In an effort to play more defensive minded hockey under new head coach Randy Carlyle, the Leafs biggest change looks like it will be to the team’s ‘bottom six.’ Forwards Colby Armstrong and Joey Crabb were shown the door by Leafs management and Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi are two of the names that may be next.
The Leafs signed free agent centre Jay McClement to a two year deal worth $1.5 million per year to start free agency. “He’s an established third line guy,” Burke said of McClement. “He’s a third line guy and that may push Steck(el) down, but I think that’s probably where Steck(el) belongs in terms of minutes.”
With Matt Frattin’s exceptional performance in the Marlies playoff run he is one of the players expected to break in with the team next year provided he rebounds from his injury. “I think he proved he can play in the NHL and he was an integral part of the Marlies playoff run,” Burke said of Frattin.
The Marlies successful playoff run may translate into the Leafs giving their prospects a better shot at making the team. “I think in a hard cap system if you want to be competitive some of those jobs have to be taken by young hungry players,” Burke said.
While the bottom six looks to be renovated there might be more changes with the whole team.“We’re not done,” Burke said. “We need to get bigger, we’re still looking to solve or upgrade the goaltending situation, we’re still looking to add at centre or upgrade at centre if we can.”
Connolly and Lombardi take up a combined total of $8.25 million of cap space. Last year Connolly only had 36 points and Lombardi only had 18 points. The two were horrible defensively, Lombardi was -19 and Connolly was -14.
The Leafs have the option of burying Connolly and Lombardi in the minors if they can’t trade them to another team.
Connolly and Lombardi were both acquired last year to try and fill in the number one center role but with Bozak having a bounce back season both of them have become obsolete.