A terrific season came to an end in the ugliest of fashions for the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this week, when they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after blowing a sizable lead late in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins. But there are plenty of positives to come out of this.
The Maple Leafs did show that they are a team to be taken seriously moving forward in the Eastern Conference. They have an impressive core of forwards, an improving blue line, and it looks like they have stability between the pipes. They’re set for the future. But there’s one player who may not be a part of it.
The biggest free agent for the Leafs, and potentially of the entire market, is Tyler Bozak. The fact that Tyler Bozak could be considered one of the better free agents available this summer really gives an indication of just how thin the free agent class will be this offseason.
Bozak likely wouldn’t be mistaken for a core piece of this team, but he’s been a mainstay in this lineup for the last several years. He has the look of a guy who has the potential to add 50 or so points regularly from the middle, which makes him an asset, and thus a hot commodity.
What Bozak excels at is winning draws. He’s 54 percent for his career, which isn’t among the very best, but is a very respectable number nonetheless. He’s going to be a popular free agent around the league for sure, especially among teams that currently lack center depth.
Bozak’s asking price is believed to be high. He could be looking at $4 million a year, or even higher. Which is absurd, but in a thin market he could probably afford to do. Most of the free agents that the Leafs do have this summer, including Nazem Kadri, are restricted free agents.
Since Bozak is unrestricted, he looks like the one most likely to leave. His situation will be one to watch, not only to see where he ends up, but how the Leafs plan to replace him in the middle if he decides to depart for more money this summer.