The Leafs' 'calm before the storm'

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

The holiday weekend was short-lived for Maple Leafs brass and some of its front-office staff.

Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher will gather his pro scouts tonight in Toronto to begin several days of meetings, which will include looking ahead to the free-agency period beginning July 1 and evaluating the Leafs' roster as it stands today.

"It's about discussing where we need to go as a team and hashing out the months ahead," Fletcher said. "We're at the point where it's the calm before the storm, and we know a big storm is coming."

It's possible the club will identify which players will be bought out in June. Among those who the Leafs could pay to give them their freedom include forwards Darcy Tucker and Mark Bell and goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Fletcher and assistant GM Jeff Jackson will try to get a handle on which free agents should be pursued in July. It's a tough spot for the pair, because if a new GM is hired prior to July 1, different decisions could be made. But Fletcher and Jackson have no choice but to assume they will be in charge for the coming weeks.

The crop of free agents this summer is not overly deep, but the Leafs should have a good idea of what they will be looking for. Goaltending won't be an issue as Vesa Toskala has a two-year, $8-million US contract that kicks in next season, though the Leafs will need a backup if Raycroft is set adrift. The Leafs need plenty of help at forward and the defence corps doesn't exactly have opposing teams cowering in their skates.

Bigger names available to the highest bidder in six weeks include Marian Hossa, Wade Redden, Brian Campbell, Daymond Langkow, Sean Avery and Mark Streit.

The consensus is the Leafs need years of rebuilding before they can be competitive again, so a Paul Holmgren-like quick fix won't be coming in the following months. One bonus is that when the Leafs pick at No. 7 in the entry draft next month in Ottawa, they will have a shot at a blue-chip prospect.


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