Home > Management, Time For Changes > A look ahead: Will Burke dip into the free agent pool again?

A look ahead: Will Burke dip into the free agent pool again?

February 15, 2010

As we enter the Olympic break, many people are looking forward to the return of NHL hockey. Some to watch their teams make a mad-dash for the post-season and some to watch their team (hopefully) sell off what assets they have to build towards the future.

March 3rd is quickly approaching and no one but the management staff of the Toronto Maple Leafs knows what is going to happen. We can assume that, barring a change of heart and an agreeable contract, the likes of Alexei Ponikarovsky will be wearing a different colour jersy on March 4th. Joining him could be anyone from the current line-up except the few ‘untouchables’ we have like Luke Schenn, Phil Kessel and now Dion Phaneuf.

As fans, we can’t think of anyone more excited by the prospect of some of the veterans being shopped and some roster spots opening up. The prospects themselves join us in the elation that they should have a spot all but guaranteed for them for the remainder of the season, and perhaps even next season.

I, for one, am looking past that. To another date, when free agents charge their phones and wait for that much anticipated call.

No, I’m not talking about July 1st, I’m talking about the day when the collegiate free agents are free to sign pro-contracts.

Last year, on March 31st, 2009, Christian Hanson signed his pro-contract with the Maple Leafs. He played five games, scoring his first NHL goal and registering one assist in his stint with the big club. He has one assist in 10 games in a checking role with the Leafs this season.

On April 3, 2009, Tyler Bozak pulled on the Blue and White sweater. He was arguably the most coveted NCAA prospect next to Matt Gilroy who signed with the Rangers. After recovering from a knee injury, he impressed in rookie camp but was assigned to the Marlies for cap reasons. He has since played 16 games for the Leafs, mostly with Phil Kessel, registering 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points.

While Burke failed to sign Matt Gilroy, he went 2 for 3 for the top college free agents in 2009 and signed Leaf draft pick Viktor Stalberg as well, fresh off Hobey Baker consideration. “The Frat Pack” enjoyed a lengthy time playing together in the Marlies and developed some good chemistry. One can only hope Burke can recreate his free agent magic this year. To help him along, I’ve taken a look ahead at the undrafted potential signings available in the NCAA.

Here’s hoping he completes the hat-trick this year. (If someone could pass this along to him, I may even notch some Matt ‘the Phantom‘ Stajan-assists.)

My 2010 top 10 College free agents:

1. Nick Johnson, Sr, F, Sacred Heart – 23 goals, 21 assists for 44 points in 30 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=98421

2. Dave Jarman, Sr, F, Sacred Heart -10 goals, 33 assists for 43 points in 30 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=94861

3. Bobby Butler, Sr, F, New Hampshire – 22 goals, 19 assists for 41 points in 28 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=97707

4. Mario Valery-Trabucco, Sr, F, Union – 17 goals, 21 assists for 38 points in 29 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=97857

5. Michael Davies, Sr, F, Wisconsin – 13 goals, 24 assists for 37 points in 27 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=74667

6. Jarod Palmer, Sr, LW, Miami – 14 goals, 21 assists for 35 points in 32 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=81045

7. Stephane Da Costa, Fr, F, Merrimack – 13 goals, 22 assists for 36 points in 26 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=107539

8. Paul Thompson, Jr, F, New Hampshire – 15 goals, 14 assists for 29 points in 28 games played.

http://www.uscho.com/stats/player.php?pid=14577&gender=m

9. Brandon Coccimiglio, Jr, F, Mercyhurst – 14 goals, 13 assists for 27 points in 28 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=93917

10. Rob Bordson, Jr, C, Minnesota-Duluth – 8 goals, 26 assists for 34 points in 30 games played.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=99475

Let me explain my rankings here, as I’m sure some of you are wondering why there are no defencemen, or why some players with more points are ranked behind someone with fewer points.

I see our defence as locked up pretty tight for the next two years, and barring a trade of one of our big name defenceman (here’s looking at you Kaberle!) I don’t think any defencemen will sign with the Leafs knowing they have little chance of playing in the NHL in the next couple of years.

