Fletcher promises changed Leafs for October

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 4:24 PM ET

Maple Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher has said the team that skates on to the ice for the season opener next October will look rather different than the one fighting for its playoff lives today.

Whether the Leafs can pick up some integral pieces in free agency beginning July 1 remains to be seen, but the class of free agents this summer will not be as strong as it was in 2007.

"You're not going to see the names at centre like last year when (Daniel) Briere, (Scott) Gomez and (Chris) Drury were available, but there will be some strong players," Fletcher said. "There will be some wingers who can score."

Some big-ticket players, provided they don't sign with their respective teams beforehand, will be Marian Hossa, Wade Redden, Brian Campbell and Cory Stillman. Among others bound to go on the open market include Kristian Huselius, Markus Naslund, Sean Avery, Ryan Malone, Michael Ryder and John-Michael Liles.

How the free-agent avenue plays out for Toronto will be interesting to watch. The Leafs don't have a history of landing a big fish, and in the John Ferguson era, the best player added was goalie Vesa Toskala, who came via trade.

There remains talk that one restricted free agent who could get an offer sheet is Philadelphia Flyers winger Jeff Carter, who would have been a Leaf had Tomas Kaberle waived his no-trade clause last month.

NICE SHOT

The tying goal scored by Leafs rookie Jiri Tlusty on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators was, Toronto fans hope, a sign of things to come.

Tlusty, the 13th pick overall in 2006, is going to be counted on to be a cornerstone of the future. He waited for Senators goalie Martin Gerber to commit and then lifted a backhand over the prone goalie into the open net. It was Tlusty's seventh goal of the season.

"Jiri made, you know, it is one of those moves you expect out of a first-round pick," Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said.

"He made a great play. It was great to see."


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