The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to look more and more like a Randy Carlyle team.
And they made a big splash into free agency in doing so.
The Leafs signed winger David Clarkson to a seven-year contract for $5.25-million a year and re-signed centre Tyler Bozak on a five-year deal for $4.2-million a year on Friday afternoon, filling out two top six forward spots.
A Toronto native, Clarkson has spent his entire career with the New Jersey Devils. Now 29, he is coming off his two best seasons, including a career high 30 goals and 46 points in 80 games in 2011-12.
Bozak, meanwhile, played big minutes under Coach Carlyle as the Leafs returned to the postseason for the first time in nine years and had 28 points in 46 games playing alongside close friend Phil Kessel.
(If there’s a silver lining to Bozak’s re-signing it’s that it makes Kessel signing an extension much more likely. His contract is up at the end of next season, and he will be due a new eight-year deal in the near future.)
The Clarkson and Bozak contracts leave the Leafs with only $14-million in cap space and needing to still re-sign restricted free agents Jonathan Bernier, Nazem Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser. Those five players should eat the majority of that room.
The addition of Clarkson, meanwhile, helps fill out a lineup that lost Mikhail Grabovski (buyout), Clarke MacArthur (signed in Ottawa), Matt Frattin (trade to Los Angeles) and Leo Komarov (returned to Russia) all in recent weeks.
What Toronto will miss, however, is the speed and finesse Grabovski, MacArthur and Frattin provided, even if they didn’t quite fit into Carlyle’s vision of a rough and tumble team.
They also lose a little bit of offence, but that shouldn’t be fatal. Clarkson’s career high of 30 goals and 46 points came in 2011-12, but it was also with a shooting percentage well out of the ordinary and isn’t likely repeatable.
He probably pencils in as more of a 20-goal, 45-point contributor but could be a solid fit with Joffrey Lupul and Kadri on a very offence-first second line. He has only averaged about 14 minutes playing time a game in his career, but that spiked up into the 17 minute range last season playing with Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac.
It’s a lot of cake (and term) for a complimentary player, but Clarkson certainly brings the type of hard-hitting game Carlyle covets.
Throughout the roster, in fact, Nonis has remade the team much more in Carlyle’s image than previous coach Ron Wilson, who loved players like Grabovski, MacArthur, Jake Gardiner and even Liles during his time with the team.
To date, where the Leafs haven’t made any additions is on their blueline, which was a key weakness at even strength as they were outshot heavily on many nights, especially late in the year.
Here’s how the Leafs lineup now projects, including the two key holes remaining on the roster:
Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson
[vacant] – Bolland – Kulemin
Colborne – McClement – Orr
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Gardiner – Franson
Fraser – [vacant]