In an effort to quickly retool and lift his club out of its slump, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has done quite a lot in terms of new signings this summer. Even though the Maple Leafs have two new goaltenders and a ton of depth both on the blue line and up front, Toronto’s general manager should still be focused on the end goal.
Even if the Maple Leafs don’t have a lot of money to spend, there is still plenty of NHL talent available on the open market. This gives them some leeway to make a small move and any necessary adjustments before opening the night puck drop. As the time for the start of training camps draws near, Dubas should keep a keen eye on the following three free agents.
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Maple Leafs former servant Jason Spezza is now retired but is now one of their executive staff. Sam Gagner, a veteran forward from the area who might offer great depth on the team’s fourth line, could be Spezza 2.0 for the Maple Leafs in 2022–2023.
Gagner scored 31 points in 81 games for Detroit last season, and what’s even more impressive is that 30 of those points came at even strength. He was employed mainly as a penalty killer on special teams and didn’t get much action on the power play. The Maple Leafs would be prudent to get another penalty killer, and Gagner might get some time on the second power-play unit.
It will either be a professional tryout for Gagner, who is 33 years old and currently unattached, or a $1 million per year contract. If he can score at least 30 more points and contribute in all phases of the game, it’s a very fair estimate.
Cody Eakin is another seasoned forward who can provide the Maple Leafs with some internal competition. The 31-year-old played for the Buffalo Sabres for the last two seasons, but the franchise now seems to be done with him based on recent roster changes.
Eakin is well-known for more than just his eye-catching mullet; he’s also a tricky forward who gives it his all every shift on the ice. He would be a more typical fourth-line center because his game is considerably more defense-focused than someone like Gagner. Eakin won a remarkable 56 percent of his faceoffs last season, scoring 12 points in 69 games. This will be something to watch going into the next season because the Maple Leafs greatly depended upon Spezza to win faceoffs.
The Maple Leafs could sign Eakin for a low cost and have him compete with Adam Gaudette for a depth job. Dubas sought to boost competition for training camp even though he didn’t specifically acquire any “big names” this offseason. Eakin would definitely add fire if he were included in the equation.
Victor Rask was a seasoned winger that the Seattle Kraken acquired from the Minnesota Wild with huge aspirations for him. Unfortunately, the expansion team was unable to make it work. In just 18 games for Seattle in 2021–22, Rask played, scoring just eight points.
The 6-foot-2 forward’s greatest seasons were spent with the Carolina Hurricanes when he was averaging seasons of 40+ points. Since then, Rask has struggled, and although having some success with the Wild, he was unable to find success in Seattle. He is now without a contract for the upcoming season, and the Swedish native may be able to find several of his fellow countrymen in Toronto, making the process of joining the squad relatively easy.