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Burke supposedly wants all these guys (Richards, etc.), but who can he trade to get them?

More important than playing well in a “big” game against a tough opponent, which the Leafs accomplished Tuesday night, is what they do in the subsequent games.

Fans naturally will hope that almost winning a game against a good team will be the catalyst for more success.  That hasn’t often been the case for the Maple Leafs in recent years.  Too often they will play well against a top team, then stumble against lesser competition.

This time, well, we’ll see. 

It will be worth monitoring their progress the rest of the week, including against the young and skilled Oilers (if inconsistent, so far) at the ACC on Thursday.

A few notes on the Tampa Bay encounter:
  • Kulemin has a penchant for two-goal games.  That’s not a bad thing.  I wonder how often he’s scored twice in a game in his short Leaf career?
  • Gustavsson is doing nothing to discourage Wilson from giving him ample playing time as the season moves along.  He looks none the worse for wear after starting several games in a row for the first time in his brief career.  He seems a more “finished” goalie technically than a year ago, which is not surprising. And he’s showing he’s got passion, too.
  • Can you do more than Mike Brown did in the dying seconds to give yourself up to save the game?  I posted recently about the ever-growing importance of shot-blocking in the game today, and cited Brown.  He is one of those players who does it, and it made a difference again Tuesday night, though the Leafs didn't quite hold on.
  • Stamkos, with good reason, is considered one of the top young offensive talents in the game today.  But it was interesting to see his egregious give- away in the first period, one that could easily have resulted in a Bozak goal.  If Kadri or some other young Leaf had done that, people would talk about what a huge mistake it was, and how he has “bad habits” and has so much to learn before he becomes a good defensive player, etc..  When a budding superstar does it (albeit a very young one), though, it’s not an issue.  The truth is, players make mistakes all the time.  It happens, to rookies and veterans alike.  Mistakes are part of the game.
  • Dominic Moore was a quietly effective Leaf who turned down a nice contract offer to test free agency before last season.  He’s moved around since then, but is a contributor wherever he goes.  Last night, his late draw ‘win” set the stage for the game-tying goal.
  • I have zero problem with Schenn, who is playing major minutes, trying to make something happen in overtime.  Especially after giving up the late lead, I’d rather see the Leafs press the point and try to win the game, not sit back.

As far back as I can remember (and that’s more than fifty years) , Leaf fans have always spent time dreaming about the next deal the team can/may/might/will make to make the club better.

It’s natural for sports fans to think this way.  It’s a big part of the fun of being a fan.

And, if you cheer for a team that is a perennial also-ran, or hasn’t won a championship in ages (think Chicago Cubs, for example— and in hockey, our beloved Maple Leafs), it’s not just fun, playing GM can help us deal with being a frustrated fan.

There’s no denying Burke has already made some bold moves in his time as the team’s real GM.  The Kessel deal will be talked about for years to come and the Phaneuf move was a shocker.  (While most observers would probably say the Leafs “won” the Calgary deal—and I would be among them—Leaf fans can’t really make that argument stick just yet.  Phaneuf and Aulie will both have to show much more in the weeks and months to come before that pronouncement is convincing.)

But we can all see the team requires more surgery. And Burke keeps saying he has no patience for a five-year rebuild, though that is precisely what we are in the midst of—he just can’t admit it.

That said, those who start the rumor mill suggest Burke is ready to make more moves.  The long-standing talk has been that he remains ready to deal with the Ducks.  He’d love, we are told, Bobby Ryan, a guy he drafted for Anaheim, though a new contract likely means that now won't happen.  Brad Richards of the Stars is also on his wish list, according to the whispers. (He is on the list of a lot of teams.)

I have no clue if such talk is even close to the mark, but it makes sense that the Leafs want to get their hands on guys who can score, right?

And while it’s always easy to speculate who the Leafs should/might get, the real issue is this:  what do they have to give up in a deal?

Let’s examine the possibilities:
  • I know this is the world’s oldest talking point, but yes, Kaberle could go.  Now, while he was ‘news’ in the summer, especially with his dad jumping into the media maelstrom, Kaberle has flown largely under the radar so far this season.  Why would he wave his no-trade clause when he seems perfectly content?  But is he content?  My guess is, if the team struggles, he may be willing to go, but it makes more sense for him to wait until he becomes a free agent in the summer and sees what he can get on the open market.
  • Giguere?  I suppose.  He has been here less than a year, and while Burke likes him, obviously, he’s not married to the guy.  His contract is up, but the only way I see him going somewhere is if a good team’s “number-one” goes down with an injury before the February deadline.  Then Giggy has real value, particularly if the Leafs believe that one of the young guys with the Marlies is ready to back-up Gustavsson next season, which may well be the case.
  • Beauchemin would be a move-able piece.  I’m just not sure why the Leafs would want to move a steady, experienced blueliner, as they are hard to come by.  If they believe Lebda can play significant minutes, and that Aulie really is ready, then that is a possibility, I suppose.  But can you get back a top-six forward for Beauchemin?  A star forward? 
  • This will sound like hockey heresy, but here’s a question:  would the Leafs ever consider moving Kadri?  A handful of games into his NHL career, the former first-round selection has shown nice on-ice vision and a deft passing touch.  In today’s NHL, of course, dealing young skill players who you “control” contractually rarely makes sense.  Kadri would appear to be, as a Burke draft choice, an untouchable.  He is no doubt a cornerstone building block for the future.  That said, what could the Leafs get in return? They’ll have to give something good if they want a Brad Richards or a Bobby Ryan, and Kadri is a lot cheaper for teams looking to trim salary. But there’s no way Burke deals his only hand-picked “number one”.
  • They have already given up their 2011 first round choice, but if Burke doesn’t want to wait five years, would he also deal the 2012 first round selection to obtain immediate help?
  • The guy who I sense would bring a lot in return (particularly if he picks his game up over the next few weeks) is Carl Gunnarsson.  My sense is a lot of NHL people think highly of Gunnarsson.  He may be, potentially, an elite-level defenseman.  Now, Leaf fans may think it insane to trade him when he is just developing into a player.  I’m only putting the name out there because, again, if you really want to get something big, you have to either give up something big, or give away “potential”.  Gunnarsson falls into that category right now.
I may be missing something obvious here, in terms of who they could potentially move.  Fans typically want a big name for a few average NHL’ers.  It rarely works that way, though the Phaneuf deal felt that way at the time.

Realistically, the Leafs probably have more depth in the system in the goaltending position than anywhere else. That would make Gigurere expendable under the right circumstances, but what would he bring in return?

The Leafs don’t have many trading cards left to play, unless they consider some of the unlikely scenarios outlined above.  Regardless, I don’t see them standing pat, unless the club starts to win consistently.        


  1. The King,

    Nice site !

    -First, Mr. Burke must realize this team is not playing like he invisioned.
    -The coach is unable to get the "ROLE" players doing what they are ment to do !
    -Burke over estimated on the "Bozak" and "Komiserak" factor.
    -luckily...Burke under estimated on the "Grabovski" factor.
    - either way, still no #1 center on the team.
    - No 3d line center that wins draws.
    - Kadri although talented, not a "Maple Leaf Mold Player "

    The MOST IMPORTANT Thing FOR THE GM of the Leafs organization.** MUST take into acount the "TYPE" of players that can PERFORM in "Toronto".
    - They absolutely MUST DRAFT Strong Mental Character players to play in this city.

    - Schenn was a great Pick for this city! Kadri was not !
    Typical Core Players That would succeed in Toronto; example:
    - Mike Richards, Brendan Morrow, Pronger, Saku Koivu, St.louis, Iginla, of course a Crosby,
    An Exanple of Typical Core Players that will not Succeed in TORONTO :
    - Spezza, Lecavalier, Marc Savard,Joe Thorton,
    Komisarek, Kadri or Tavares.

    You take players from the past, that actually made a serious DENT in the franchise; Clark, Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Steve Thomas, Zezel, Salming, Ellet, Sundin, Belfour, Joseph.

    ALL these guys had "Brass Nuts" when playing here.
    They where Driven, sef motivated and the media had no effect or angle on them, because they "CONSISTANTLY" played there game no matter the DRAMA IN LEAFLAND.

