The Toronto Maple Leafs will almost certainly be losing some players this summer, they simply can't afford to keep some of their pending free agents on their roster due to the large contracts that are expected to be given to players like William Nylander, Mitch Marner and of course Auston Matthews this summer.
Despite that however their continues to be talk of the Maple Leafs adding a center either via free agency or a trade this summer and on Wednesday The Athletic's Ian Tulloch listed three options that he believes are realistic enough that the Toronto Maple Leafs could make them fit while paying the other arguably more critical players on their roster. Of the three options there's one we've all heard before, one relatively underwhelming name, and one very intriguing name especially when you consider that he is still currently competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first name on the list is that of veteran center Joe Thornton, and while it seemed like there were decent odds he would sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the summer of 2017 that never came to pass. Now Thornton is one year older and is coming off a season where his numbers saw a decline across the board, including in terms of his ice time. Add to that the fact that he has suffered another serious knee injury and the Leafs may be less than excited at the prospect of giving Thornton some big money to come to Toronto. Thornton himself has said that he wants to remain in San Jose so unless the Sharks decide to move on this deal may be out of reach anyways. That being said Tulloch can still see a scenario in which Thornton comes in on a one year deal for big money.
Up next is arguably the least sexy of the three names on this list and that's because it belongs to current Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak. Bozak has been at the center of trade rumors for the better part of a season and a half now and although the Leafs never pulled the trigger on a deal the expectation is that he will not be back next season. That being said there is no question that Bozak has been an important part of what the Leafs do offensively, and it's hard to imagine who would replace him as a full time center on the Leafs third line. Some have suggested that William Nylander will eventually slot into the role but head coach Mike Babcock doesn't seem very confident in that regard. The Leafs probably won't be willing to give Bozak as much money as rivals on the free agent market but a team friendly deal could get this done.
The most intriguing name on this list is up next and it belongs to current Winnipeg Jets center and former St. Louis Blues center Paul Stasny. Stasny has been a consistently strong center in the National Hockey League and there's very little doubt that he is a number one or number two kind of center. Were he to be added to a line up that contains Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri you would be looking at one of the deepest teams down the middle in the entire National Hockey League. Stasny has not only performed well during the regular season but he is currently on fire in the playoffs and that will only serve to improve his value. Definitely the sexiest option on the list here for Toronto and while he's no John Tavares he's a far more realistic option and one that won't cost the Leafs and arm and a leg as far as the salary cap is concerned.