Custom Search

It’s draft week, so what’s the first Maple Leaf shoe to drop?

We’ve been talking in this space the past few days about the Maple Leafs and, well, let’s call them summertime “possibilities”.  You know, things the Leaf brass may consider, or may actually do, between now and early July.

It's not always the case, but sometimes there is a catalyst, a trigger, an event that shakes the decision-making tree and pushes a management team to do something. Sometimes, the team you are pulling for (in our case, the Maple Leafs) starts the chain reaction; at other times, they respond to something a competitor does.

At the annual regular-season trade deadline, we often talk in terms of GM’s making moves early (as Burke says he likes to do), whereas others wait and are perhaps more likely to react to what competitors in their Division or Conference may do to try and bolster their line-ups.  But this time of year is special.  All kinds of things can happen, because of the confluence of events:  the trade door opens wide, the draft is this weekend and of course we are also only days away from free-agency as well.

Things are already, albeit slowly, beginning to shake out around the league.  in the past few days, we’ve see a few things that may be triggers.  Tim Thomas wants a year off (or at least he wants out of Boston); Detroit traded Brad Stuart back to the Sharks (at least his rights) and the Sharks have now signed him to a three-year contract at what passes for, by modern-day standards, a hometown discount.  The Preds have traded Lindback to the Lightning, so that means a good young goalie is off the market, and the Lightning now have different needs than they had a couple of weeks ago.

Clearly, some big fish are out there and available:  Luongo absolutely is being actively shopped.  Pittsburgh's Staal is as well, I believe.  Is Patrick Kane?  What about Kiprusoff?  Are Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan still in play?  Are the Leafs really in on Schultz, the young ex-collegian drafted by the Ducks? 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, because that doesn’t touch the draft or free-agency. (On that note, where is Parise going—Minnesota will be offering mega-dollars, but will the young winger stay in Jersey or look to L.A. or Detroit?  Could the Leafs possibly convince him to come here?)

So many questions, and the next few days will provide at least some of the answers.  It’s a fun time to be a fan (maybe the best time of the year) but here's what I’m wondering: what will be the first-step that triggers action—or a reaction—from the Maple Leafs.

If the Leafs act first, what do you anticipate will be the first move Burke makes?  Will it be before the draft?  On the draft floor?  Or will he wait until the draft is done and, after the dust settles, pull the trigger on a deal at that point?  Will it be big, or something more modest?  And who will be the first Leaf dealt?

Let me know what you’re thinking.  It’s a wide-open field right now.  But something has to give first, eh?


  1. I noticed in Elliotte Friedman’s article today “Rick Nash's potential suitors plus 30 Thoughts,” reference to comments about the Luke Schenn to Edmonton rumour which prompted Michael’s open letter to Brian Burke: “Dear Brian, please focus on the task at hand”. In today’s article, Friedman explained his sources for his trade speculation. One is a May 9, 2012 article “In a shallow draft, pick No. 3 dogs Canadiens,” by the Gazette’s Mike Boone. Boone writes: “Rumours have the Leafs pursuing Edmonton’s pick. The Leafs would send Luke Schenn and their No. 5 pick to the Oilers and then use the No. 1 pick to draft Yakupov ... or maybe Galchenyuk.” The other was a June 10, 2012 Steve Simmons article “Devils keep chaos out of the room”. Simmons wrote: “Apparently, the Maple Leafs want to move up in the draft and Edmonton may want to move its No. 1 pick. A deal, one that could involve Luke Schenn, is not out of the question here”.

    This case is illustrative of how rumours can spread. Boone does not cite a source, just “rumours”, and Simmons’ writing is plainly speculative. Moreover, Simmons does not propose flipping places in exchange for Luke Schenn, just that Schenn might be involved. Today Friedman wrote: “I concede that I should have used the word "reports" instead of "rumblings" in my copy”. Maybe “rumblings” is what Friedman calls “cute” prose, but most of us do like a little colour with our commentary. Then again, “rumblings” is a little vague, after all, and “speculation” would have been fairer to everyone involved, particularly Luke Schenn, who became grossly undervalued in the evolution of this particular rumour.

    I guess Friedman’s statement could put the matter to rest, but for me, the plot just thickens when he writes: “… by participating in the process, (Burke) does have some control over what is said, because I'm obligated to report his responses. But, for months now, he has refused to participate in the process, including to a question posed as recently as two weeks ago.” Does that mean that Brian Burke was asked to comment specifically on this trade rumour, or some other point unrelated to the Schenn to Edmonton rumour? Friedman’s comment appears to suggest that Burke has declined to respond to Friedman’s questions over a period of several months. Is Brian Burke cherry-picking which journalists he will provide comment to, or does this have something to do with his recent interaction with the CBC? In my mind, Friedman’s comments raise more questions than answers.

  2. There are so many subtle nuances here, Bobby C....Is there a difference between an "journalist" and a reporter? Does an investigative journalist/reporter have more latitude to not disclose sources, because of the nature of their work?

    In the sports writing field, do the same rules apply?

    I understand that sports reporters (like other reporters) won't reveal their sources, for all the obvious reasons (maybe the conversation was "off the record"; they don't want to lose that person for future information-gathering; they don't want everyone else to start going to the same good source, etc...) But beyond the above issues, in the sports area, do reporters owe it to anyone to declare absolutely if they are reporting a "rumour"?

