The Toronto Maple Leafs were active this summer in trying to add some toughness to their roster in the form of enforcers and multi-dimensional players, eventually settling on Max Domi, Ryan Reaves and Tyler Bertuzzi. Those weren’t the only players they contacted of that ilk, however. Both forward Milan Lucic (YouTube link) and defenseman Radko Gudas (link to iSport.cz) revealed in separate interviews that Toronto general manager Brad Treliving had pursued them in unrestricted free agency.
Lucic hadn’t been previously connected to the Leafs throughout this summer’s rumor cycle, but it makes sense they’d have interest given their pursuit and acquisition of Reaves to play a similar role. He told Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Whitney of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast yesterday, though, that he’d turned down interest from Treliving because of his previous stint with the rival Boston Bruins. The 35-year-old would end up returning to Boston after an eight-year absence, inking a one-year, $1MM contract with the Bruins on July 1.
In terms of offense, Lucic would’ve been a higher-upside (and potentially cheaper) addition to the Leafs’ roster than Reaves. In fact, the only advantage Reaves arguably has between the two players is fighting skill – something the Leafs would end up paying a premium for with a three-year, $4.05MM commitment. Of course, Toronto would end up getting some higher-octane offensive players with the gritty element they were looking for in Bertuzzi and Domi.
Gudas, on the other hand, is pretty much the antithesis of the right-shot defender Toronto did end up signing, John Klingberg. A hulking, physical defensive specialist, Gudas told an outlet in his home country that he’d turned down offers from three teams (Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton) to avoid playing in front of a Canadian media market. While he did sacrifice playing on a competitive team in his twilight years, Gudas did get compensated nicely by the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks with a three-year, $12MM deal carrying trade protection.
The 33-year-old Czech was a large reason why his former team, the Florida Panthers, advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for just the second time in franchise history. He quickly immortalized himself in Leafs lore in the process, going semi-viral for an image that showed him screaming at Toronto goalie Joseph Woll after the Panthers knocked the Leafs out of the playoffs in the Second Round thanks to a Game 5 overtime win.
While Toronto ended up paying slightly more in terms of cap hit for Klingberg ($4.15MM compared to Gudas’ $4MM in Anaheim), they were able to get him at just a one-year commitment, absolving themselves of any long-term consequences should the signing not pan out.
Gudas has topped 100 penalty minutes three times throughout his career and has consistently posted standout advanced defensive metrics over the past number of seasons. He recorded 17 points in 72 games for the Panthers last season while averaging 17:22 of ice time per game.