TORONTO– For now we will call it speculation, but next season’s Toronto Marlies could have significant changes to its roster; making them a much younger squad then they already are.
Since mid June, the Toronto Marlies have lost three of last season’s key players to free agency. Captain Alex Foster signed up with Sparta Praha HC of the Czech Republic while veteran D Danny Richmond and C Christian Hanson both signed with the Washington Capitals; AHL affiliate being the Hershey Brears.
Also, still unsigned are RW Aaron Voros, LW Fabian Brunnstrom, LW Jeff Cowan and C Brayden Irwin.
The youngest of the players named is Irwin, who is 24; far younger then Cowan who is 35.
The gap left open up the middle with Hanson and Foster’s departure could be partially fixed with recently signed C Phillippe Dupuis but the other spot may still be up for grabs.
Although Dupuis played his first full season in the NHL last year, his contract with the Leafs has a two-way agreement that could easily have him play at the Ricoh Coliseum. Plus, GM Brian Burke seems to have a stock pile of bottom six centres and is rumoured to be still in discussions with C Darryl Boyce.
Going one-two up the middle of the line-up is C Joe Colborne and C Mike Zigomanis.
The signing of C Tim Connolly showed that the Leafs don’t want to rush Colborne as they did FW Nazem Kadri. Colborne only played 20 games with the Marlies last season so some more time under Head Coach Dallas Eakins will surely be a benefit.
Zigomanis is also affected by the cluster of centre men on the Leafs charts, just like Dupuis, but having a two-way contract makes sending down the 30 year old a strong possibility. His veteran leadership will serve well for the Leafs prospects and his contract would pay him $300 000 next season as a member of the Marlies; second highest salary in the NHL.
C Justin Hodgman may be included as a centre but for now it is unclear where his future stands. The Brampton Ontario native was praised by Eakins as being one of the most talented players on the club, however separate injuries to his knee and face limited him to just 42 games last season.
Richmond’s absence gives an opportunity to D Jesse Blacker. Blacker has been in the Leafs system three years now and most recently was a member of the 2011 OHL Champion Owen Sound Attack. It’s his time to move on from junior hockey and working with D Jake Gardiner might give the Marlies quarterbacks on both power-play units.
Other prospects that will see time with the Marlies are LW Jerry D’Amigo, who admitted he expects to start with the development club, and RW Tyler Brenner who was brought in from RPI at the end of last season.
When fall training camp wraps up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Marlies will accept the late cuts as their own and finalize their roster for the upcoming season.
That is when the futures of players like LW Luca Caputi, RW Matt Frattin and D Matt Lashoff will be decided.
That’s simply how it works with the American Hockey League (AHL). Teams never know what their complete roster will look like until their parent club makes their concluding decisions.
Until then, let’s speculate.
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