June 28, 2012
Free-agent shopping beginning
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - With free-agent shopping beginning Sunday, there’s no lack of centres and forwards for the Maple Leafs to peruse.
The problem is few of them are what the Leafs want to invest a lot of term and salary in, or the players have no particular interest in Toronto or joining a rebuilding team. Put Olli Jokinen in the former category and Zach Parise or Ryan Suter in the latter. That’s why general manager Brian Burke and a lot of peers are playing down their chances of being active this year.
There are renewed rumours the Leafs are going to approach warhorse winger Shane Doan, hoping as other teams do that he’s tired of the Coyotes’ constant battles to stay put. But he’s age 35 and has made the desert his home and will likely finish what he started back in 1996.
Moving down the list to more affordable options in the days after July 1, the Leafs could satisfy Burke’s lust for size by going after Paul Gaustad or Brandon Prust. Gaustad is a 6-foot-5 centre, though he didn’t have the desired impact after leaving Buffalo for Nashville. Prust, who was part of the Presidents Trophy-winning New York Rangers was already a Leaf according to Wikipedia on Thursday night.
A new enforcer will be in demand if Colton Orr remains off the main roster and UFA Jay Rosehill goes elsewhere. If the Leafs want to go a little cheaper, feisty former Islander P.A. Parenteau is available, as are two of coach Randy Carlyle’s former Anaheim pluggers, Travis Moen and George Parros.
SCHULTZ SORTING OFFERS
Reports indicate UFA defenceman Justin Schultz has six teams on his list as meetings with club reps and the Newport Sports agency begin again Friday in Toronto. The suitors include the Leafs, his home-province Vancouver Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Rangers. The Leafs won’t want to see Schultz go to the division rival Sens and you can bet Burke, the man who drafted him in Anaheim, is playing the Jake Gardiner card in hopes his former Wisconsin teammate can entice him to Hogtown.
But the Rangers are well-armed with ex-Badgers, too, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported late Thursday that the Minnesota Wild has entered the talks, after Detroit was eliminated earlier in the day.
Having entered free agency because the Ducks could not sign him after four years, Schultz can agree only to an entry-level contract.
QUICK THINKING KINGS
With more than 60 goaltenders listed in the history of Kings since 1967, from Rogie Vachon to Yutaka Fukufuji, the team wasn’t going to waste a chance to keep its first Cip winner in town a few years.
Not long after Sidney Crosby’s stated intent to sign for $104.4 million over 12 years, Jonathan Quick followed with a lucrative 10-year pact of his own. It could net him close to $6-million a year, though like Crosby’s deal, it can’t be annnounced until July 1.
Immediately, speculation began the Kings will move Jonathan Bernier, who would have no interest in backing up Quick until he’s an old man. But the Kings would be wise to hang on to him and let a low depth team such as Toronto make a bid.
Calgary GM Jay Feaster went out on a limb to get Dennis Wideman for such a huge ticket ($26.5 million for five years), however insists he can still keep three incumbent defencemen Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Chris Butler. But the glut of similar-styled players could see Bouwmeester leave via trade ... Big defender Hal Gill is back in Nashville for two years at $4 million ... Oft-injured Guillaume Latendresse will be a UFA on Sunday. The one-time home-province hero in Quebec tells the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he didn’t accept the Wild’s one-year offer in hopes of landing with a team closer to Montreal where his four-year-old son lives with his mother ... Brian Boucher will be out of Carolina’s lineup the next four to six months with a shoulder injury, leaving Justin Peters, or a veteran to be named later, as Cam Ward’s backup ... New Jersey’s Patrik Elias apparently found the Kings’ Stanley Cup puck from the end of Game 6 after a second check of his equipment bag and will return it.