One of the youngest teams in the NHL last season, the Maple Leafs have become decidedly older in the off-season.
We’re not talking greybeards by any stretch, but barring any more moves, Tim Connolly and John-Michael Liles will represent the elderly when training camp opens in September. Today, they’re the only 30-year-olds on the Leafs’ roster.
The Leafs didn’t set out to add age this summer.
“You don’t want older guys who can’t play,” assistant general manager Claude Loiselle said on Wednesday. “The key is, can they help the process? We feel we have a good core group, with (captain) Dion (Phaneuf) being our leader, and it’s good enough.”
The Leafs lost a guiding voice in the dressing room when goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere signed with the Colorado Avalanche. But leading by example can be as valuable, Loiselle figured.
“I played with Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, and neither one was a rah-rah type of guy,” Loiselle said. “There are different ways of doing it. Guys step up and do it themselves. Look at a guy like Grabo (Mikhail Grabovski) and the year he had. I just don’t think age is a factor. We have the right guys in there.”
CLOSING IN ON BOYCE
The Leafs are nearing a contract agreement with left winger Darryl Boyce and could make an announcement by the end of the week.
“We’re close to getting something done,” Loiselle said.
Like Mike Zigomanis and Philippe Dupuis, who have signed with the Leafs recently, the expectation is Boyce would get a two-way contract.
Boyce came into his own during the 2010-11 season, recording 13 points (five goals and eight assists) in 46 games. Boyce’s never-quit attitude endeared him to coach Ron Wilson, and when the season was done, Boyce had the second-highest plus-minus rating on the Leafs roster at plus-8. Only Grabovski, who was plus-14, had a better mark.
Boyce, 27, made $525,000 US last season. He was recalled from the Toronto Marlies toward the end of December and did not get sent back to the minors.
Though Boyce has played the majority of his professional career in the American Hockey League, in a sense, he was the longest-serving Leaf at the end of the season. Boyce was the only player on the roster in April who wore the Toronto sweater during the 2007-08 season, when he appeared in one game.
With general manager Brian Burke and senior vice president of hockey operations David Nonis on vacation this week, there are no present discussions with defenceman Luke Schenn, a restricted free agent.
The Leafs remain in talks with forward Joey Crabb, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Carolina’s Jeff Skinner doesn’t want to think about what could lie in his future.
Sophomore jinx, second-year swoon. Call it what you want, but athletes get the dreaded affliction every so often. Buffalo Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers could confirm as much, as he did not grow a whole heck of a lot last season after winning the Calder Trophy in 2009-10.
Skinner was the youngest player in the NHL in 2010-11, but his youth did not stop him from racking up 63 points (31 goals and 32 assists) in 82 games with the Hurricanes.
After winning the Calder Trophy at the NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas in June, Skinner stayed in Sin City with his family for a few days of vacation. Since, though, he has been training under the watchful eye of former NHLer Gary Roberts and living at home in Markham.
“You try not to think about that sort of thing,” Skinner said when asked about the challenges that could arise in Year 2. “You want to have a good summer, get stronger and better as a player, and that’s my focus right now.
“As a team, we want to do better. It was a tough way to end the season when you end it the way that we did (missing the playoffs).”
Negotiations have been ongoing between agent Don Meehan and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Steven Stamkos is said to be getting closer to signing a new contract with Tampa ... The Montreal Canadiens signed centre Ryan White, who had two goals and three assists in 27 games last season, to a one-year contract ... Cody Bass, once a captain of the Mississauga IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League, has signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In 34 games with the Ottawa Senators, the 24-year-old centre had two goals and two assists ... Former Atlanta Thrashers assistant coach Mike Stothers has been hired by the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League as their new head coach ... The Senators have signed first-round pick Mika Zibanejad to a three-year entry-level contract ... Jonathan Cheechoo, whose career spiralled downward after a 56-goal season in 2005-06 with the San Jose Sharks to the point that he spent all of last season in the minors, has signed a one-year pact with the St. Louis Blues. It’s a two-way deal for Cheechoo, who will make $600,000 if he plays for the Blues or $105,000 if he is with their farm team, the Peoria Rivermen ... The Washington Capitals re-signed centre Mathieu Perreault to a one-year deal.