The Maple Leafs will have a lot of new faces around the rink this year. The Leafs have done an overhaul of their bottom six forwards and have also changed several defenders. All of the new players will be looking to make an impact this season in their own ways. The newly signed players who are hoping to make the team this season are: David Booth, Matt Frattin, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Roman Polak, Stephane Robidas, Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik. This is a summary of what each player brings to the table.
David Booth: 29yrs/6’1″/212lbs
Last season-Vancouver Canucks/66 gp/19 pts/+1
Booth is a player trying to find his game. The one time 30 goal scorer has never been able to truly get his game back after Mike Richards gave him a severe concussion on a very questionable hit. At his best Booth used his speed and size to put himself into quality scoring positions but ever since the Richards hit he just seems to have lost a step. Booth played with Santorelli in Vancouver, the Leafs may try and use this to their advantage and use them on the same line. At 1.1 million dollars for one year, this is a low-risk signing for a player who could potentially find himself on the second line. Although, players who falter like Booth has rarely ever fully recover. Booth will be looking to be the exception so that he can drive up his asking price next summer and more importantly extend his career past next offseason.
Matt Frattin: 26yrs/6’/205lb
Last season- LA Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets/44 gp/7pts/-4
Like Booth, Frattin will be looking to have a better season this year. After his first stint with the Leafs, Frattin played in LA and Columbus and was re-acquired this offseason. At 26, Frattin is still young enough to improve. He seems to have all of the tools to be a great player; a hard accurate shoot, great speed, he finishes his checks and also back checks hard. This year will be an important test for Frattin, will he finally be able to put it all together? The Leafs may be looking to use Frattin on the 3rd or 4th line to start the season, however if he plays well they may look to rekindle his chemistry with Kadri and place him on the 2nd line at some point during the season.
Leo Komarov: 27yrs/ 5’10″/189lbs
Last season- Moscow Dynamo (KHL)/52 gp/34 pts/+16
Komarov is a Finnish player who plays a very “Canadian” style of hockey. Komarov finishes virtually every check, he also agitates his opponents and is good defensively. The Leafs may be looking to use him in a checking roll because his strengths could allow him to get the opposing teams top players off of their game. Komarov self-admittedly, will be looking to be better offensively this time around in Toronto to earn his new contract of 2.95 million per year for the next 4 years. He has shown in the KHL and AHL that he can be an offensive threat but success outside of the NHL does not always translate. The Leafs may utilize Komarov on a line with his countryman and friend Kontiola, who he has played with several times in the past.
Petri Kontiola: 29yrs/6’/197lb
Last season- Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL)/53 gp/37 pts/-11
Possibly most famous for this interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM5YUE4B7Xc) (“I don’t know” interview). Kontiola has shown that he can be successful both Internationally and in the KHL. He was originally drafted by Chicago and only played 12 games for them before leaving. Kontiola can play all of the forward positions, on the powerplay and the penalty kill as well. Although he is not an overly physical player like his countryman Komarov, he still is feisty. What he lacks in massive hits he makes up with his offense and could possibly have a decent season in that respect.
Roman Polak: 28 yrs/6’1″/227lbs
Last season- St. Louis Blues/72 gp/13 pts/+3
Polak was a third pairing defenseman in St. Louis who was acquired at this years draft in a trade in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson. Polak put up solid and reliable defensive minutes for a team that is very good defensively. Polak is a defense first type of player who will not allow opposing players to take liberties with the goalies. If Toronto does not overuse Polak by giving him top pairing responsibilities, he has a good chance to be successful for the Leafs. The Leafs may pair him with Gardiner or Rielly so he can cover for their defensive lapses.
Stephane Robidas: 37 yrs/5’11″/190lbs
Last season- Dallas Stars,Anaheim Ducks/38 gp/10 pts/+10
Robidas is a veteran shutdown defender. Robidas is looking to remain healthy this season after broken legs on two separate occasions caused him to miss large portion of last season. One of those broken legs he has still not been medically cleared from, and so his health going in to this season is in question. If he is able to overcome the career threatening injuries from last season, he will look to return to the reliable tough-nosed defender that he has been throughout his career. The Leafs may look to use Robidas in the same role as Polak; a defensively responsible mentor for Rielly or Gardiner.
Mike Santorelli: 28yrs/6’/190lbs
Last season- Vancouver Canucks/49 gp/28 pts/+9
Santorelli is a player looking to build upon his success from last season. Again, he is a player who can play all of the different forward positions. The Leafs may choose to use him as a 3rd or 4th line center. Santorelli is a fast, creative player with a high hockey IQ. He may be poised to have a career year and at 1.5 million for one year he is another low-risk player who could yield high reward.
Daniel Winnik: 29 yrs/6’2″/210lbs
Last season- Anaheim Ducks/76 gp/30 pts/+6
Winnik is yet another versatile forward. Winnik can play in almost any situation and at any forward position. In Anaheim he played on their pk and 3rd or 4th line and put up reliable, defensively responsible minutes. He does use his size to his advantage but don’t expect any bone crushing hits from him. His success will rely on his ability to kill penalties for the Leafs and his ability to check the top lines of other teams. Winnik is another low-risk, high-reward type player because of his 1.3 million dollar contract for one year.
The Leafs look to have learned from last year, where during a stretch their top 3 centers were injured and they were stuck with Trevor Smith, Jerred Smithson and Jay McClement. This year almost all of the new forwards can play multiple forward positions and most of them can also play center. This versatility could be a huge factor if the Leafs find themselves with multiple center injuries again, or injuries to any other forward position for that matter. They also seem to be interested in signing players who have something to prove to relatively low money deals which could be a huge factor in the new players performance. Additionally, most of the newly signed players are in what can be considered their prime as they are between the ages of 25 and 29. Therefore they may be able to help the Leafs more this year than some of the Leafs younger prospects who have very little NHL experience and may not be ready. The new defenders Polak and Robidas are two stay at home defensemen who are looking to bring some defensively sound hockey to a club that lacked it last season. There is a lot of new players with something to prove, but only time will tell if this seasons reinforcements will make a difference.
If you liked this article, I wrote an article previewing the Leafs’ 2014-15 season!
Cover Photo Credit: Getty Images – Abelimages via Getty Images