Players are ranked not only in skill, but in likelihood of looking for an NHL contract. You’ll notice I included whether they were a freshman, sophmore, junior, or senior. Seniors tend to look for something to move on to, while freshman and sophmores may want to complete their studies. This isn’t always the case though.

Now on to my analysis.

Johnson and Jarman are both in the top 5 for scoring in the NCAA, so their lofty position in the rankings doesn’t need to be explained too much. They both play for the same team, and have some ridiculously good chemistry together. You sign these as a pair, not for the individual. They are both 5’11, 200lbs and are both sensible hockey players. Their offesive skills combined are phenomenal. These guys are the Sedins of the NCAA. Often the beneficiary of each other’s work and knack for knowing what the other is thinking. I think signing these two would be a great boost to the Marlies, but at the same time think if we are limited in pro-contracts, we may be better off looking elsewhere.

Butler has excellent size. He’s 6’0, 180lbs and can do it all. He hits, he backchecks, he is a relatively smooth skater. He finishes more than he passes, but could still give a shot in the arm to the offense of some teams in the long haul.

Valery-Trabucco is like most forwards in the NCAA, slightly on the smaller size, but still gets it done offensively. Nothing about this player truly stands out, but there are very few weaknesses to his game. All around skilled player who could be a good addition.

Davies, to me, is too small at 5’8, 178lbs. He has all-world speed though. This guy can fly, and is truly a dangerous player. Especially on the powerplay when he has room to wheel and deal.

Palmer is my darkhorse in this ranking. He is on a solid point-per-game pace, but is the only one of these picks with the physical size that screams NHL ready. I think of him as a Christian Hanson type player who plays left wing. He bangs, he crashes, he protects the puck. While he isn’t a goon, he’ll stand up for his teammates. If Burke signs any of these guys, I hope it’s this one.

Da Costa, a native of France, is in his first year in the NCAA. I don’t think he’s looking for an NHL contract, but this is one guy worth watching for a couple seasons. He could really develop into a solid 2nd or 3rd liner.

Thompson is another guy I think Burke just has to sign. The 6’2, 210 power forward is enjoying a breakout year. He will not be easy to sign next season, I guarantee it. Hopefully Burke gets it done soon, because he’ll have 29 other teams to contend with next year. He also plays with Phil Kessel’s brother Blake who is also enjoying a breakout year. Burke has a thing for Brother Acts, maybe he’ll find a way to pry this Kessel away from the Islanders. and

Coccimiglio and Bordson are both enjoying productive years with their respective clubs, but seem like they would benefit from more seasoning in the NCAA. They were included as possibilities to round out the top 10, not to take anything away from them. There is a good chance any number of teams could contact them about their availability.
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*Note: There will be no Leafs Update Central this week due to the Olympics. Hence, this blog.*

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  1. February 15, 2010 at 4:29 PM | #1

    Nice blog. Good job.

    NOthing really jumps off the page at me here.

    Those first 2 are on the small side, but if you can get the pair it could be nice depth. The Marlies are nearly devoid of offense so they could help.

    Palmer and Thompson are the most intriguing to me. They both have the size to play in the NHL. Palmer plays at Miami, same place that Brendan Burke worked/ went to school. There could be a connection there.

    I heard that the Leafs may have interest in Chase Polaek, D’amigo’s teammate at RPI. He’s a very undersized Junior.

    • Shawn M.
      February 15, 2010 at 4:34 PM | #2

      I heard that as well, but there have been concerns that he is just benifitting from D’Amigo. That and his size.

      5’11 is hardly undersized in the NCAA, neither is 200lbs. In the NHL, on the other hand they may have some trouble. Who knows, they could be some great pick ups for the Marlies for the next season or two like you said.

      Definitely have interest in Palmer and Thompson, like I said they were the two that seemed the most NHL ready with the most upside.

  2. honesthockey
    February 15, 2010 at 6:01 PM | #3

    A couple of things stand out when I see the list. Johnson and Jarma play for Sacred Heart of Atlantic Hockey. Not a high end D1 division so the stats may be a little mis-leading. A player like Bozak playing at a high end D1 school and not being drafted would definitely draw attention and that would be a difference in this scenario. The one compelling part about them is their birth certificate.

