Eastern Edge – 2016 Offseason Outlook: Toronto and Columbus

Eric Daoust

2016-05-03

Seth Jones - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

This week's edition of the Eastern Edge looks at the 2016 offseason outlooks for the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets …

 

With the draft lottery now complete we can begin to look at the offseason outlook for all teams in the Eastern Conference. We will start at the bottom with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, two teams with a lot on the line Saturday when the order of the first few picks was finalized. The focus will be put primarily on the short-term rather than the long-term future, although the developments of the next few months will certainly have a great impact on keeper leagues as well.

 

Toronto

 

Obviously, being awarded the first overall pick in the entry draft in June is a major victory for the Maple Leafs. The team has been totally gutted and has major needs at all positions, so adding the top prospect from this year’s crop is obviously going to help with their plan. Even with all of the changes, they managed to exceed last year’s point total by one. The Leafs were less potent offensively this year as expected but they managed to allow fewer goals, no doubt due to the influence of new coach Mike Babcock.

As it stands, the current Leafs’ roster is a combination of youth that will be part of the future, veterans with unappealing contracts acquired in trades and a few remaining pieces from the team’s previous era. The end result is a roster lacking quality players able to produce now, which not only keeps the team at the bottom of the standings, but also limits the upside of their fantasy-relevant players.

In all likelihood, the Leafs will be selecting Auston Matthews at the draft. As a center, his presence in the Leafs’ lineup will hurt Tyler Bozak the most, as Bozak has been an underrated fantasy center for years. Meanwhile, Matthews’ addition will help the Leafs’ wingers a lot, most notably James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Leo Komarov.

Although unlikely, it is worth considering other scenarios with the first overall pick as Finnish winger Patrik Laine is getting some consideration as the top prospect at the draft. The fantasy impact would be significant as it would add more depth on the wing and potentially push Komarov out of the top-six depending on how things unfold. On the flip side, Laine would help with the values of his centerman which would likely be Bozak or Nazem Kadri.

A trade is also a long-shot but still possible, as the Arizona Coyotes are clearly interested in Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz. However, unless the Coyotes are actually willing to part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson talks will go nowhere. It goes without saying Ekman-Larsson would give a huge boost to the Leaf