Tampa Bay’s David Savard, Black Coleman might pique Leafs’ interest as free agents

The Maple Leafs entered the off-season early again, but that means they can get a head start on retooling the team’s roster for next season.

Toronto must solve a host of scenarios while attempting to improve its roster, including making decisions on forward Zach Hyman and goaltender Frederik Andersen, both of whom are set to become unrestricted free agents, and on a possible contract for defenceman Morgan Rielly, who will be unrestricted next year.

Leafs GM Kyle Dubas also will have to weigh whether or not to trade one of his core players — an unlikely option — which veterans to bring back, and which players to protect in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. He will do so with the expectation that forwards Nick Robertson and Adam Brooks and defencemen Rasmus Sundin and, possibly, Timothy Liljegren will be able to fill NHL roles next season.

But the need to upgrade with character players with winning in their background and forechecking in their DNA remains a major part of the team’s to-do list. Free agency opens July 28. Here are some of the UFAs that could be of interest:

In their price range?

  • Kyle Palmieri, Islanders: He has been a great deadline rental, with a career-high six playoff goals. He had a $4.65-million (U.S.) cap hit this season.
  • Blake Coleman, Lightning: Everyone is looking to see if Tampa Bay can retain its workhorses. Coleman had a very affordable $1.8-million cap hit this season.

  • Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks: He’s 39 and won’t come anywhere near that $8.25-million cap hit again. He would be a Joe Thornton-like presence and would have to come at a Thornton-like price.
  • David Savard, Lightning: The Tampa defenceman was, arguably, the top blueliner available at the trade deadline. He would be in the class of a must-have player if he hits the market.
  • Jaroslav Halak, Bruins: The 36-year-old goalie could be cut loose if the Bruins go with Tuukka Rask and youngster Jeremy Swayman. Halak has worked nicely in tandem with Rask, and could likely do the same with Jack Campbell.
If Tampa Bay defenceman David Savard is on the move again, he’ll be on the must-have list of unrestricted free agents.

A little too rich?

  • Phillip Danault, Canadiens: Auston Matthews praised the Montreal centre as an underrated two-way player. He can move up and down the lineup and had a cap hit of just over $3 million, but he reportedly turned down a six-year, $30 million deal before this season.
  • Taylor Hall, Bruins: As long as you’re not paying for that 2017-18 MVP season — he had an $8-million cap hit this season — he’d be a nice addition to any team’s top six forwards. That’s if he leaves Boston, his fourth team in three years.
  • Philipp Grubauer, Avalanche: It’s hard to believe the Colorado goalie would be available after posting the sixth-highest save percentage of all time for goalies with more than 100 starts, but the Avalanche have to worry about contract renewals for captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenceman Cale Makar.



The long shots

Washington winger Alex Ovechkin, Carolina defenceman Dougie Hamilton, Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog have expressed their desire to stay with their current teams. Hamilton would be an interesting prospect: He has tallied more goals than any other NHL defenceman over the past four seasons, and would be the prime option for the Leafs if they move on from Rielly.


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