Evaluating next season’s Maple Leafs roster, Leafs goalie and Manitoba native James Reimer’s thoughts on the NHL’s return to Winnipeg, the Flames bring back Brendan Morrison, the future of two players in the Oilers system, and the Canadiens swap minor league defensemen with the Anaheim Ducks.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan examines the Maple Leafs roster for next season to determine if they’re good enough to make the 2012 playoffs.

“We won’t know Tim Connolly’s full worth until he proves he can get Phil Kessel the puck on a consistent basis, but the potential is there. John-Michael Liles will bring some offensive punch to the blue line, while the 6-foot-5, 213-pound Cody Franson is mobile and has a devastating shot. Matthew Lombardi, at some point, will try to resurrect his career after a concussion kept him out of all but two games in 2010-11.

No matter how much the newcomers contribute, the Leafs’ success ultimately will be measured by how well goaltender James Reimer performs.”

Koshan also feels the Leafs won’t have to worry about the clubs which finished below them last season, but rather those which finished ahead of them, especially the NY Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, which made significant additions this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Leafs will be a better team next season, but they’re going to need some help to get into the 2012 playoffs. The Rangers and Sabres, on paper, should be better, and while Koshan observed the Montreal Canadiens added Erik Cole but parted ways with James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik and Benoit Pouliot, they’re a club which also has an elite goalie in Carey Price, an improving defense corps (especially if Andrei Markov stays healthy and PK Subban continues to improve), plus a healthy Cole and Max Pacioretty could significantly bolster the Habs offensive game. The Leafs might also need at least one of the top five clubs in the East last season (Capitals, Flyers, Bruins, Penguins and Lightning) to slip significantly in next season’s standings. I’m not saying the Leafs won’t have a chance, but I do think they’ll need at least two of the teams which finished above them next season to falter, while those clubs which finished below Toronto in the standings must not make significant improvement. One of them – Winnipeg – could be poised to be such a club.

WINNIPEG JETS.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jim Bender reports Toronto Maple Leafs goalie – and Manitoba native – James Reimer relishes the NHL’s return to Winnipeg.

“I think it’s great. It’s great for the NHL,” said Reimer, who only went to two Jets games before they left for Phoenix. “You could see by how fast the tickets were sold how starved this town is for hockey here.

“So, I think it will be great to have a team here. It will bring a lot more excitement to the game and it will be a great place to come and play.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He better enjoy the couple of games which his club will be playing in Winnipeg this coming season, because after the Jets are moved back to the Western Conference, it could be a while before Reimer and his Leafs visit the Manitoba capital again.

CALGARY FLAMES.

CALGARY HERALD: Vicki Hall reports Flames GM Jay Feaster is hoping a healthy Brendan Morrison, whom the Flames signed Friday to a one-year, $1.25 million contract, will be a significant contributor next season.

“With nine goals and 43 points in 66 games — all for the reduced price of $725,000 US — Morrison made former general manager Darryl Sutter look momentarily brilliant for bringing him in on the eve of the regular season.

Coming off knee surgery, on the verge of turning 36, the veteran faces tough odds of putting up similar numbers again.”

Hall writes however Feaster is  hoping for a repeat performance, citing Morrison’s contributions as a leader as well as an experienced center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Hall suggested, however, Morrison’s age and his recovery from knee surgery could be significant factors upon how well he performs next season. At the very least, it’s an affordable gamble on Feaster’s part.

EDMONTON OILERS.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently looked at the respective performances of Oilers Taylor Chorney and Ryan O’Marra, one-time promising prospects who’ve yet to pan out. He’s not encouraged by what he’s seen of them, suggesting if they were good enough to make the NHL, the 24-year-old players should’ve done it by now.

MONTREAL CANADIENS.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: reported last night the Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks swapped minor league defensemen, with the Habs sending Mathieu Carle to Anaheim for Mark Mitera.

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