The draft lottery, the draft itself, and free agency. Three important dates for any Leafs fan who pays attention to the team closely. The Maple Leafs lucked out on two of these dates, by winning the lottery on April 30th and using their first overall pick to select Auston Matthews, the big #1 centre they’ve longed for since Mats Sundin left the team. There’s still work to be done, and still one big day that management is sure to be busy on. They went out and acquired Frederik Andersen. They picked up Auston Matthews. Prospects Mitch Marner and William Nylander have made big strides. They don’t want to tank again next season. They probably won’t be playoff ready, but they have most of if not all of their pieces in play. With that, here are three free agents the Maple Leafs should pursue come July 1st.
1. Steven Stamkos, C (Tampa Bay Lightning)
He’s the big fish of free agency, and you can definitely expect the Leafs to be in on the Stamkos sweepstakes if he doesn’t come to an agreement with the Bolts. Yes, the Maple Leafs already have their future #1 centre in Matthews, but how can you not at least make a pitch for Stamkos? He’s a pure goal scorer, a natural leader, and has proved he can record up to 90 points a season. On top of all of this, he’s a local boy and it would be an unbelievable story if he came home to Toronto. It’s sounding less and less like he’s going to sign back in Tampa, after reports surfaced that he was demanding $10 million a season and Lightning GM offered only $8.5. If the Leafs offered Stammer a contract and he accepted, he would come home and instantly slot in as their number one centre, and their playoff chances would shoot up.
2. Jason Demers, D (Dallas Stars)
Demers isn’t outstanding offensively, he isn’t outstanding defensively, but he’s a very, very solid all around defenseman. He’s pretty big at 6’1 and 201lbs, he’s right handed, and he plays a very physical game with the ability to chip in offensively as well. He put up 23 points in 62 games for the Stars this season and should the Leafs take a run at him, he would instantly slot in alongside one of Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner during the season.
3. Jhonas Enroth, G (Los Angeles Kings)
The Maple Leafs’ goalies right now are Frederik Andersen and Jonathan Bernier, so the Leafs would only be able to take a run at Enroth should they trade Bernier. With that, they would have an entirely re-vamped goaltending duo rather than the old Bernier and James Reimer tandem they ran with for a few years. It’s unlikely the Leafs find a home for Bernier, but he could be used as a backup goalie or even a cap dump in a trade. Signing Enroth would mean trading Bernier before free agency, and it’s not entirely out of the question. Enroth had a very solid season with the Los Angeles Kings last year, posting a record of 7-5-1 with a 2.17 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, so if the Leafs were to sign him and trade Bernier then Enroth would be a very solid backup for them.
It’s very unlikely that the Maple Leafs sign all three of these free agents and of course money and term comes into play when discussing a contract, but each one of them would be serviceable next season and it’s entirely possible the Leafs take a run at one of these players at the very least.pretty