Toronto Maple Leafs: Myriad of takeaways from Locker Cleanout Day

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Frederik Andersen /
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UFA’s in Leafs locker room for last time?

It was an emotional day for every member of the team. Much more for the likes of a few individuals who will be hitting the open market this summer; a result of the Toronto Maple Leafs needing to save their cap for the impending contracts of their young stars.

Unfortunately, that means seeing some of the old guard leave in the process. On Friday, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov took in what could be their last time ever setting foot in the Leafs’ locker room.

Bozak is the longest-serving member on the current Leafs roster. The centre signed with the Leafs out of the University of Denver back in 2009. He immediately began playing hockey in the NHL the following season.

During his career, Bozak has played in 594 regular season games, scoring 136 goals and 365 points, all with Toronto. For the majority of his time in blue and white, Bozak was the first line centre for the team.

The 32-year-old has made the playoffs with the Leafs three times. In 18 games, Bozak has 10 points, including five goals.

The biggest of his career came last year in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals, when he tipped a puck home on the power-play in overtime to give the Leafs a 2-1 series lead.

When questioned about what he plans on doing once free agency comes around, as per Sportsnet, Bozak professed his love for the city he’s lived in for nearly a decade:

"“It’s all I’ve known. It’s no secret I love it here. Who knows what’s going to happen? It’s out of my control. Obviously, I would like to stay here and be a part of what’s going on but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”"

If there’s a chance of any of the Leafs’ free agents returning next season, Bozak is the likeliest. After scoring 18 goals last season, he was only able to post 11 this year. He could be looking for the best fit, rather than cashing in.

Depending on how the centre market pans out for the Leafs, there could be mutual interest there. Bozak was the Leafs’ most reliable player on draws this season and can play the third line centre spot without an issue.

However, Bozak would more than likely have to go about business without having his usual winger, van Riemsdyk, by his side going forward.

The American forward is hitting free agency for the first time in his career and after two consecutive 50-plus point season, and 36 goals this year, he’s set to get paid.

Unfortunately for the Buds, they have too many upcoming contracts to pay the winger the salary he deserves on the open market.

In his six season’s with the Toronto Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk posted over 50 points four times, with one of those seasons being the lockout-shortened campaign, in 2012-13. In all four of those season’s, he also posted over 25 goals.

As one of the few players in today’s NHL who scored the majority of his goals from the trenches in front of the net, van Riemsdyk had great hands and scored some of the most creative goals Leafs fans have seen in years.

He still showed off his underrated shot on occasion, when he had no other option.

Van Riemsdyk said he’ll start weighing choices shortly. Until then, as per the Toronto Sun, he’ll be spending a little more time in Toronto:

"“I’ll be here for a little bit and when the time comes, I’ll start sorting through what options there may be. I’ll just take it one day at a time and figure it all out when the timing presents itself.”"

The 28-year-old knows the situation he’s in with the Leafs currently. But Komarov’s situation with the organization has recently gone into flux.

Komarov is the lone unrestricted free-agent who was a draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto selected the Finnish-Russian-Estonian winger in the sixth round, 180th overall, in 2006. It took another six years for Komarov to make his way across the pond.

He became a fan-favourite in his first season with the Leafs due to his hard-hitting style and ability to get under his opponent’s skin.

That tenacity has followed Komarov throughout his NHL career. Although he returned to the KHL for the 2013-14 season, the winger would re-up with Toronto and return to the Leafs a year later.

Komarov’s best season by far came during the 2015-16 campaign, where he scored a career-high 19 goals and finished with 36 points. He was selected as the Leafs’ lone representative at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

Out of the three individuals, Komarov had the most to say about the organization and his status heading into free-agency.

"“I haven’t really thought about that. Obviously, I know what’s going on here and I would like to play here. It’s been a great city and everything. So we’ll see. It’s meant a lot. The organization is unbelievable. The coaching staff has been great. And my teammates have probably been the best I’ve ever played with. The fans are unbelievable and my wife loves the city so it’s good.”"

With his style of play, it’s not hard to see someone having significant interest in Komarov’s services. On a deep team, he can be a great fourth line option who is reliable in his own zone, can penalty kill, and take the odd draw when needed. He’s one of those players you love to have on your team and hate to play against.

It’s important to think of the contributions these three gave the Leafs when they needed them most. This is the core of the old Toronto Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, the new guard is going to cost the Leafs a boatload of money, which leaves this trio on the outside looking in.

It’s sad to see longtime Leafs head out of town, but hopefully they all find good homes if Toronto doesn’t offer new contracts.