    These are the "TYPES" of personalities needed to build a Succesfull "TEAM "in Toronto in MY OPINION.

    KEEPERS On TODAYS TEAM.- Schenn, Phaneaf, Kaberle, Gunarsson, Brown, Orr.
    Only 1 First line winger Kessel.
    Only 1 second line winger Kuleminin.
    2 Third line "WINGERS" Garbovski, Versteeg.

    This Team is far from the GOAL !

  2. You raise some excellent points. Some players do seem to thrive in the Toronto market more than others, who play closer to their potential elsewhere. Schenn is definitely a Burke-type player, as is Mike Brown. It will be interesting to see how some others adapt to this market over time, including young Kadri.

  3. Thanks for the reads, great site for a realistic opinion from a long time leafs fan.

    Was wondering what you thought about some other options...

    - You brought up how much depth we have in the goalie department, Raask unproven, brought Raycroft after a Calder trophy year, what could scrivens, reimer, or ryannis bring? Team like Anaheim, Detroit, !New Jersey!, Dallas I think are short on G prospects.

    - What about adding Versteeg to another piece to sweeten the deal, many teams going into the playoffs usually always strengthen their bottom six, look what Staal (and Versteeg in Chicago) has done for the Penguins...

  4. Bester30...thanks for your comments.
    The goaltending position is indeed one where the team seems to have actual depth. If I had to guess, one of the young guys you mention is destined to be Gustavsson's back-up, perhaps as early as next season. (That may depend on how Giggy plays the rest of this season, and how much he wants in a new contract.) With regard to possibly trading one of them, that's a good question. I don't know what the market would be for a young AHL goalie, even if they are playing very well at that level. You have to believe Burke is looking at every thing he can to bring in an elite-level forward.
    As for Vertseeg, he would bring something, no doubt. But Burke made a splash in obtaining him in the first place, and I'm guessing he wants Versteeg around for when the team does became a legitimate contender- as a third-line all-purpose winger.

  5. I like going where no fan has gone before regarding who can be traded. My son suggested that the only big time centre out there that the Leafs could realistically deal for is Spezza.

    Give Murray a cheap young puck moving D man, Gunnerson, a young talented centre he can plug in and sell as a #2, Bozak, and a guy that he was drooling over at the draft, Kadri. Spezza is a big ticket in his prime more than a point a game guy. They don't come on the market often, Murray tried to move him last year. He needs to do something soon or he's fired.

    The idea of trading Kessel has to be looked at. LA is a great young team that thinks that they are one bigtime scoring winger away from winning it all. Thus all the Richards to the Kings rumours. Kessel makes a lot more sense for them. Younger, more of a scoring winger, cheaper, tied up for a few years. Don't underestimate the fact that he is an American going into that market.

    Offer up Kessel and start by asking high. I would say Schenn (who is in the minors) Simmonds and their 1st pick. It's a good place to start.

    Do both deals, we could have our allstar centre, and a young centre who can play the 3 slot now, and has the tools to move up as he develops. Skills, toughness, and character. Like his brother,a very very good hockey player.

    Do you want more of the same, or do you want a 27 year old young point a game centre, a still junior eligible centre who was rated and drafted higher than Kadri, with a combo of a young gritty power forward and picks as well.

    This for Kessel, Kadri, and a good young Dman that we already can replace, and Bozak who doesn't make this team with Spezza and Schenn coming in as #1 and #3 with Grabbo having earned the #2

    I think those deals are there to be made. I hope Burke is man enough to trade guys he drafted/traded for to make it happen.

  6. You're absolutely right that Spezza was available. Is he still, I wonder? The Sens are looking to made deals and get better, and perhaps change the chemistry on the team. While I like the thinking behind this one, my problem is giving up three assets for one, when I'm not sure Spezza is a guy who will lead a team in the playoffs when things are tough and you have to go to the net.

    Kessel is a big fish, and as we all know, cost the Leafs a ton. So Burke would have to get a lot in return. Again, it's a very interesting idea. Simmonds would bring a physical presence and young Schenn seems to have a lot of skill and grit.

    Burke hasn't been afraid to make big-time deals, so who knows?

    Great post.