The Maple Leaf makeover continued today with the signing of Swedish free agent goalie Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson. The signing makes sense for both sides. At 24, Gustavsson would like to jump into the NHL as quickly as possible and considering the Leaf’s depth in net, the opportunity is there. This is a low risk signing for the Leafs at one year and $900,000. If he bombs the Leafs can walk away at the end of the season. He will start the season as a backup to Toskala but depending on how the two goalies play, their roles could reverse as the season progresses.
Clearly, Burke’s focus has to shore up the Leafs play in their own end and the flurry of signings and trades this past week will put a substantial dent into their goals against next season. With $25 million locked up in 10 defensemen with NHL experience, you can count on more changes coming. Right now the blueline stacks up as follows:
Mike Komisarik (27) - $4.5 milliion
Tomas Karberle (31) - $4.25 million
Francois Bouchemin (29) $3.8 million
Luke Schenn (19) - $2.975 million
Ian White (25) - $0.85 million
Garnet Exelby (27) - $1.4 million
Mike van Ryn (30) - $2.9 million
Jeff Finger (29) - $3.5 million
Anton Stralman (22) - $0.6 million
Jonas Frogren (28) - $1.1 million
The Kaberle trade rumours are largely dead now. The offers haven’t been there and he is too important to the Leafs’ offensive at this moment in time. So Komrisarik and Karberle will likely make up the Leafs’ top defensive pair. The second unit will be Bouchemin and Schenn. However, I can’t see van Ryn and Finger playing on the third unit. You don’t pay $6.4 million to two defensemen who will only get 10-12 minutes of ice time. They are getting traded. White and Exelby are much cheaper. Van Ryn will be easier to trade because he is on the final year of his contract. And if Scott Gomez’ contract can be moved then you can trade Finger. That leaves Frogren as the seventh defenseman and Stralman can still be returned to the Marlies.
With size of this defensive core, it should be fun watching the small Hab forwards bouncing off the Leaf defenders.