The following is a guest blog entry, submitted by Michelle. If you have a story you'd like to contribute, don't hesitate to let me know.
Toronto made their annual late-season run towards a playoff spot, but the Maple Leafs still missed the postseason for the sixth consecutive year, and the natives are beyond getting restless in arguably the most hockey-mad market in the NHL (with all due respect to Montreal). The Maple Leafs require a center to put on their No.1 line alongside Phil Kessel, who has averaged 31 goals per year in his two seasons in Toronto with the likes of Tyler Bozak and youngster Nazem Kadri as his set-up men, and general manager Brian Burke will be looking high and low for a true pass-first center this summer.
Brad Richards of Dallas is probably the best option for Toronto to improve their NHL odds on the free-agent market, and he led the Stars with 77 points in 72 games this season. The Stars really struggled when Richards was out with a concussion, and that is the major problem: in this day and age of concussions, how much would Burke be willing to pay for a 31-year-old who has had concussion issues, along with a number of other injuries? Richards made $7.8 million last season and would probably want something similar, and Burke is adamant that he’s not going to overpay anyone.
The other options suffer from the same issues of injuries and age: Buffalo’s Tim Connolly, who was knocked out of the last round of the playoffs against Philadelphia with another possible concussion, and he’ll be 30 in a few days. He made $4.5 million last season, and Burke would probably be able to get him at a discount, but he’s not a No.1 type of player. Jason Arnott and Michal Handzus are 35 and 33 years old, respectively, so they’re out of the picture. Chris Higgins, currently with Vancouver, is 27 and a free agent after the season, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. Burke may have to try and pull off one of his wild trades, and it’s going to be a long and interesting summer in Leafs Nation.
Anyone want to take a stab at predicting which free agents are coming here this summer?