July 1, 2012
Leafs focus on Jays
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Well, at least Don Cherry will be happy.
The Maple Leafs have added third-line centre Jay McClement, ‘a good Kingston boy’ to the team, at two years for $3 million US.
Toronto fans looking for a home run in Zach Parise, Ryan Suter or Martin Brodeur had to be content with a bottom-six addition on the first day of NHL free agent shopping.
But Brian Burke saw the 29-year-old former Colorado-St. Louis cruncher as filling an integral part of new coach Randy Carlyle’s desired team make up.
“Randy was pretty excited by this,” GM Burke said Sunday night of the new coach’s handle on McClement from Western Conference duels with the Ducks. “Randy had a lot of input into all the guys we considered today.”
McClement, born in Kingston and a Tier 2 junior there, was the Leafs only NHL move Sunday. He was considered one of Colorado’s top penalty killers, a unit that jumped from 30th to 12th last season.
“He’s strong on faceoffs and in the last minute of a game, if we’re protecting the lead, he’s going to see the ice,” Burke said.
That sounds a lot like David Steckel’s job description some nights.
“(McClement) might push Steck down,” Burke said. “But I think that’s where Steck probably belongs in terms of minutes, playing in the four hole, but on the first penalty-killing unit. So both those guys will probably end up with third-line minutes.
“It won’t bother me if we use them together on PK or with two minutes to go in the game. If one guy gets tossed from the faceoff, it just give you more options.”
As if directly addressing Cherry, a frequent critic of the Leafs’ American-flavoured roster, Burke mentioned two Ontario free agent signings on Sunday, McClement and AHL defenceman Mike Kostka, an Etobicoke native.
Crabby about cost
There is a chance the Leafs will revisit signing winger Jay Rosehill after he became unrestricted Sunday, but Burke grumped about the high prices to bring back wingers such as foot soldier Joey Crabb. It seems Crabb has priced himself out of Burke’s market for a bottom six forward.
“If this is what guys like Joey are getting ... ” Burke said of what was being paid out Sunday. “In a hard-cap system, if you want to be competitive, some of those jobs have to be taken by young, hungry players at low salaries. Not guys making $2.75 million or $3 million.
“It could be an internal solution is well, it could be a Jerry D’Amigo who comes up (from the Marlies) and plays that role.”
Paging Martin Brodeur
Burke is very serious about pursuing Brodeur to play goal for Toronto.
But don’t go purchasing No. 30 Leafs jerseys just yet. It’s Burke’s feeling that his old mentor, Devils’ GM Lou Lamoriello, will find a way to get the career New Jersey Devil back.
Though Brodeur shook up the league by hiring Pat Brisson as his agent last week, he remained a Devil a day after becoming a free man. Burke was asked if his call to Brisson on Sunday was just due diligence or a sincere effort to get Brodeur from the clutches of rivals.
“I can’t read that one yet,” Burke said. “My belief is that New Jersey intends to re-sign him. That’s his first choice and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t go down that way.
“We’re certainly in the hunt there to see what the price tag is, anyway.”
Burke has said he’ll come back with young goalies James Reimer and Ben Scrivens is he has to, but would prefer landing Brodeur, or via trade, Roberto Luongo or someone younger such as Jonathan Bernier of the Kings.
Army life was tough
Colby Armstrong is talking about making the Leafs pay down the road for not believing he can still be a force in the league. He also burned a bridge by reminding people that Montreal, his new team, was his childhood favourite.
But Armstrong did hate to leave Toronto and Burke was rueful that his signing of the scrappy winger two years to the day had not worked out.
“This is a guy who was hurt the entire time he was here. If it wasn’t for bad luck, he’d have had no luck as a Leaf,” Burke said. “They were totally different injuries, not like a knee that kept going wonky. He had high ankle sprains, concussions, this and that. The injuries and the recovery period broke him down as a player. We’re grateful for what he did, but we’re moving on.”
The Leafs also announced the signings of restricted free-agent forwards Matt Frattin (a one-way deal, two years at $850,000 per), Ryan Hamilton and goalie Jussi Rynnas on Sunday ... Frattin’s knee injury might now keep him from the start of training camp. The Leafs originally said the late May surgery would heal by the late summer. “It’s a lengthy rehab,” Burke said. “He’s possible for camp, but I’m not counting on him.” ... Kostka can expect a rough ride when he arrives in the Marlies’ room. He’s the Norfolk Admirals defenceman who broke their hearts in Game 3 of the Calder Cup final with his long range overtime goal off a stanchion at Ricoh Coliseum that was offside.