Logic dictates the Maple Leafs want to improve the current roster this summer. We’ve discussed recently in this space who the organization may try to acquire in the next couple of weeks (Staal, Luongo, Getzlaf, Parick Kane, etc.) via trade, but the flip side of that coin is that is means something has to go the other way in any trade.
So whose name is in play right now, when it comes to what other teams are looking for? Let’s look at a list of Maple Leafs I think could be wearing a different-colored jersey by training camp in mid-September:
(Please note: the names on the list do not imply I am suggesting that the Leafs should trade these players; simply that these are players I believe the Leafs will have to consider letting go if they hope to get something really worthwhile in return. Opposing GM’s have their wish lists, too…)
- A year ago, I opined here that Nazem Kadri’s name was out there and I still believe that is the case. Now, does this mean that the Leafs are actively shopping him? I don’t know. Burke would deny it, but that means precious little, of course. If the Leafs are looking to land difference-makers, guys who can come in and create an immediate impact, someone appealing to other clubs has to be on the take-away list. You may think, well, that’s crazy, Kadri’s exactly the kind of young, homegrown player we need to keep and build with. And that’s true. But my point is, you have to give up a player that another team thinks will be somebody, in order to to get a player or players who will transform your roster.
- Carl Gunnarsson is a Leaf that I have said here many times that should not be moved, but given certain roster realities (Gardiner and Phaneuf aren’t going anywhere…) Gunner may have to be the guy who gets sacrificed to bring in something of value in return.
- If Gunner doesn’t go, Luke Schenn is the other d-man that I sense could be on the move. This is not an indictment of Schenn’s ability or potential, simply a matter that he is a young guy who would bring something substantial back in return. He’s only 22 and already has four years in the league in the rear-view mirror. While some will see his potential as limited because of foot speed and perceptions about how well he sees the game, you have to believe other GM’s would like to get their hands on the rugged defender, to see if he might thrive with a different coaching staff. If we believe (and I do) that he was almost a Flyer late last summer, then it should not be a shock that he be on the move this summer.
- Phil Kessel. Why? I just spent time on the weekend looking at the Leaf roster and assessing who other teams could possibly want. I went through the farm system, the big team’s roster, and the truth is, there are precious few guys that are marketable, in the sense that other clubs would be jumping at the chance to land them. So in part by the process of elimination, Kessel’s name bubbles to the top if the Leafs are planning to "go big" this summer.
I’ve said here before that, if I was a rival GM and Burke came to me with a proposal to trade for one of my top players, the first name out of my mouth would be Jake Gardiner’s. Since I assume Gardiner is an untouchable, if the Leafs hope to land a big fish, someone else will have to go.
Here's a key question: do you think the Leafs can manage to attract what they want/need without giving up key guys from the current roster? But if they have to give up quality, who goes?
And does anyone believe that the Leafs may just stand pat this summer—stay in the five-slot in the draft, not make any major trades (because the price tag is indeed too high) and maybe just add some interesting under-the-radar third-liners in free agency? Could their feeling be that they have built the team slowly and carefully and that there’s no need to accelerate the process and lose what they have?
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts….