New faces and new expectations abound in Leafland Staff

8/13/2008 7:39:22 PM

Out with the old and in with the new.

That appears to be the approach the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken this off season following the third consecutive year of missing the playoffs. But don't expect miracles from this new-look Maple Leafs team although the club feels it is going in the right direction.

On the outs is former head coach Paul Maurice, who made the bold promise that the team would contend for the Stanley Cup last season but failed to get them into the post season.

Also gone is veteran forward Darcy Tucker, who had the final three years of his $6-million contract bought out by the Leafs. Tucker became vulnerable when his production fell off over the past two seasons following a career-best 61 points in 2005-06.

Also on the outs is netminder Andrew Raycroft, who was bought out by the team after clearing NHL waivers. The move will cost the Leafs $533,000 against the salary cap this season and $733,000 next season but, the move will also clear the way for Vesa Toskala to start at least 75 per cent of the games.

Also waiving goodbye is underachieving Kyle Wellwood. The Windsor, Ontario native played 59 games last season, recording eight goals and 13 assists on the heels of 42 and 45 point seasons, respectively.

And there is a bunch of new for the Maple Leafs, including head coach Ron Wilson.

The former Sharks bench boss says the team, which had the league's fourth-worst goals against average last season, must play tougher and more defensive-minded hockey.

"You may have to take a step back in order to go ahead," said Wilson at the press conference announcing his hiring.

The signings of free agents Jeff Finger and Jonas Frogren should shore up the Leafs' defence, while the addition of forwards Ryan Hollweg and Jamal Mayers will add a much needed physical presence up front.

And former Dallas Star Niklas Hagman, Canadiens prospect Mikhail Grabovski and draft pick Nikolai Kulemin add youth and potential scoring power.

But, of course, the big question remains: Will unrestricted free agent Mats Sundin be back in a Leafs jersey?

The team has offered their long-time captain a $7 million contract, but general manager Cliff Fletcher said the team is prepared to move on without their top scorer and face-off specialist.

Another big unknown is the status of Bryan McCabe and his $5.75 million salary. The rearguard is said to have softened his stance on his no-trade clause and will give the club a list of teams he is willing to play for.