Leafs Should Target Frolov

If the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to complete the task of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six years, they will need to import some firepower to the forward ranks.

It’s unlikely the current group of forwards would provide the necessary boost for the Leafs to vault from 15th to eight place in the Eastern Conference. Even with the inclusion of Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and the reliable duo of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes to start the season (and hopefully a healthy Mike Komisarek), the offence is simply too bare to withstand the 82-game schedule.

While options are limited this off-season, GM Brian Burke is capable for the job at hand. He has already pulled the trigger on numerous deals that many believe will change the Leafs’ fortunes and reduce hair loss among its fans.

Unfortunately for Burke, the free agency market is remarkably bare this off-season, and it is expected many teams will opt to bolster their teamvia trade, rather than spend millions on a player that probably doesn’t deserve a contract of typical UFA magnitude.

Burke has stated he intends on adding size upfront to compliment the Leafs’ aggressive style of play. That’s fine and dandy, but the Leafs may have to make due with what is available to them and concentrate on upgrading the offence. I am not suggesting they succumb to signing free agents to long-term deals, but if Burke hopes to avoid another season of mediocrity and disappointment, then it’s crucial he add firepower upfront no matter how uncomfortable he may feel with potential targets.

One player testing free agency that will surely bring out that discomfort is Alexander Frolov.

While many analysts projected him to join the ranks of the National Hockey League’s elite, he has fallen short of expectations and is somewhat inconsistent. Since the lock-out, Frolov’s offensive output has varied from season-to-season (2005-06: 54 points; 2006-07: 71 pts; 2007-08: 67 pts; 2008-09: 59 pts; 2009-10: 51 pts). What’s concerning is that at 27 years old, the Russian winger had his worst season since his sophomore campaign in 2004. However, an argument can be made that he is just entering his prime and has the potential to establish himself as a 70-point player once more.

At 6-2, 216 pounds, Frolov doesn’t exactly use his size effectively, but it’s better than resembling the size of a hobbit against the opposition (I’m looking at you, Montreal Canadiens).

While a player of Frolov’s ilk doesn’t exactly fit the Burke mold, he would add some offence to a team in dire need of it. Not only that, but at 27 years old, he fits in nicely with the direction of the Leafs.

However, if Frolov commands a big, long-term contract, then it’s in the Leafs’ best interest to steer clear. What also needs to be taken into account is the bargaining chip many European players are now taking advantage of, and that’s to flee to the Kontinental Hockey League for the big bucks.

What’s intriguing about Frolov is that he has the potential to become a first-line winger. However, if the Leafs wish to avoid future salary cap issues, then it’s best to negotiate with Frolov with the mindset that he is a secondary scorer, and nothing more.

That is, if Frolov is even target.

Interested to hear your thoughts.