Free Agents Available the Leafs Could Target
The halfway mark of the season is inching closer and closer with each passing day, and the Leafs's positioning in the standings is as expected. And with the focus being on building towards a more successful future, that is a good thing.
The Leafs have enough room to add at least one more veteran to the mix via free agency, in the hopes of acquiring another young asset and giving the prospects already on the roster more time to grow. Here are four possible players (ranked from least likely to most likely) the Leafs could sign to a low risk, high reward contract.
A natural left winger, Sean Bergenheim would be a great depth scoring option for the Leafs to use this season. Despite not exceeding the 30 point plateau during his career, the 31-year-old could provide value in the playoffs as he did for Tampa Bay and Florida a few years ago.
Last season was a rough one for Bergenheim as his spot on the roster was taken over by rookies and requested a trade, which landed him in Minnesota. Things didn't go too well for him as he failed to register a point in 20 games combined during both the regular season or playoffs.
Bergenheim is currently playing in Switzerland for SC Bern of the National League A (NLA), where he has 10 points in 17 games thus far. He is unlikely to join the Leafs this year, but could be an intriguing option for next offseason should he become available.
Small but very skillful are two words that come to mind when describing the play of Derek Roy. Leafs fan may be familiar with him as he was once a Buffalo Sabre for quite some time. He has since bounced around the league making in pitstops in cities like Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, Nashville, and recently Edmonton (as shown above).
No longer capable of producing 50 points or more on a regular basis, Roy still provides valuable depth to a contending team. He has shown in the past he can dominate when the playoffs come around given the right opportunity to succeed.
If the Leafs choose to sign him, he has the potential to have a Mason Raymond-type season as his numbers have recently dropped substantially over the last few seasons. That will have to wait until next offseason though as, like Bergenheim, he is currently playing for SC Bern of the NLA. He is playing well so far (15 points in 16 games) and could be a valuable asset to acquire for the Leafs should he decide to give the NHL another try.
A former top-pick for the Florida Panthers, local boy Stephen Weiss is having a hard time getting his career back on track. Since signing a monster five-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings back in 2013, Weiss's numbers have taken a huge hit. It started with an injury riddled first season and was followed by a disappointing second one, in which he only managed to score 25 points in 52 games while barely getting playing time in the playoffs.
Don't let that discourage you, as Weiss is capable of doing great things offensively. At his best, Weiss was able to produce at a good pace, consistently putting up between 40 and 70 points seasons for the Panthers. Like many others before him, Weiss did play his best when facing his favourite team growing up.
Perhaps a return home could do the trick to bring life back to a dying career. He is currently waiting patiently for a team to call him for a contract, as he was bought by the Red Wings and wasn't signed during the recent free agent frenzy. Babcock is familiar with Weiss, as they were on the same team the last two seasons.
Babcock could, however, be the reason why he doesn't come home, but it is always possible for things to change as the season goes on.
Last season was a roller coaster ride for the former first round draft pick and captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite being a key member of two Stanley Cup winning teams for the Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards' ice time and point production continued to decrease with each passing season. The worst came last season where he only mustered up 16 points in 53 games in a disappointing season for both him and the Kings (they missed the playoffs), famously ending up being sent to the AHL at one point.
The offseason, however, was even worse for Richards, as drug problems resulted in his 12 year, $69 million contract was terminated by the Kings which resulted in a long legal case over the summer. He has since been cleared of the battle and is currently working with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL to improve his game in hopes of an NHL team calling back for his service.
Prior to all of this, Richards was once a superstar center for the Flyers, consistently leading his team in points (had a career high of 80 back in 2008-09) and proving a leadership role that resulted in playoff success and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2010.
It is unlikely that Richards will reach those point totals again, but having a bounceback season will make the rest of the league notice and may offer up a huge price. The Leafs could work, as they previously expressed interest in his service. If everything goes according to plan, he could bring back a huge package for the Leafs and bring new life to his career.