The phone is ringing and will probably keep ringing until the end of the week... Toronto Maple Leafs pending free agent forward Tyler Bozak is in high demand and has been contacted by several National Hockey League rival teams since the opening of the interview period preceding the start of the free agent market on July 1st, according to TSN Insider Darren Dreger.
The 32-year-old forward tallied 11 goals and 32 assists last season in 81 games with the Leafs and is an unrestricted free agent after completing a five-year, $21 million contract at the end of last season.
Dreger also noted earlier this week that the Leafs have had talks with Bozak, as well as impending UFA James van Riemsdyk, but to what extent is unclear.
Both forwards are expected to gather loads of attention prior to the free agent market opening next Sunday.
“I think it’s unlikely [Bozak re-signs with the Maple Leafs], because there’s a real good market, as there should be for Tyler Bozak,” Dreger told Michael Landsberg on TSN Radio 1050’s Landsberg in the Morning on Monday. “It’s not that Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t see the value in Tyler Bozak, but you just have to look around some of the other issues that they’re facing and also the reality that the Toronto Maple Leafs are trending in a different direction. Tyler Bozak on a more established team, perhaps, is going to be highly sought after. The market is always strong on good centres, but I don’t see the fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
While Dreger reported that Bozak's phone keeps ringing and that the pending UFA will surely entertain rival teams with some interviews, it does not mean that the Maple Leafs are completely out of the running. Dreger notes that Toronto is still involved, but surely, new general manager Kyle Dubas would need to convince Bozak to accept a town discount if they want to agree on a new contract extension.
Bozak has been in Toronto for nine years now and might be willing to take a reduced deal to remain in the city. He has mentioned in the past his desire to stay with the Maple Leafs, however, the phone calls from the interested clubs might eventually change his mind.