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By Staff writer Christopher Bond:   "Free Agents Leafs Should Pursue"

Well there's many UFA's I'd want, but we should probably look at the realistic choices.

Byron Dafoe: There's many reason why I think Dafoe could be an attractive asset
for not only the Leafs but many other teams who are looking for a solid goaltender.

Dafoe knows what it takes to win in the NHL.  He's tasted success and has been around for a long time.  Now some may say that because he's been around too long, that the Leafs shouldn't even bother signing him.  And add to the fact that he's had a couple of terrible bad luck injuries over the short two year stint in Atlanta.

Let's scrap the last two years of Dafoe's career (late signee with Atlanta and then injury after injury).  Here's a guy who just two years ago had thirty-five wins on a Boston team that was first in the East.  Not too bad eh?  Success all starts with the goalie out, so he had to of been doing a lot of things right to get his team in first place just two years ago.

His goals against average and save percentage is not bad at all.  Whether he is a starter or back-up or shares the duties half and half, Dafoe always has the potential to steal a game night in and night out for the team he plays for, when he is comfortable and healthy.

Ferguson almost made Dafoe a Leaf in March and I would not be surprised to see him try to again this summer cause Tellqvist should not and yes I repeat SHOULD NOT!  be the back-up next year.

Glen Murray:  Ok, yes, as much as I'd love the Leafs to bring in youth rather than veterans, perhaps there are just a few vets I am willing to take a chance on.  One of them being (and a realistic choice)  is Glen Murray.

I will be very surprised if Murray is back in Boston.  Not that I believe he dislikes it there (cause it's a great hockey city with passionate fans).  But, ever since he was dealt there, he's been underpaid.  The Bruins aren't an organization to say to any star player (including their own)  "ok here's this much money and yadda yadda, you're staying with us."  It just doesn't run like that in Beantown.  They are too cheap.  Then there is also the fact that the Bruins never made it past the first round.  So is O'Connell going to shell out a large amount of money to Murray when he couldn't even lead his team past the Habs when they were up three game to one?  Nope, not a chance at all!  Expect Murray to walk and get a nice ton of cash wherever he goes, cause it won't be with Boston.

The Leafs need a winger to play on the left side and Murray would be an awesome addition.  We have the money and a competitive team and that alone should attract Murray.  However, we are not the only team with those qualities.

Brian Rolston:  Most of the same can be said for Brian Rolston.  His speed, PK awareness, potential to play the point on the PP and his laser shot makes Brian a very attractive forward this year.  And guess what?  We need a 2nd line centerman.  Well there is nobody more perfect than Brian Rolston unless you look at trades and a name (Arnott)  comes to mind.  He'll be demanding a nice little sum of money though (not that we can't handle that).

Sean O'Donnell:  Again, the Leafs shouldn't be getting older (imo)  but in Ferguson's mind, I am sure he'll be looking at the d corps to make it a bit more experienced and bigger.  O'Donnell brings both of those qualities.  Sean's been a pretty good reliable d-man every year he's been in the league and a pairing of him and Klee on the third unit would be a pretty sweet deal for us.  He can be used on the PK and isn't afraid of making contact.  He is a solid shot blocker.  Sean's just there and solid and that
is something the Leafs d really needs.  If we're going for the Cup, O'Donnell wouldn't be a terrible acquisition.

Felix Potvin: "The Cat" is on the prowl looking for a team to sign with.  Well, consider two things.  Potvin is now willing to play a back-up role without demanding a trade and is successful at it (this past season in Boston).  Also, Potvin knows what it's like to play here and he thrived under the pressure here.  If we're looking to have a good regular season and nab number one in the East, we need a veteran back-up goaltender and Potvin would be cheap and give us a chance to win each night.  A definite possibility no doubt.  It's just up to whether or not Potvin wants to play here because of the way he sort of was booted out the first time around.

Jiri Slegr: You can never have enough depth at defence.  Never.  We saw Pilar step in and show that he is capable of playing in big games.  However after Pilar, there is really nobody that can come in and play with the talent that Jiri Slegr has.  Slegr would be a great number seven to eight defencemen on any team and specifically the Leafs cause we don't have many depth d-men that have been around and that can still play great.

It's pretty amazing that Slegr had nineteen points in thirty-six games when dealt to Boston and had a previous seven in sixteen with Vancouver when he was more than less a number 5 to 7 defencemen in both cities.

A few years ago the Leafs had interest in him.  However that was with Quinn. It'll be interesting to see if Quinn will tip off Ferguson about him, cause he'd be a nice addition.

Sean Hill:  Let's not kid ourselves.  The Leafs will be knocking (if they haven't already)  on Hill's door about signing the reliable veteran to a one year contract. The Leafs had just about acquired Hill in March, but it was too late and the deal fell through. The only question regarding Hill is whether he'd only want a one year deal and I guess also if he'd want to move away from Carolina where his wife is.  I guess it all depends on what's more important to him.  Family or the Stanley cup?  Definitely a hard decision.

One thing is for sure.  If the Leafs had landed Hill, they very well might be playing still.  Not many men are warriors like Sean, and again our d could use some meaner spirited players.  If we're going for the cup, it wouldn't hurt to sign Hill.

Paul Kariya: Here is the one guy the Leafs should be looking at.  Paul Kariya is everything the Leafs need.  Speed, youthfulness, and an elite left winger to play alongside Sundin and Mogilny.  Think about that line!  That is just sick!!

It also helps a ton that Colorado is not going to be looking the same with Forsberg going back to Sweden and other veterans leaving or being traded.  (i.e. Selanne, Foote).

Kariya would be cheap (roughly around $5 million) and it's something I am sure JFJ is already looking at and will try his best to sign this elite talent.

This is the "cream of the crop" of this years UFA's.  In the past the Leafs have had the knack of stealing those "cream of the crops" (Joseph, Roberts, Belfour, Mogilny) so let's hope we can pull off another one!

Kariya wants the cup and knowing that the Leafs have the money and desire to win it all, the fact that Toronto is a top city in North America and as well that it's nothing but a hockey mad town, it would be quite tempting for Kariya to sign here.

There's obviously one problem.  We need to get his name on our offer sheet cause they'll be 29 other teams ringing his door bell.

Richard Matvichuk:  Solid is all I can say.  Probably could be signed for $2 million - $3 million.  Matvichuk knows how to win.  He has a Stanley cup, is mean, has plenty of size and was considered for team Canada in 2002 for the Olympics.  Tell me this guy would not be a great addition.  And only 31?  Man this is a stud we cannot miss out on.  Obviously not an all-star, but he is first and foremost a defencemen and knows his role.

He's a Ferguson type player.

Kris Draper: Much like Brian Rolston, Draper adds speed, grit, great PK abilities and is nominated for the Selke award this year.  He'd be a very nice addition to out centermen.  Again, Draper knows what it takes to win.  His leadership is amazing and he'd play his heart out.  It doesn't hurt that he's from Ontario either.

I've said earlier that I don't want to sign older players who are born in Ontario just so that they can retire here.  But with Draper, this obviously wouldn't be the case.  Kris has lots of hockey left and is coming off his best year ever.

Brendan Shanahan: Shanahan is a great player still.  The only question with him is if he'll too want a one year deal, cause that is all the Leafs will offer him.  He'll be like the Nieuwendyk of this year for the forwards.  An Ontario boy who wants to come home and win the cup for his hometown team.  It's really too bad he's not younger, cause I'd love to see him here longer than a year.  But perhaps he'll be ok with a one year deal.  It definitely would not hurt to have all his experience and leadership.

Then again, we said that this year with all our aging vets, didn't we?

Jozef Stumpel: Who you ask?  Stumpy?  Steve Thomas?  Noooooo.  Jozef Stumpel.  The same Stumpel who is one of the most underrated centermen in the league.  Known for his passing abilities more than anything, Stumpel would also add a nice chunk of size down the middle with his 6'3 frame.  He's a very good skater and his vision is awesome.

Some would ask "how he is better than Antropov?"  But the fact remains that Stumpel can skate 100 times better than Antropov, doesn't take stupid penalties (in fact rarely takes any) and is much more proven than Antropov.  Jozef also makes his peers better around him. The same can't be said for Antropov.  Stumpel is better than Antropov, but is down on the depth chart below Rolston, Draper, Madden, Nedved, Primeau.

Jason Weimer: Wiemer would be a nice addition for a departing Tom Fitzgerald.  His energy and youthfulness would be a great spark for the Leafs.  Not to mention, we're already hated enough, so why not just sign another pest to keep our tradition?  :)

Wiemer is not even thirty years old yet and would be a good old Canadian boy who would wear the Maple Leaf proud.

Bombardir:  Again we're back to depth on defence.  If the Leafs could deal Berg for a draft pick (seeing we do not have many this year)  Bombardir would be a great replacement for Berg.  There's a reason why you never hear anything negative about him and it's because he makes his job simple.  He's not flashy, he just does his job. That's definitely something I'd like to see rather than have Aki trying to make fancy plays and rushing the puck.

Burke:  I personally would not want him.  However if I am going to put Dafoe on my list and defend him and his play from a few years ago, then I have to defend Burke.  Burke is a veteran goalie who was nominated for the MVP just a few years ago!  He's played in tournaments for Canada and just may not hurt to have him as a back-up to play every 10 games or so. However his record in Toronto as a visitor is not good and he usually thrives in places that are not media mad. Alas, he could get a look.  Even if it's a minor one.

Keith Primeau:  I definitely do not need to say much about Primeau's heart, determination, grit, leadership, skill etc.  We as Leaf fans have seen it from captain Keith and although it's extremely hard to see Primeau leaving Philadelphia and especially coming to Toronto, here's something to consider. When the Leafs were bounced by New Jersey, the following summer, they signed Mogilny.  Stole away the rivals biggest assets (well one of them).

Primeau is from Ontario and said he'd love to retire here.  Although that sounds extremely repetitive, Primeau is a long way from retirement and with this only being Keith's chance at choosing where he wants to play, this might be the time he sticks it to Bobby Clarke. I wonder if Primeau is one of the Philly players who can't stand Hitchcock?  Hmmmmmmm.

Martin Rucinsky: The Leafs are weak on the left wing and Rucinsky is a solid defensive player who also excels at the offensive end of the game.

If Rucinsky had played more than sixty games in ST.L  last year, he'd be close to (if not past) the century mark for points in the last two seasons.  Not too bad eh?  Can you say underrated?  Man I always thought Martin was a stiff.  Reminder to self:  Don't listen to Hab fans.

Whoever signs Rucinsky (it wouldn't take a huge amount of money by the way)   will have a very nice addiction to their team.  Hopefully he comes here or stays out west.

Petr Nedved:  If you want another underrated player in this league and you want to know more about him, look no further than Petr Nedved.  Nedved playing all those years in the Rangers organization was known as yet another lazy star.  However that is clearly not the case.  Nedved tried every game.  He too has a great two-way game and it showed even more when he was dealt to the Oilers, where he had line mates that actually cared about winning.

Another interesting twist to signing Nedved is that Ferguson had a tremendous amount of interest in him in March and if it wasn't for the Oilers stepping up and showing their fans that they were going for the playoffs, the chances the Leafs would have landed Nedved in March would have been favourable.

Nedved is also familiar with Pat Quinn going back to their days in Vancouver. Petr's probably the most realistic choice of signing with the Leafs if you factor in the other centers already mentioned (Rolston, Draper, Primeau, Stumpel).

For TMLFever,

Christopher Bond