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July 3, 2011

Leafs Make Splash in Free Agency and Sign Tim Connolly

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Leafs fans have been waiting and wondering when the Leafs would finally make a splash into the free agent market and sign a player that could help the Leafs out.  Yesterday afternoon after the Leafs found out that Brad Richards signed with the New York Rangers, so they focused their attention on center Tim Connolly of the Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs offered him a two year deal worth $9.5 million dollars, which comes out to $5.5 million in the first year and then $4 million in the second year of the deal. After the news broke there were a lot of mixed reactions from fans in Toronto about the signing. Some people were saying that they overpaid for him, and others thought that’s the asking price on the market at the moment. Leafs have about $15 million to spend this off season and people were hoping the organization could make a splash and improve this roster.

Tim Connolly was quoted as saying this about playing with Phil Kessel “He has tremendous speed and talent and I’ve usually been able to find chemistry with that type of player. “My job is to get him the puck and get it to him often. I’m really excited.”

If we take a look at Tim Connolly and his production since 2007-2008 he had 40 points in 48 games, 2008-2009 he had 47 points in 48 games, 2009-2010 he had his best career point wise with 65 points in 73 games and then last season he had 42 points in 68 games. As you can see health is a big concern with Tim Connolly as he just can’t seem to stay healthy. If Tim Connolly can stay healthy he can definitely produce good numbers to help the Leafs out. He is a 50-70 point player at best, but in my opinion, 70 points would be pushing it.

If we take a look at the Leafs current centers, Tyler Bozak had 32 points last year, a career high since coming into the league in 2009. Tyler Bozak got a lot of time on the Leafs number one line and he just isn’t a number one line centerman in the NHL. He is at best a 30-40 point guy. Bozak is a third line player at best, but because the Leafs lacked depth upfront he was pushed into that role of playing the first line because the Leafs had Mikhail Grabovski on the second line which was the Leafs best line the whole season. Grabovski had his best season in the NHL with 58 points so he should be just fine on the second line.

The signing of Connolly actually gives the Leafs more time to let rookies Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne develop there games down in the Marlies system which is something they need. I feel the Leafs rushed Nazem last year because they thought he could help them make that playoff push but the move backfired. He played in 29 games and had 12 points. Hopefully in the two years time when Connolly’s contract is expired Kadri will be ready to make the full time move to the NHL.

Connolly is a solid player and he was the best available centerman after Brad Richards. Connolly will definitely help the Leafs upfront and be able to feed the puck to goal scorer Phil Kessel who had 32 goals last yr. If you average out his assist total since 2007 till last season he averages about 35 assists a year. I think the Leafs have a lot of holes still to fill on this roster but for now I see this move as being a help for the short term and letting our prospect develop more in our system. For this upcoming season I could definitely see Connolly get about 35 assists and 17-18 goals so about 53 points which isn’t that best total for a first line centerman but there is nothing else out there unless the Leafs make a move threw a trade, which they tried but didnt want to give up Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin for Mike Richards which was rumoured out there. A first line centerman should be producing 65 plus points a year consistently.

It’s going to be another long season in Leaf nation but lets all wait and see what else the Leafs can do for this upcoming season and what Connolly can do to help this team and if he can stay healthy.

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