Posts Tagged ‘NHL Free Agent Team’

We will take a break from the ‘Top Five’ mania that has riveted and compelled the world of sports (ok, I made that up) and we will instead focus on the talk in “Leaf Land” today which seemed to centre on whether Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs should have signed Raffi Torres to a one year, one million dollar contract for the upcoming season.  The popular answer among Leafs followers appears to be yes, we should have brought him into the fold, but my response to this question is an emphatic no and yours should be too.

Raffi Torres, who will turn 29 years old for the upcoming season is joining his fifth organization since entering the league as the 5th overall selection by the New York Islanders at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  Four seasons removed from his last relatively productive season in 2005/06 with the Edmonton Oilers (27 goals, 41 points) Torres has been the model of inconsistent and one of the more frustrating players in the NHL.

Torres stands 6’0” and weighs over 220 pounds and has the reputation as under achieving power forward with some untapped potential, but since that 27 goal campaign four years ago Torres has averaged 59 games, 12 goals, 25 points (0.42 PPG) and a mere 45 PIMs.  I applaud Brian Burke for passing on this player as this is the kind of recycled projects the Leafs need not partake in, though the price is right there is absolutely zero upside to a move like this as even a career season (very unlikely) from Torres would essentially only make him a poor man’s Alex Ponikarovsky, at best.

This guys is barely an NHL calibre player at this point in his career, and if he goes on to snipe 25 goals this year for the Canucks (not likely) than good for them but the Leafs have internal options who are younger, hungrier and most importantly what kind of message is Brian Burke sending those kids if he decided to bring in a complete re-tread on a guaranteed contract with a lousy track record to boot?  This guy defines ‘replacement level’ hockey player, in fact he might be a step below and I think almost any of the Leafs current forwards (including Colton Orr) could give us 12 goals and 25 points with the type of minutes that Raffi Torres would need to put up even half decent stats for the team.

Didn’t we already go through this when we jettisoned Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Alex Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan last season, and those guys actually had some talent and past success?  Torres doesn’t make us better at all this season and is not a step-up over any of our current returning or prospective forwards.  He isn’t a great defensive player or penalty killer (like an A. Asham) and clearly is not a legitimate scoring threat of note so why would we waste a roster spot and risk the development in any way, shape or form of a Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, Jerry D’Amigo, Christian Hanson or Luca Caputi, among others. 

For better or worse, Brian Burke has a game plan and I admire the fact he doesn’t look for a band-aid solution to appease the masses of fans who seemingly want him to sign any recognizable free agent just for the sake of signing him at the expense of developing a core of hungry, young (and cheaper) alternatives internally.  Not only would signing a player like Torres not make us better I would venture to say he would in fact make us tangibly worse not only this season but when we factor in the ice-time he is possibly taking away from a younger player who would just as likely produce at the same (or better) level, it also makes us worse for the future.

Thanks, but no thanks.

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So what could $56 million buy you if you had an empty roster and could only add from the current free agent talent (a term used loosely now that Kovalchuk has signed) pool.  Based on the fact that these players are still available we can safely assume the market isn’t exactly on fire and multiple offers are not being thrown at most of these guys as we speak. 

For fun, let’s also assume we sign these players each to one-year contracts as to not be bogged down by multiple year deals for relatively lacklustre talent – again, another safe assumption in that most of these guys will likely sign for one year.  We will sign 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goaltenders.

Without further ado, here is your Free Agent roster: (salary in parenthesis)

Alex Frolov (3.5) – Brendan Morrison (2.5) – Teemu Selanne (3.0)

Paul Kariya (3.0) – Glen Metropolit (2.0) – Maxim Afinogenov (2.0)

A. Ponikarovsky (2.0) – Dominic Moore (2.0) – Lee Stempniak (2.0)

Raffi Torres (2.0) – John Madden (2.0) – Arron Asham (2.0)

Reserves: Mike Modano (2.0), Owen Nolan (2.0), Bill Guerin (1.5)

Our top line features the enigma that is Alexander Frolov, a potential 35+ goal scorer too often disappears during stretches of games but if motivated could be a big time scorer and on this squad he will be heavily used in all situations including the power-play.  We are pretty weak at the centre position for our top two lines and Brendan Morrison will be counted upon to recapture his old playmaking form, riding shotgun is the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne. 

Our second line features the underrated Glen Metropolit, I have always been a pretty big fan of his game and he never seems to get a fair opportunity to showcase his talents, he will be given a lot of ice-time with this team and has two veteran wingers in Paul Kariya and Maxim Afinogenov looking to contribute some much needed offense.

 I could not resist forming the third line (hey, this is a Toronto based blog) but this could be our best line if all three click and work hard.  Dominic Moore has speed to burn and maybe being reunited with former Maple Leafs will bring out the best (and only time) Moore was successful.  Poni provides size and strength on one side and Lee Stempniak will bring his normal energy and strong puck pursuit and relentless hustle, hopefully he also brings his lucky late season scoring touch from Phoenix.

The fourth line is also pretty decent (not surprised our third and fourth lines are strong, as that is what dominates the remaining free agent crop) with the steady and smart John Madden playing the middle between another underachiever Raffi Torres and the sparkplug and underrated Arron Asham.  This is our energy line that could also pop the occasional goal or two.

Our reserves will have three elder statesmen in Modano, Guerin and Nolan in case Kariya goes down and we need our compliment of past their prime forwards. 

This isn’t the most inspiring group of forwards, but it is pretty decent mixture of speed, size and veteran savvy, the power-play will be pretty weak, while the penalty kill should be strong.

Defence:

Willie Mitchell (2.5) – Kim Johnsson (2.5)

Andreas Lilja (2.0) – Mike Mottau (2.0)

Andy Sutton (2.0) – Aaron Ward (2.0)

Not much to brag about here other than a bit of size and shutdown ability in the bottom two pairings, Mitchell and Johnsson both have question marks with regards to injuries but if healthy would have to log major minutes for this defensively inept squad.  I believe Lilja/Mottau would be an underrated pairing, both play a smart and sound defensive game and do not make many mistakes.  Sutton/Ward would be a brutal pairing to face as an opposing and if the minutes can be limited and matchups selective their lack of foot speed shouldn’t be exposed too often.

Reserves: Paul Mara (1.5), Marc-Andre Bergeron (1.0)

Goaltending:

Evgeni Nabokov (5) – Ray Emery (2)

Ok, so I cheated just slightly, but we all know Nabokov would prefer to be in the NHL (as opposed to the KHL) all things being equal and he would just jump at the chance to play for this winning group.  Nabokov has been a steady performer and one of the better goaltenders in the league and we will need him to be very sharp to give us a chance at the playoffs.  Hopefully he and Ray Emery will get along swimmingly, with Emery’s recent (and impending) exposure to the KHL and Russia, maybe they will find some common ground.

CAP HIT: Forwards (33.5 million), Defence (15.5 million), Goalies (7 million) TOTAL = $56 million

For a different twist, with this of course all being fantasy and hypothetical, that much free cash could have helped net us a few more quality players on teams in desperate need of some cap relief.  So we potentially could have added (amongst players dumped) Simon Gagne, Kris Versteeg, Jeff Finger and likely Brian Campbell and Marc Savard.

Every team needs a coach and who better to get the absolute most out of this group but our old buddy Pat Quinn would be the man to coach this team, he gets the nod after being unceremoniously dumped by the Edmonton Oilers.

Where would this team finish if they played in the Eastern Conference in 2010/2011?

Who would you have replaced on this fantasy roster if you built it?

Could they beat the 2010/2011 version of the Toronto Maple Leafs?