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No move to the first round for the Leafs; some early draft observations

Well, despite all the talk, the Leafs didn’t trade up into the first round. Just like last year when Burke was keen on moving up to get John Tavares, there was talk, but no delivery.

Leaf fans may tire of this approach. But in fairness to the Leaf GM, he swung major deals to get elite players in Kessel and Phaneuf this past year, so he has not been sitting idly by.

That said, the reality check is this: the Bruins have, as expected, Tyler Seguin firmly in the fold. The Leafs have Kessel. Importantly when assessing the early returns on this trade, the Leafs also have no second-round pick this year and no first-round pick in 2011. Kessel had better be very good, for a long time. If he becomes an Yzerman or Modano—an offensive guy who becomes an all-around player, Leaf fans will be thrilled.

Less than that, and, well, not so much.

Other post-round one observations.

 Atlanta has made giant strides. It started with the Kovalchuk deal, when they acquired a lot of assets, including New Jersey’s #1, which they flipped to obtain a boat load of useful players from the Cup champion Hawks, including a guy every team in the NHL would want, Byfuglien. They still have Cormier coming in from the Kovalchuk deal, and Bergfors and Oduya already in place. With Little and some other pieces, Dudley may be shoving the team in the right direction.

 Chicago won the Cup, and had a pick in the first round. The Leafs missed the playoffs for the fifth year in a row and have no pick until the third round. And no first-rounder next year. Oh well.

 I’ve posted for weeks that Schenn could be in play. Not that the Leafs necessarily actively wanted to move him, but he is one player they have under contract (not named Kaberle) who might bring something substantial in a trade. I am convinced the only way Toronto was getting into the first round was to give up Schenn. I am sure teams were inquiring about him, and Burke just didn’t want to pull the trigger. You can’t blame him. Schenn was a lottery pick. Would you move him to get a pick between 12 and 20—or even later—this year?

 The Oilers will be so much younger and so much better in two years. They did nothing last year in the off-season to improve the club. They overpaid for an old goalie and brought in a past-his-prime Comrie. But now they are serious about improving. With Paajarvi-Svensson, Eberle, Omark and Hall, they have elite young players to move forward with. They gave Quinn nothing to work with last year, but at least Renney will have a fair chance going forward with high-end talent.

 I like Ottawa’s move to get a 19 year old defenseman for the 16th overall pick. They clearly saw Runblad as someone who can play for them fairly soon and he’s already signed.

 I think Boston will benefit big time from obtaining Nathan Horton. That said, Tallon clearly has a plan already in Florida. He was wheeling and dealing last night, sending the pick he got from Boston to LA (trading down a few spots in Round 1) to get an extra second-rounder. He still walked away with three first-rounders last night (after also dealing Ballard to the Canucks), and more picks to come.

 Can you imagine if the Penguins, who now have Hamhuis' rights, can sign him before July 1? Who would have thought five years ago we'd talk about the Penguins as the rich getting richer?

With no move to get into the first-round, the Leaf off-season now may hinge far too much on trading Kaberle. Expectations are pretty high, and I wonder if the Leafs will get what they want/need in return.

They can say publicly that if they don’t get what they need they’ll just re-sign Kaberle, but as I’ve posted many times, it’s now a bad marriage. They need to move him. If they don’t, it will be unhealthy for Kaberle and for the team.

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