    We could debate what is a legitimate source and what may not be. If you're a reporter, is it enough just to disclose you have a "source"? Must the name of the person be revealed? Because, if no names are revealed, it could all be made up anyway, right?

    As for Brian Burke's role here, I don't know what to say. I'm having a hard time following the bouncing ball. (A personal view here, based merely on my own "opinion", is that Burke has always played the media; he has always had "favourites" who spin his messages for public consumption and get out exactly what he wants to get out...)

    Burke doesn't "owe" it to reporters to respond to every rumour. At the same time, if he picks and chooses his spots, does that send its own message?

    I guess maybe I'm being simplistic here- the bottom line for me is this is the world of fun and games. Men playing a boy's game and earning millions of dollars doing it- and fans paying through the teeth for this "entertainment". Rumours and speculation are part of the entertainment value for fans, so dealing with speculation and rumours is, fair or not, part of their jobs, as players, coaches and executives.

    If a reporter wants to "speculate" that a particular player may be traded, simply because that reporter thinks a particular deal may make sense, well, for me, that's OK. There doesn't have to be a "source" within the team or the league.

    You got me thinking Bobby!

  3. I just saw TSN's final draft ranking. They had Galchenyuk at 5 which is the Leafs' spot.

    They had Grigorenko down at 12. If he goes that low the Leafs should put together a deal and grab him too.

    The Leafs would be set for years with two big skilled centers...strength down the middle in spades! It's what we have wished for.

    Add in the signing of Justin Schultz...there are new rumors( down to three teams including the Leafs) and it could be an amazing week for the Leafs.

    What would it take to get that 12th pick if Grigorenko was still there?

    6'3" and this kind of skill:

  4. I would think that Burke will not be making the first move unless it is for a centre. If that deal doesn't come to fruit by the time the 5th pick must be called, we will be picking at 5th.

    I don't think Burke would rush into a Luongo trade, he would surely let July settle in for awhile unless he gets a price he likes and sours Gillis' mouth a little. We have seen Burke deals, he doesn't tend to "lose" from my point of view so far. He says he was adamant on Aulie in the Phaneuf deal, he was insistent on Lupul coming with either Gardiner or Schultz, he made sure he got at least a 1st and prospect for Kaberle.

  5. It's funny DP, I'm in a minority. I know the Leafs need big, skilled centres as you correctly outline above. I'd just love to see them get their hands on the best available young defenseman, too. I know we have depth in the minors at "D", but it would help replace missing out on Hamilton a year ago...

  6. I sense you're right, Skill2Envy, that Burke won't be pushed into any deal out of desperation.

    That said, he is in a tougher spot than he was when he made those earlier deals, so we'll see how things go the next few weeks! Thanks.

  7. Summertime is indeed the time to be hopeful, Anon! Good stuff, thanks.

  8. Another great post Michael, thanks. To address your question, I think the shoe has already dropped in terms of the trigger point that starts the trade ball rolling for the Leafs. In fact I think there have been several shoes dropped. As Burke has made quite clear, the Leafs are looking to improve the team at the goaltender position. With the early move by Pittsburgh to snatch Volkoun off the market, with Thomas taking himself off the market, and the more recent move seeing Lindback going back to TB the goalie funnel is narrowing quickly. Now, one could argue that Luongo was Burke's target all along and that the above transactions have nothing to do with the manoeuvring of BB this off-season , but as the talent pool thins they may have forced the hand of a GM looking to make a splash.

  9. Thanks for mentioning Vokoun (which I neglected to do in my post), Wendels Moustache. These moves do change the marketplace to a certain extent.

    Regarding Luongo, teams that are interested in him seemingly want Vancouver to simply dump his salary. The Canucks want talent in return. We'll see what need/reality sinks in first- and who blinks!

  10. I do believe that Burke is shopping for the number one pick. If history is any indication, he will not sell the farm for it, but he will be as creative as he can be. This subject has been touched upon on past posts I know, but I think he will give up Schenn to Edmonton in a minute if he, or him plus another player, can get the Leafs the top pick. I for one would hate to see Schenn go, I think he is still better than advertised. I also believe his confidence has been hurt by the spotlight on him for four years in this organization. I think the same thing about Kadri. I don't know if that's too much to give up, but Schenn and Kadri to switch picks with Edmonton?

  11. Here's my thought, Anon...if the Leafs were to offer Kadri and Schenn, do they have to give up the 5th overall selection?

    We've discussed in this space in the past that, as you indicate today, Kadri and Schenn are young. We have no idea what they might become. Nor do we know what any of the top five picks in this year's draft will become.

    I hate giving away defensemen, but for the purpose of discussion, would Kadri and Schenn be enough to get the first overall?

    Then, the Leafs would have two picks in the top 5....

  12. Michael, I don't think Edmonton will give up the first pick for the two of them. I hinted that I think it's maybe a steep price to pay, maybe that's why I'm not a GM, I'd probably give up too much. I do believe that Yakupov is "can't miss", anyone else in this draft has the possibility to be a bust. So for that reason I think it's worthwhile to go after the first pick. I almost hate myself for suggesting giving up either Schenn or Kadri too, but I believe they are both players that likely would thrive elsewhere after all the pressure that's been put on them here. Re-thinking here, maybe Schenn plus a lesser prospect would be enough to pry that pick from Edmonton.

  13. