The Toronto Maple Leafs could be a major player when the NHL’s free agency season kicks off at noon ET on Wednesday.
Armed with considerable salary cap space and several players at the centre of much trade speculation, the Maple Leafs are sure to welcome some new faces over the next few days.
With an eye on the unrestricted free agent market, here are five players who could be potential targets for the Blue and White.
Cody Franson – Defence
2014-15 Team: Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators
Cody Franson was enjoying the most productive season of his career with the Maple Leafs before a trade saw him reunite with the Nashville Predators. Could a reunion with the Maple Leafs be the next step in the 27-year-old’s career?
“I’ve always said that I loved it in Toronto,” Franson said in May. “I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they’re one of the teams that calls.”
With a fairly thin class of players to choose from, Franson could be in high demand on July 1. It’s simply a matter of whether or not the Maple Leafs want to meet his asking price.
Eric Fehr – Centre
2014-15 Team: Washington Capitals
Eric Fehr is sneaky good. He’s put up some decent offensive numbers (19 goals in 2014-15) and he’s a big body at 6-foot-4, 212 lbs who’s been a very reliable piece of the Washington Capitals’ bottom six forward unit the last few seasons.
The Maple Leafs could use some help down the middle, and Fehr presents an intriguing option who could handle some tough defensive assignments.
Fehr shades well on the spreadsheets, which is something the Maple Leafs’ analytics department has surely noted.
Cody Hodgson – Centre
2014-15 Team: Buffalo Sabres
Cody Hodgson went from 20-goal scorer with first-line centre potential to a player the Buffalo Sabres felt better off paying to go away.
Hodgson was bought out by the Sabres and will be looking for a fresh start. Toronto doesn’t exactly offer a cloak of anonymity for the 25-year-old, but he’s a local boy and if the price is right he presents an excellent risk-return project.
He’s by no means a franchise centre, but chances are Hodgson is closer to the player who totalled 44 points in 2013-14 than he is to his woeful six goal, 13 point performance last season.
He comes with defensive liabilities, but his age and offensive potential could be attractive to the Maple Leafs.
Erik Condra – Right wing
2014-15 Team: Ottawa Senators
You can gamble on fallen talents like Hodgson, or you can make a run at players that deliver a little more certainty.
The Maple Leafs love speed, and Erik Condra offers lots of it.
Condra performed admirably in a bottom six role on a line with Curtis Lazar and Jean-Gabriel Pageau with the Senators in 2014-15. He’s never going to put up big offensive numbers, but his speed and forechecking prowess help keep the puck moving in the right direction.
Matt Bartkowski – Defence
2014-15 Team: Boston Bruins
While Don Sweeney navigates the perils of salary cap hell, it has been determined that Matt Bartkowski will not be part of the Boston Bruins’ plans moving forward.
The 27-year-old won’t command big dollars, but he’s relatively young and an ideal candidate to round out any team’s third-pairing on the backend.
Bartkowski has yet to score a goal through 131 games in the NHL, which may deter some potential suitors. Still, he was a positive possession player in 90 games between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons before the Bruins cratered as a whole last season.
He could be a nice cheap addition to a Maple Leafs team with a lot of smart people calling the shots.