    As far as size goes for the college players, unless things have changed drastically over the years all of these players will spend a good portion of their college careers in the weight room and are normally a little older so you see a close to finished product.

  3. February 15, 2010 at 6:44 PM | #4

    Shawn M. :

    I heard that as well, but there have been concerns that he is just benifitting from D’Amigo. That and his size.

    5′11 is hardly undersized in the NCAA, neither is 200lbs. In the NHL, on the other hand they may have some trouble. Who knows, they could be some great pick ups for the Marlies for the next season or two like you said.

    Definitely have interest in Palmer and Thompson, like I said they were the two that seemed the most NHL ready with the most upside.

    Where do you get that he’s 5’11″ 200lbs?? I show he’s 5’8″ 165LBS.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=107766&encode=TRUE

    • Shawn M.
      February 15, 2010 at 10:22 PM | #5

      Sorry. I meant Jarman and Johnson weren’t undersized. They are both 5’11 190lbs.

  4. Keon
    February 15, 2010 at 6:48 PM | #6

    Really good read Shawn, I was hoping someone would provide some information on the college free agents this year.

    Question though, are any of these players on the same level as Bozak and Gilroy were last year? The reason I ask is because it seems there has been less hype about this compared to last.

    • February 15, 2010 at 6:51 PM | #7

      I’d say no. Bozak and Gilroy were in higher end schools, these guys are from a little bit lower end.

      EDIT: Still wouldn’t hurt to grab a couple of them though… The Marlies are devoid of talent.

    • Shawn M.
      February 15, 2010 at 10:23 PM | #8

      No. None are on the level of Bozak, but some are as good or better than Hanson.

  5. February 15, 2010 at 7:11 PM | #9

    Kadri now with 77pts (tied for 5th, but 6 and 11 games back of those tied with him). Should be in 4th (or better) real soon.

  6. leafsfan87
    February 15, 2010 at 10:59 PM | #10

    Will he sign Leafs 2006 6th round pick, Tyler Ruegsegger?

    • Shawn M.
      February 15, 2010 at 11:19 PM | #11

      Tyler Ruegsegger, F, Sr – 14 goals, 17 assists for 31 points in 30 games. I hope so, at least for Marlies depth. He is a speed player and can be extremly skilled when he gives the effort. Dallas Eakins will make a player out of him, but I still see him as a 3rd or 4th liner who will be great on the PK in a couple years.

      I believe he is playing right wing for Denver this season. Anyone know if he was always a right winger?

  7. February 16, 2010 at 6:40 AM | #12

    Shawn M. :

    Tyler Ruegsegger, F, Sr – 14 goals, 17 assists for 31 points in 30 games. I hope so, at least for Marlies depth. He is a speed player and can be extremly skilled when he gives the effort. Dallas Eakins will make a player out of him, but I still see him as a 3rd or 4th liner who will be great on the PK in a couple years.

    I believe he is playing right wing for Denver this season. Anyone know if he was always a right winger?

    I thought that his skating was a question mark? Good hands, smart hockey sense but average skater.

    • hoolihan
      February 16, 2010 at 7:50 AM | #13

      You are corret, sir … http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/tyler_ruegsegger … his skating would seem to be an issue.

      • Shawn M.
        February 16, 2010 at 3:14 PM | #14

        I didn’t say he was a smooth skater, but I watched some highlights and he seems quicker than most of the guys on the ice. There was a highlight on youtube of him just blowing through two defenders and roofing it on one of the best college goaltenders.

        He may not have NHL speed, but he’s no Jason Allison.

  8. hoolihan
    February 16, 2010 at 9:48 AM | #15

    This doesn’t really fit under the scope of free agents, but I just read it on Hendricks Hockey … “According to Dallas Dave via Twitter, The Pittsbrugh made an offer for Alexei Ponikarovsky. Dave says the team offered up a prospect and a 2nd round draft pick. The Nashville Predators are another team interested.”

  9. February 16, 2010 at 9:57 AM | #16

    Nice blog Shawn!

    One or two NCAA signings would be nice for Marlies depth but I don’t see any of them making a contribution in the NHL. IMO.

