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Leafs wrap up huge road trip but if there was one Leaf defenseman you HAD to trade right now, who would it be?

I well recognize the state of euphoria that tends to exist when the Leafs win a few games.  It’s always been this way, even in the ‘70s and the often downtrodden ‘80s.  Back in those days, if we beat the Habs on a cold December night at the Gardens, all was good with the hockey world, and good things were surely just around the corner for the Leafs.

Usually, the Leafs would then turn around and lose to the California Golden Seals, or the Cleveland Barons or whomever, and gloom would return to Leafland.

At the moment, though, the Leafs have looked really good for the most part this season.  Another big road win in Anaheim doesn't hurt.  When feeling hopeful, it seems like this will never end. We assume Kessel and Lupul will keep scoring, Phaneuf will be the best defenseman in hockey, the secondary scoring will always be there and Reimer will come back and save us from eternal hockey damnation.

On and on it goes.  It’s fun, eh?

Now, if we lose a few, well, Phil’s a bit of a bum, Dion takes too many chances, and, ah, what if Reimer gets hurt again?

So as I pen this particular piece, I’m trying to walk the middle of the road: that is, looking at the Leafs objectively as a young team on the rise, with potential, who should definitely be in the playoff mix next spring, and who, with a few tweaks, could be a pretty decent team in the East—especially given the watered-down talent and overall parity in the Conference.

In that scenario, (i.e., the Leafs are good, but need to get better to play with the big boys) the organization will likely need to add some offense. (Yes, I know they are now one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, but I also know what I see…) At some point, this season or next, to get to that “elite” level a team generally need to be at to be a true contender for a championship, they will add some forwards.

For me the central pieces the Leafs need are indeed on offense.  Oh, a team can always use more great defensemen, of course, but they are hard to find, and in Toronto’s case, they are awfully deep there, thanks to Burke’s moves over the past three years.  With Phaneuf, Schenn, Komisarek, Gunnarsson, Gardiner, Franson, Liles, Aulie and Holzer, you have 9 NHL-ready guys on the blueline, with more biding their time with the Marlies.

So if you are going to deal from the classic position of strength, they would be moving one of those 9 defenders if they made a move to try and acquire a high-end forward.

My question for you today is, if you felt the Leafs had to make a move (and I realize at this moment, these are heady times with the Leafs being in a nice position in the Eastern Conference standings) and therefore had to ship out a defenseman, which one would you be willing to move?

We all recognize that if you trade your best defender, you can get “more” coming back your way.  But my point is simply this: of the guys I just mentioned, who (for the sake of discussion) would you be most prepared to live without going forward, to obtain a difference-maker up front?

As much as fans love what Kessel and Lupul are doing while hoping that Grabovski returns to his old form when he returns (and that the kids like Fratting and Colborne will take that next step and contribute in a big way, too) I just believe we will eventually need more, to, again, be one of the truly "top" teams.

I’ve already said in the past that one guy I don’t want to see the Leafs move is Gunnarsson, simply because I think he brings so much overall skill and has such a high ceiling.  I believe the guy can be an All-Star within the next two to three seasons (though we keep hearing the team was prepared to move him this past off-season).

But for the purpose of our discussion today, everything is on the table.  So from where you sit, who absolutely has to stay on the blueline, and who would you be willing to part with—if you had to?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


  1. gotta be komisarek, but who would take the injuries and the contract?

  2. I'm thinking franson/komisarek. You can't touch Phaneuf, Gunnarson, Schenn, Gardiner (core for future). Liles is invaluable on the powerplay, and he showed that yesterday again. Aulie has the size and reach to be solid, so I'm thinking it's franson/komi that's odd one out.

    Phaneuf+Gunnarson have been solid.
    Schenn+Gardiner have been playing the most ice time as of late.
    Aulie(teach him how to play on right side)+Liles in the future.
    Each pairing has a solid puck moving defenceman, and a big body.

  3. To be honest I'm not sure. Komisarek is the odd man out. Of lately his playing still has shown he still has potential to be a physical shut down guy. He trade value is climbing and I can see a few teams being interested in him. Islanders, Ducks, Hurricanes, Lighting and a few more.

    Burke stated Franson is a Lindstrom type player with a big body and a massive shot. I believe Lilies is on his way out. Gunnar has been playing awesome just like last year but he has been in the trade mil for a while. The only untouchable dman is Phaneuf as he bring a lot to the table.

    Schenn and Gardiner has been playing amazing together. Wouldn't move them. Aulie has shown last year he can play in this league and Holzner is also ready. You got to said the same about Lashoff but He's out for the year. The leafs could easily move two defense-man. I'd move Komi and Gunnar. Gunnar is starting to bring up his trade value and we already know Aulie can play with him.

  4. Thanks Sean, you braise a realistic thought about Komisarek.

    Eden, I like your pairings, though I'd be happy with Gunner and Schenn together, too.

    Alix, a well thought-out comment. Thanks. I'm a Gunner fan and I think he brings so much, I'd hate to see him dealt. But I realize if they do move a defenseman, they will likely have to give up some quality...

