Amodeo: Looking forward to the Leafs and Yzerman’s move underrated

By: Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer

@DannyP29

With only a few moves done this summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs upcoming season appears to have a lot of the same faces from the 2011-12 season. Other than the trade for James van Remesdyk in which the Leafs sent Luke Schenn to Philadelphia to play with his brother, the signing of Jay McClement, the buyout of Colby Armstrong and the swap of Jonas Gustavsson’s rights for a seventh round draft pick, GM Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup hasn’t changed much.

Goaltending

James Reimer (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

James Reimer so far is the Leafs starting goalie for the upcoming season. Reimer will look to rebound after a poor 2011-12 season, which was greatly affected by the concussion he suffered in the beginning of the season. A lot of Reimer’s upcoming season will depend on how is able to recover from his injury after having the summer off, and working on his game, most notably his glove and blocker hands. With the Monster being shipped out to Winnipeg (and later signing in Detroit), Ben Scrivens will be promoted to the teams backup goalie. Scrivens had brief stints with the Leafs last year and was impressive at times, but will need a full season before the Leafs get fully judge what upside this youngster really has.

Defense

Dion Phaneuf (MIchael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

With Schenn being shipped to the Flyers for JVR, and the possible demotion of Mike Komisarek and his $4.5 million a year contract, the Leafs will have a few holes to fill on defense. With captain Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson and 2011-12 stand out Jake Gardiner all returning to the fold, the Leafs will look to their farm system to fill the final two spots. Toronto Marlies Jesse Blacker, Matt Lashoff and Korbinain Holtzer as well as prospects Stuart Percy and 2012 first round draft pick Morgan Rielly (who had an impressive prospect camp) all will battle it out at training camp to fill the final spots on the Leafs defense.

Forwards

Tyler Bozak (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel are posed to return as the Leafs top line this upcoming season. Although many Leaf fans have been crying for a number one center, the Leafs can leave Bozak on the top line as he has demonstrated amazing chemistry with both Lupul and Kessel all of last season. The second line looks to have Clark MacArthur, Mikael Grabovski and JVR round out the Leafs top six. The Leafs bottom six will have some battles for positions at training camp. Dave Steckel looks to be a shoe in for the fourth line center position, but the other five positions look to be open. I expect Matt Frattin and Matthew Lombardi to get positions. Other than that, three spots look to be open. Tim Connolly would be a good choice for the third line center position, but with a $4.75 million cap hit and limited offense from Connonlly, the Leafs may shallow his contract and bury him with the Marlies. Joe Colborne, Jerry D’Amigo, Mike Brown, newly-signed Jay McClement and Nazem Kadri will battle it out for the final forward spots with the Leafs.

What to look for

In order for the Leafs to be successful and end their playoff drought, they will need Reimer to rebound from his injury and return to form. Gardiner will not only be expected to continue developing, but continue to log several key minutes for the Leafs. If some of the Leafs prospects like Kadri, Frattin, Purcy and Briggs for instance where to make the team, they would need to make significant impacts in order to help the Leafs make the playoffs.

What Burke can do

First thing Burke can do is either sign or trade for an experienced goaltender, and I am not speaking of Luoungo. The Leafs need a veteran goaltender in order to help develop Reimer. The Leafs could use a depth defenseman and a quality top six forward, but if the Leafs are content on allowing their players to develop, they may be better off in the long run.  In regards to the depth defenseman, if the Leafs are able to re-sign Cody Franson to a reasonable contract, I will take the RFA on, and leave one roster space for a rookie.

*     *     *

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman continues to impress, as he was able to trade for and sign goalie Anders Lindback to a two-year, $3.6 million dollar contract In what was a trade and signing that was not given enough credit.

Anders LIndback (J. Crocker/Wikimedia Commons)

Tampa Bay had goaltending problems heading into this year, as former number one Dwayne Roloson is an UFA this summer. The option of re-signing Roloson is not a desirable one, as he is north of 40 and on the down turn of his career.

With Lindback, the Lightning can asset if the hype matches the talent over the next two years. This will be Lindback’s first starting position in the NHL, as he couldn’t move past Nashville Predators number one goalie Pekka Rinne and let’s be honest, not too many goalies in the entire league are better than Rinne. Lindback gets a two year contract in Tampa and is hoping to live up to his hype, as if it was not for Rienne, he would have been a starting goalie in the NHL years ago.

For Yzerman, he gave Lindback the same deal as Toronto’s Reimer and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick; two years at $1.8 million per year. This gives Yzerman the time to access his talent and see if Lindback is the problem solver for his teams goaltending situation moving forward. Considering how it was rumoured several teams were interested in Lindback, and the low cost Yzerman was able to sign Lindback for, it appears to be a win-win situation in Tampa with their goaltending, for a change.

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