    I saw the Penguins rumour of an offer for Poni as well but would like to know what kind of prospect it is, more than likely a “B” prospect to go along with a 2nd.

  10. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 11:41 AM | #17

    Cap Geek says as of today, the Penguins can take on a maximum contract of $2,581,379, which is enough to cover Poni’s Cap hit of $2.105 M. But by the deadline, there will only be 40 days left in the season. By then they will be able to afford a max. contract $3,549,395, giving them an extra million dollars to play with.

    You can easily see why teams want to wait, although it eventually may cost them a slightly better pick or prospect, by leaving it to the deadline.

  11. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 12:52 PM | #18

    The Bleacher Report has this article:

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/346600-monday-morning-musings-with-me-the-big-e-leafs-rumors-more

    Kaberle is a very valuable player on this roster and can be even more so when it comes to helping to usher in the crop of youngsters that are currently on the team and in the system.

    Having said that, the rumors persist. One of the rumors sees Kaberle along with team mate Alexei Ponikarovsky, being shipped off to the Flyers for Jeff Carter and a third round draft pick.

    This would be a good a good fit for both teams as it would give the Leafs a bonified number one center while Kadri continued his development, and it would give the Flyers some much needed scoring from the back end as well as a perennial 20 goal scorer in Ponikarovsky.

    Speaking of Ponikarovski. It has also been rumored that the Tampa Bay Lightning would be interested in acquiring the services of the one time member of Toronto’s ” Sky Line “, that consisted of him, Mats Sundin, and Nik Antropov. Any deal between Toronto and Tampa for him however would likely involve draft picks coming to Toronto rather than a player exchange.

    Lee Stepniak. As a 27 year old, Stepniak is still relatively young and still shows promise. He has a great work ethic and show great poise when going to the net, his trouble has always been however, that he can’t seem to put the puck on the net in key situations and will often completely miss an open net. Which would indicate that he hasn’t yet learned how to play under pressure. The Tapma Bay Lightning are also rumored to be interested in him.

    Rickard Wallin is also garnering interest from a couple of NHL teams. Having struggled all year he seems to be finding a role as a penalty killer with new comer Fredrik Sjostrom. Freddy is showing promise and could be packaged in a deal to the Florida Panthers with Ponikarovsky or Stepniak for Nathan Horton and a late first or early second round pick.

    Garnet Exelby. Exelby made it known in late January along with former team mate Jamal Mayer that he would be willing to relocate. Due to a surplus of defense on the Leafs roster, Exelby has often been the odd man out and feels that at just 28 years old he still has something to offer. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t alot of other teams on the same page. If Burke is unable to move him by the deadline, Exelby will likely find himself on waivers March the fourth.

    • hoolihan
      February 16, 2010 at 1:18 PM | #19

      Interesting read. Can’t say that I’d want Kaberle “mentoring” any young blood that might be coming into mye dressing room. I think Burke would want much more than Carter and a 3rd for Kaberle and Ponikarovsky. Fletcher was going to get Carter and 1st for Kaberle alone two years ago.

      I haven’t read anywhere else that Tampa was interested in either Ponikarovsky or Stempniak. I could see a deal happening between the two teams, though. The Lightning still “owe” Burke a favour for taking all those contracts off their hands at last year’s deadline.

      I have a REAL hard time believing that anybody is interested in Wallin … even the Leafs! I assume he means “Ricky” could be part of a package sent to Florida for Horton and a pick. The other parts of that package would have to be a lot more meaningful than Wallin!

      If Exelby isn’t moved by the deadline, I think he will remain as the #5 or #6 Dman. Finger will be the guy riding the bus.

      • Keon
        February 16, 2010 at 1:45 PM | #20

        Ya, some of it is a little hard to believe.

  12. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 1:43 PM | #21

    It appears that the Leafs have signed Jamie Devane to a 3 year contract. It shows up on Cap Geek in the Team chart, he’s not listed in the Reserve list yet though.