  5. It's actually a pretty tricky question to answer. The guys I'd be OK with giving up today (Komi, Franson, Aulie and Holzer) are all unlikely to fetch the desired return without adding on something else. Komi is hurt and, even with his recent improvements, still isn't justifying a 4.5m cap hit. Franson isn't going to fetch (as) much when he's been our seventh D most of the year. Aulie/Holzer would undoubtedly need to be part of a package to bring back any significant improvement.

    So that leaves Phaneuf, Schenn, Gunnarsson, Gardiner and Liles. Between the way Dion has played, and the impact of moving the captain when he's done nothing to warrant that, you simply can't trade him right now. Right now, Gunnarsson is more valuable to us than he would be to any other NHL team. He and Dion have been a real solid pairing, too solid to disrupt by moving either. Giving up Gardiner just seems ludicrous.

    So, if I absolutely had to move one, I'd say Schenn or JML. Although allow me to clarify that if I had the choice, I wouldn't move either. Schenn still seems like a big part of the core going forwards, even with his difficult start. Meanwhile JML has been excellent on the PP, which right now is as good as it has been in a while. From all accounts, he's providing leadership off the ice as well. I could see him being moved closer to the deadline, especially if he continues to be a positive aspect of our PP, and is troubling the top 15/20 in scoring from the blueline. With his contract expiring, he seems like a good rental for a playoff team that needs to boost its PP.

    I've kind of sat on the fence here, haven't I? I'd say it's much more likely we package Franson, Aulie or Holzer with a top-6 forward to improve that area, although I wouldn't expect such a move until the team is a lot healthier.

  6.'ve captured really well the challenge I was putting forward. To get something really substantial in return, we have to give up something (generally speaking, at least- we won't see too many Phaneuf deals...). Not easy.

  7. I agree that eventually we'll need to trade for offense. And the only D-man I'd be ready to deal, who would get a good return, is Schenn. (Don't get me wrong - I like him. But someone's gotta go, and we're dealing for a top 6 forward here). Schenn is young, big, and could really be a benefit to any team that's short on, well, young, big defencemen. And he'd bring a good return. We've got enough guys who can cover his loss.

  8. I guess it depends on what we want back in return. If we want spare parts then it has to be Komisarek, Franson, or Aulie oe Holzer. Of those four I think you could get more for Aulie than any of the others and I believe he has the highest upside of the four. However, I am not overly sold on any of these guys being huge impact guys in the future, for sure not top three guys.

    The Next group is where I think you could get real value coming back. Schenn, Gunnarson and Liles with Schenn being the guy you could get the biggest return for. I like Gunnarson but he strikes me as guy who is playing about as good as he ever will right now. He seems like one of those guys who will play for 15 years but will never be your best defenseman. Liles I also think is as good as he is going to get, I must say he has been a pleasent suprise this year. I was not overly fond of him after the first 10 games or so but really like him now. I figure if you trade Schenn and package him with Kadri as well as a draft pick you could probably get a real good young player in return (hello Bobby Ryan).

    Really for the right package I wouldn't hesitate to trade any of them except Phaneuf. He is the captain and undisputed leader of a winningh team. He is by far the best all around dman the Leafs have. Gunnarson is better defensively but no where as close offensively, Liles is the opposite and no one else is really close.

    With some of the guys coming up to like Jesse Blacker who is going to be on this team next year no one is untouchable.

  9. Gerund O'...Schenn may indeed draw the "best" return, give his age, size and ability to be a physical defender.

    Well said also, Wilbur...The package you mention (Schenn, Kadri and a draft pick) is one I have to believe has already been discussed. The "right" player may get a deal like that done.

  10. Long suffering Leaf fanNovember 29, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Why do we have to trade one of D-men at this present time? Liles will be a unrestricted free agent at years end. And depending on what he's asking, he could walk. If the Leafs do trade one of their young D-men, I hope in the name of Tim Horton that they don't go looking for one of those Randy Carlyle for Dave Burrows deals which cripple the organization throughout the eighties. Please Mr. Burke keep your head during this winning streak!

  11. Good point, Long the old expressions goes...sometimes the best trades are the one you DON'T make...

    In this case, I was just thinking out loud, sort of "what if" the Leafs want to get better on the forward lines- who would have to be let go?

  12. >cringe< (deep breath), i wouldn't miss franson, komisarek or.... schenn! keep liles, gunnar, gardiner, phaneuf. 'alex it seems like you don't care for defensive defensemen!' it's not that... it's just in a trade, schenn could do to the leafs (better even!) what beauchemann did last year!

  13. Alex true...not easy to part with a defenseman. They are so hard to obtain and develop, you certainly don't want to give them away.

    Bobby Ryan is the name and flavour of the day in Leafland. But it would have to take a lot to pry a young winger away from Anaheim, eh? Certainly a quality defenseman- and Schenn would perhaps be the guy that could bring a good return.