Hockey League teams spent a half-billion dollars on free agents, the wealthiest franchise in the game opted to pick at the fringes, buying a 37-year-old recovering from a broken leg, and repatriating two wingers who have not scored 10 goals in a season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have new contracts to sign, more vacancies to fill, but their approach this off-season remains inscrutable. They missed the playoffs last year, but have angled neither for a rebuild nor a retooling. They have instead seemed to be tinkering.
They have made minor upgrades on defence. They have changed out goal-scorers for that sense of familiarity up front. It can feel a little like buying new floor mats when what the car really needs are new tires and a transmission to let it drive forward to give goaltender Jonathan Bernier a little peace and quiet every now and again.
“Let’s go with Step 1,” Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said Tuesday. “We’re at July 1, we’re trying to put together a group that has a chance to compete for the playoffs.”
Three year deal.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
What the Maple Leafs are in the market for right now is leadership.
Internally, that trait was identified by top members of the organization as a glaring need following a meltdown finish to the year — the third in succession if you link Brian Burke’s “18-wheeler off a cliff” to the blown 4-1 lead with 12 minutes to play in Boston to losses in 12 of 14 games down the stretch this March and April.
There is no question that a little more internal guidance and fortitude could help. However, determining which players can actually bring that element to Toronto while also contributing on the ice is no easy matter.
It must be remembered that the notion of leadership doesn’t necessarily change addresses with a player. One of the reasons the Leafs went after David Clarkson so aggressively in free agency last summer is because he was thought to come with intangible qualities like character. There was no chance to even test that line of thinking during his disastrous first season here.
from the Globe and Mail,
On Friday afternoon, he spent two hours meeting with the Leafs’ first-round pick, William Nylander, and his father, Michael, reminiscing with a former teammate but also doing some last-minute due diligence.
Then, when Saturday’s trade began coming together with the St. Louis Blues for defenceman Roman Polak, Shanahan was in the video room and making calls to hockey minds who have a close eye on one of his former teams and knew the big man well.
“I still have some friends in St. Louis whose opinions I trust,” Shanahan said.
This will be, in other words, no figurehead position – not for any length of time.
Shanahan intends to provide as much help as possible to Nonis and Co., even on days like the draft when, he admitted, many of the kids chosen had already finished their seasons by the time he took the Leafs top job this spring.
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
There were rumours that the Florida Panthers wanted James van Riemsdyk in exchange for the No. 1 pick in this weekend’s draft. But the core of the Leafs remains off-limits for now. And help is not necessarily on the way either.
According to president Brendan Shanahan, “I don’t think July 1st is ever a great day to rely upon.” That being said, Shanahan wants to bring back David Bolland and reportedly has interest in signing 42-year-old Martin Brodeur to share the net with Jonathan Bernier.
And yet, management is somehow hopeful for a different outcome next season.
The Leafs are banking on young players, like Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, to take another step forward and assume more responsibility. They expect that the Toronto Marlies, who advanced to the Calder Cup semi-final, will fill bottom-six roles at a bargain price. And they believe that the coaching staff, which will once again include Carlyle and as-yet-to-be-named new assistant coaches, will coax this team to be more competitive.
It’s a lot to ask. It’s maybe a little unrealistic. But the people in charge are under the assumption that this team’s problems are not as big as others suggest.
Just over four minutes long, Dave Nonis talks about the Polak trade, the players who were drafted by the Leafs and how busy they may be in the UFA pool.
Brendan Shanahan and Brian Burke.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired defenceman Roman Polak from the St. Louis Blues for Carl Gunnarsson and the 94th overall pick.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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