Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Potential Options at Center
Top 5 Center Options for the Toronto Maple Leafs
With injuries to Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to look into acquiring help to fill the void left at the center position.
It’s common knowledge that Toronto has needed a top-line center for years. However, they don’t need to try and make a home run trade during the season. Maple Leafs' management should consider acquiring a center who could be a short-term fix or a long-term option that wouldn’t require significant assets to obtain.
Trying to trade for a top-line center during the season is incredibly difficult, but trading for soon-to-be free agents who can fill a void this season wouldn’t be nearly as tough. If Bozak and Bolland are both gone for lengthy periods, it’s unlikely the Maple Leafs could survive in the standings. Therefore, trading for a short-term fix, that wouldn’t require the entire farm system, might not be such a bad option. Toronto was playing well with Bozak, Bolland and Nazem Kadri as their top three centers, acquiring playoff depth as an addition to the trio could benefit the club in the spring.
Along with short-term fixes, there are potential long-term options that shouldn’t cost an arm and leg to acquire. They aren’t the top-line center Toronto desperately desires, but they are a lot better options than moving a talented winger like James van Riemsdyk to the center position.
The options aren’t perfect solutions to the problem, but they are a lot better than what Toronto currently has. The Maple Leafs will attempt to struggle through the next month missing key players in their line-up. How long they avoid a losing streak will determine how long General Manager Dave Nonis can wait before making a move. If Toronto stumbles in the coming weeks, here are five players Nonis could potentially target to help his team.
5. Derek Roy
An unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season, Derek Roy is ninth in average ice-time through 15 games of the season with the St. Louis Blues. If the Blues determine they need more cap space before the trade deadline, Roy could become expendable for a better fit to the roster. Playing on his fourth team in two years, Roy hasn’t been the same player since leaving the Buffalo Sabres. Maple Leaf fans know what Roy can bring to the table having seen him in the same division for so long, therefore it could be worth the gamble to acquire him for the remainder of the season. He can fill in at center and when the injured centers return he could move to the wing.
4. Steve Ott
Steve Ott isn’t a long-term fix, but he could be a respectable short-term fix for the remainder of the season. The Buffalo Sabres are in a full fire-sale and it makes little sense to hang on to Ott since he’ll be an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season. Unless the Sabres have Ott in their future plans, they’ll likely look to move him for something. If the price isn’t unreasonable, the Maple Leafs could use Ott to fill the hole on the second-line or third-line moving forward. When Bozak and Bolland return, Ott could shift to the wing and add depth to the bottom-six forwards.
If the price is right, it could be a reasonable gamble for Toronto. He’s not the top-line center Maple Leaf fans are begging for. However, it’d be a depth move that would buy Toronto management time until the offseason to make a decision on moving any major assets.
3. Mike Cammalleri
With the Calgary Flames likely to miss out on the playoffs, it makes little sense to not trade Mike Cammalleri at the deadline for assets since he’ll be an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the season. Known as a clutch playoff-performer with the Montreal Canadiens, teams looking for scoring heading into the spring will want to add Cammalleri’s offense. Toronto could acquire the Richmond Hill, Ontario native to play center as they wait for injuries to heal and shift Cammalleri over to the wing once players return. He won’t be a long-term fix as he’ll likely be overpaid in the summer by somebody starving for a goal-scorer. However, as a short-term option, if the price is right he could be a solid contributor the rest of the season.
2. Sam Gagner
One of the few long-term options for the club, Sam Gagner can’t seem to get his name out of the rumor-mill. A talented young center that has spent too many losing seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Gagner could be moved to help the team in other areas. The Oilers need goaltending and Toronto needs a center. It would cost Toronto more than James Reimer to acquire Gagner, and depending on how much more will depend on whether or not the Maple Leafs think such a trade is worth it. Edmonton won’t trade one of their young core players unless they feel it will significantly enhance their roster. Toronto won't overpay the Oilers either considering not many in the league feel Gagner is a first-line center. Toronto will only trade significant assets for a top-line center. However, there's no doubt Gagner's impressive playmaking ability would be dangerous paired with some of Toronto's high-scoring wingers.
1. Paul Stastny
Maple Leaf fans have heard the rumor of Paul Stastny potentially being traded for over three years. If the Colorado Avalanche decide they can’t afford to keep Stastny, who’ll be an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the year, this could be the year he's finally moved. With Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon and Max Talbot already in the fold at center, Stastny might have priced himself out of Colorado. He also might be the center between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel at the Olympics if Team USA is smart enough to include van Riemsdyk on their roster. If the Avalanche don't want to lose him for nothing, Toronto could be a tempting trade partner given their need at center. Given Stastny’s high cap hit, significant salary would have to be sent back to the Avalanche. However, given how desperate Toronto is at center, they could be willing to pay whatever price Colorado would be asking. After all, Stastny is only 27-years-old and would no doubt be acquired to be part of the team’s future.