With training camps just around the corner, there is a plethora of talent still looking to find a home on an NHL team. I am going to highlight three players that the Maple Leafs should take a gamble on and offer them a PTO to battle for a roster spot this upcoming season.
20-21 NJD GP:44 G:5 A:14 P:19 PIM:26 +/-:-16
21-22 NJD GP:77 G:5 A:17 P:22 PIM:82 +/-:-8
The first player on my list is P.K Subban. The 33yr old Toronto native, spent the last 3 seasons in New Jersey. In addition to the noted stat lines, he added 69 hits, 90 blocked shots as well as 23 takeaways while averaging 18:18 minutes per game in 77 games. Although he may not be the offensive weapon he once was, the talent that the Leafs’ roster already possesses could allow P.K to have a renaissance year and put up numbers that would pave the way for him to land a lucrative contract next offseason.
A “Homecoming” seems fitting for the Norris Trophy and King Clancy Award winner given the fact his name has been linked to his hometown team for the better part of a decade. To his gain, he would not be required to be “The Guy” on the backend as he would likely slot in the bottom 4 of your D corps while adding some extra minutes on the man advantage. He has a booming shot that he can get on net, a welcomed weapon that has been non-existent for quite some time on the Leafs. If he does not score it will create rebound opportunities for others to capitalize on. He can also be elevated to the first unit if it is slumping or they just need a different look. Subban is not one to shy away from the physical aspect of the game either and being in a lesser role could see him rack up some crooked numbers as he would benefit from the favorable match ups. With all of this said, I project him to be on the second pair with Jake Muzzin. This would push Holl down the depth chart or make him expendable all together via trade.
20-21 FLA GP:38 G:3 A:6 P:9 PIM:8 +/-:-1
21-22 ARZ GP:74 G:8 A:15 P:23 PIM:12 +/-:-16
A blast from the past coming back to where it all started in his NHL career? A fascinating option that might be worth exploring. Stralman now 35 had some sound defensive stats 100 blocked shots, 99 hits, 32 takeaways while averaging 21:20 in ice time in the 74 games played. This indicates he still has gas left in the tank. However, in the case of coming to Toronto he would not need to be relied on as heavy as he was in Arizona. He is not flashy, but he is dependable with some offensive attributes.
He does a lot of the little things right and is not a liability defensively. The right shot D-man would slot in towards the bottom of the depth chart as a 5th, 6th or even a 7th defensemen that could be rotated in and out of the line up to help give fellow vets such as Muzzin, Mark Giordano or even T.J. Brodie a much needed breather throughout the grind of a 82 game season. As we all know, defensive depth is detrimental for any team that intends to make a significant deep run in the post season. Stralman has seen his fair share of the post season logging 114 career games in his 14-year career. His most recent postseason appearance was in the 20-21 playoffs with the Panthers logging 19:26 in average ice time over 5 games before they were eliminated.
20-21 OTT GP:8 G:1 A:0 P:1 PIM:6 +/-:-6
20-21 TOR GP:26 G:4 A:8 P:12 PIM:14 +/-:-2
21-22 ARZ GP:60 G:6 A:15 P:21 PIM:32 +/-:-11
Continuing the theme of reuniting with familiar faces brings me to the next name on my list of players still available. Galchenyuk would be someone I would strongly consider. Now 28, he ended up playing last year in the desert for his second stint with the Coyotes. He also added 67 hits. He showed promise in his brief time in Toronto and could be a viable option to flank John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line. At times, he was able to develop solid chemistry with Toronto’s second-line forward pairing; maybe given more of an opportunity he could further grow that and make it a mutually beneficial. The former 30-goal scorer has shown that he has the ability to bulge the twine in addition to being a hard-nosed forechecker that can throw his weight around and doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas. This could help boost the production of both the captain and skilled Swede by providing more space to operate.
He can be slotted anywhere in the line up if required as he can play all forward positions, but I believe that the spot that is needing addressing most up front would be the second line left wing. This position has been a bit of a question mark in recent years and with departures of the likes of Zach Hyman a couple of years ago as well as Ilya Mikheyev this offseason it has left this spot vacant. This position will be heavily coveted as current Leafs, Alex Kerfoot and Nick Robertson will be vying for this spot. Kerfoot has served to be a decent option on this line putting up good numbers, but I believe is better suited on the 3rd line. While the young prospect Robertson is looking to finally crack the Leafs roster on a permanent basis barring any injury derailment like last season.
These are all options that could provide more depth to the Leafs main roster or at minimum ramp up the competition in training camp for those final spots. There is not an abundance of openings, however if someone really impresses during training camp, it could definitely make the Leafs brass decisions even tougher. Of this group the two I would go for would be Subban and Galchenyuk. Both former Habs provide the most upside of the trio. With Alex, there is familiarity and versatility there. With P.K, as stated before the threat of a big shot from the point would be a coveted commodity to add to an already dangerous offensive arsenal, especially on the power play.
Whether the Maple Leafs take a gamble on any of these players in the coming weeks is to be determined but one way or another I am certain they will all end up somewhere before the start of the upcoming season. But for our sake in Leafs Nation, it would certainly be pretty exciting to see them where the Maple Leaf.
Other honorable mentions not on my list were Sonny Milano, Riley Nash, Zdeno Chara, Keith Yandle and Tyler Bozak.