It was a busy first day of free agency for the National Hockey League with at least 65 players (still a couple hours left in the day) signing new contracts.
However, it wasn't a particularly eventful day for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There was never much of a chance to sign marquee free agents such as Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, but July 1 was a glorious opportunity to add a responsible, minute-munching defenseman and to add size and grit to the bottom six group of forwards.
Looking at the names that got away—names like Brandon Prust, Jordin Tootoo, Dustin Penner and George Parros—it appears as if the Leafs missed a great chance to seriously improve their club.
Centreman Jay McClement, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, was one of two free agents successfully wooed (tricked?) by the Leafs on July 1.
The deal will be worth $1.5 million a year for the next two years.
McClement, you might recall, was traded by the St. Louis Blues along with defenseman Erik Johnson to the Avalanche back in February 2011 for forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Kingston native's signing with Toronto raises a couple of interesting issues:
1) The Leafs now have at least four third-line centremen in the organization, the others being Tyler Bozak, Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi. Could one of these three be heading elsewhere before the beginning of the 2012-13 regular season?
2) The Vancouver Canucks want a hockey trade as opposed to a salary dump with regards to any potential trade involving goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Canucks need a third-line centreman more than they need a fifth or sixth defenseman who makes $4.5 million a year (i.e. Mike Komisarek). TSN's Marc Crawford suggests Tyler Bozak could be part of any potential Luongo deal, but perhaps Tim Connolly would make more sense. A 3C for the Canucks, a salary dump for Toronto and room for McClement in the Leafs' lineup, all in one.
Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown, had this to say about McClement's signing:
The Jay McClement signing is an interesting move that potentially addresses the Leafs' need for OK fine I have no idea who Jay McClement is.— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) July 1, 2012
That's probably what most Leaf fans are saying about the other Leaf free agent signing of the day, defenseman Mike Kostka.
The Leafs re-signed three of their own in Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton (one-year deal), goalie Jussi Rynnas (one-year deal) and forward Matt Frattin (two-year, one-way deal worth $1.7 million).
The verdict: A+.
After captaining the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup Finals, Ryan Hamilton deserved to be re-upped.
Another no-brainer re-signing was that of Rynnas, who may end up as the Marlies' starting goalie going forward.
Of course, Frattin is an emerging talent with the Leafs who has the potential to be a top-six forward in the NHL. His new contract will pay him less than $1 million per year over the next two years, and Frattin could be a 20-goal scorer before its expiration.
The Goalie Situation
No news on the Luongo front, but there was a little news, if you can call it that, regarding Martin Brodeur:
Burke having trouble getting read on Brodeur situation; thinks ultimately he'll re-sign in NJ— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) July 1, 2012
In short, don't get your hopes up.
According to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, the Leafs have extended qualifying offers to all their remaining RFAs except 23-year-old Richard Greenop, who, according to his agent Scott Norton, was sadly forced to retire due to ongoing concussion problems.
Unfortunately, it looks like grinder Joey Crabb will not be returning to the Leafs:
Leafs might re-visit Rosehill, but say Crabb wanted too much.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) July 1, 2012
This is bad news partly because he was one of the few Leafs who tried every single night. Leo Komarov could be leaned upon next year to fill Crabb's shoes.
Reaction: The Leafs really couldn't afford a million bucks for a third- or fourth-line guy who played a huge role for them last season?