Which Leafs won't be back?

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:24 PM ET

They were applauded from the executive suite of the Air Canada Centre, down to the seats and beyond.

A group of hard-working young players who seized the opportunity provided from a team that, granted, was not going to make it to the playoffs anyway, but were a group determined to show they were of NHL calibre.

From general manager Brian Burke to coach Ron Wilson, the reviews were all positive, even if they knew early in the spring that only a minority of this constituency represented the long-term future of the club.

So how many of those young players will be back when the 2011-12 season begins in October?

While much of the focus has been on who the Leafs should chase in free agency, how about the ones that might get away?

The Leafs looked like they were about to reach July 1 with 10 free agents, before Jay Rosehill was signed by the team late Wednesday. (A good move on multiple levels, not the least of which he comes cheap and there is still some doubt about Colton Orr's ability to fulfill the enforcer's role.)

Late Thursday that list, a mix of UFA and RFA players, was down to nine. Here's a look at their prospects:

Unrestricted free agents

Freddie sjostrom

Forward who came here from Calgary in the Dion Phaneuf deal was a decent forechecker and penalty killer but he had trouble both staying in the lineup and staying healthy. We would expect that Burke will look elsewhere for a similar type player which shouldn't be so hard to find.

Tim Brent

Was certainly a popular Leaf in a Cinderella season that saw him become both a fan favourite and a player Leafs coach Ron Wilson could rely on late in games. Brent was thrilled at the opportunity to play for his favourite team and has been vocal via twitter in recent days that he is disappointed at the apparent lack of interest in him. That's not necessarily a slight on the player, but possibly a gamble by the Leafs brass that they can still get him back as a free agent.

Darryl Boyce

Another of those players who was elevated from the Marlies and was a nice fit in the 46 games he played with the big club. A useful depth player, but his output of five goals and eight assists likely won't make him a forward in demand in free agency. Like Brent, he may be available as well.

Joey Crabb

A free agent pickup last summer, Crabb had his first crack as a regular NHLer and didn't look out of place in the 48 games he played. The Leafs will be on the lookout for an upgrade, however, as the depth on the current roster is mostly in third and fourth liners.

J-S Giguere

The lack of negotiations throughout the summer made it clear that Giguere wasn't a priority, thought don't rule the veteran goaltender returning as backup at a deep discount should no one else sign him. Giguere has indicated he would be willing to return in such a role, which might not be a bad piece of insurance given the relatively green tandem of James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson that are expected to start the season.

Restricted free agents

Luke Schenn

In talking to both sides recently, it is clear that Schenn won't be going anywhere. The Leafs had no urgency to get a deal done while the Schenn camp likely wants to see what other big-name free-agent defenceman attract.

Schenn and captain Dion Phaneuf can eat up the most minutes on the blue line and in his third season as a pro, Schenn established himself as a player the Leafs look willing to keep around for a long, long time.

Tyler Bozak

About to enter his second full season in the league, Bozak has yet to prove he deserves a big-money deal but that's not to say the Leafs don't want him back. The best thing that can happen for Bozak is to get a chance to centre the second or third line and grow into his role as a legitimate NHLer. Expect the Leafs to get him under contract with the belief that he can continue to evolve.

Clarke MacArthur

As negotiations have stalled since the end of the regular season, Toronto management has made it clear that it is willing to let MacArthur go on to arbitration. Burke has been adamant that he won't overpay for "one good season" from MacArthur, who was a bargain pickup last summer (at a price of $1.1 million.)

So how much will be too much in an arbitration settlement? Hard to say, but there's little doubt that besides his own breakout season, MacArthur helped improve the play of linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.

Matt Lashoff, 2010-11 salary: $550,000

No need to make an early offer to a player who appeared in just 11 games last year, even if he is a defencemen with upside. Never hurts to have depth on the blueline, however.


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