Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 Offseason Plans

            One of Hockey’s most storied franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are in the midst of a low point in their history. The team is currently in rebuilding mode and looking towards the future. As of March 18, 2016, they have the lowest point total in the league, but there are reasons for optimism. After trading away Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer and others at the trade deadline, the team has a plethora of draft capital and cap space to work with.

The team has been getting an extended look at some of its young talent this season. Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov and William Nylander, the 8th overall pick in the 2014 draft, have all performed very well in their first NHL action. Here is a snapshot of what fans can look forward to this summer as the team continues to rebuild.

            Pending Free Agents: The two most notable free agents for the Leafs are Center Nazeem Kadri and Right Wing Michael Grabner. Kadri, the team’s leader in points, is a solid player but may be the victim of a numbers game. If the team can acquire two other highly coveted centers (discussed later), there will be no need for Kadri. However, if one or both of those two are unavailable, he will likely be back with the team. Grabner, acquired in a trade in September 2015, has been a major disappointment. He has the highest salary on the team and will likely not be re-signed.

            Draft Picks: Every team this year is “battling” for the right to have the top pick as there is a clear top player available. Auston Matthews, the Arizona born Forward currently playing in Zurich, would likely be slotted in as a center for Toronto if they win the rights to draft him. While he is not projected to be a generational talent like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, he is best player available in this draft and would be a coup for Toronto. If Matthews is not available, the team will have to consider taking Alex Nylander, the brother of their future star who is also a top prospect.

            Free Agent Additions: Toronto is definitely in the running to score the crown jewel of Free Agency. Steven Stamkos, the 26 year old Captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, will be the target of every team in the league. The Center is a perennial All-Star and one of the most dynamic players in the NHL. He grew as a Maple Leafs fan and lives in the area in the offseason, so the rumor mill has been working projecting Stamkos joining the team.

            Additionally, the team could use some veteran defensive help. Keith Yandle of the New York Rangers and Kris Russell of the Dallas Stars are the top two defensemen available to add an experienced blue liner to help the younger players develop.

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