    F Jamie Devane (TOR)
    Birthdate: February 20, 1991 Age: 18

    Start: 2009 End: 2012
    Total Salary: $1,820,000 (breakdown)
    » 2009-2010: $570,000 + $130,000
    » 2010-2011: $570,000 + $130,000
    » 2011-2012: $680,000 + $120,000

    Cap Hit: $733,333 (RFA)

    START YEAR: 2009 END YEAR: 2012 TYPE: ENTRY LEVEL EXPIRY STATUS: RFA

    SEASON TYPE AHL SALARY SALARY BONUSES CAP HIT

    2009-2010 TWO-WAY $62,500 $570,000 $130,000 $733,333
    2010-2011 TWO-WAY $65,000 $570,000 $130,000 $733,333
    2011-2012 TWO-WAY $67,500 $680,000 $120,000 $733,333

    Edit:
    It’s showing up in the Reserve List now.

  13. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 5:21 PM | #22

    Two rumours from ESPN:

    Devils interested in Kaberle and the Sharks might get involved. The Bruins might already be asking.

    And… is the team that Glen Healey could not divulge on Hot Stove be the Sabres?

    - Ponikarovsky a fit in Buffalo, the Leafs will at least get a second rounder for Ponikarovsky.

    • Shawn M.
      February 16, 2010 at 6:03 PM | #23

      All this talk of Kaberle, but he’s going nowhere until July 1st.. I wish the Bruins were asking and that Kaberle wanted to go and play with Chara. Though I doubt they’d give us our pick back.. It’d be Colbourne and their pick. Still not bad though..

  14. February 16, 2010 at 6:14 PM | #24

    Keon :

    Two rumours from ESPN:

    Devils interested in Kaberle and the Sharks might get involved. The Bruins might already be asking.

    And… is the team that Glen Healey could not divulge on Hot Stove be the Sabres?

    - Ponikarovsky a fit in Buffalo, the Leafs will at least get a second rounder for Ponikarovsky.

    Interesting. March 3 should be fun.

  15. February 16, 2010 at 6:14 PM | #25

    Shawn M. :

    All this talk of Kaberle, but he’s going nowhere until July 1st.. I wish the Bruins were asking and that Kaberle wanted to go and play with Chara. Though I doubt they’d give us our pick back.. It’d be Colbourne and their pick. Still not bad though..

    Bill Watters guaranteed Kaberle is gonzo by March 3.

  16. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 6:41 PM | #26

    Shawn M. :

    All this talk of Kaberle, but he’s going nowhere until July 1st.. I wish the Bruins were asking and that Kaberle wanted to go and play with Chara. Though I doubt they’d give us our pick back.. It’d be Colbourne and their pick. Still not bad though..

    I agree, I think we’ll have to wait until draft night.

    Congratulations to Maelle Ricker on her Gold.

    We were just going nuts here, kids just screaming, I just kept yelling “STAY ON YOUR FEET, STAY ON YOUR FEET”. lol

  17. February 16, 2010 at 7:06 PM | #27

    Keon :

    Shawn M. :

    All this talk of Kaberle, but he’s going nowhere until July 1st.. I wish the Bruins were asking and that Kaberle wanted to go and play with Chara. Though I doubt they’d give us our pick back.. It’d be Colbourne and their pick. Still not bad though..

    I agree, I think we’ll have to wait until draft night.

    Congratulations to Maelle Ricker on her Gold.

    We were just going nuts here, kids just screaming, I just kept yelling “STAY ON YOUR FEET, STAY ON YOUR FEET”. lol

    We were all cheering here too. What a win. So far ahead. We were yelling at each other, just stay on your feet. I thought she almost lost it right at the end after the last jump!!

  18. February 16, 2010 at 7:08 PM | #28

    LOL!!!

    am640Brady

    Unusual territory for Ron Wilson..3-nil lead and his goalie hasn’t given up 2 quickies, then pretended he has a nagging groin injury & quit.
    about 3 hours ago from web

  19. Keon
    February 16, 2010 at 9:50 PM | #29

    Well that was certainly impressive.

  20. February 16, 2010 at 9:52 PM | #30

    Keon :

    Well that was certainly impressive.

    Just the warm-up. Can’t wait for the main course on Sunday!!

    I really liked the line of Crosby, Nash and Iggy.

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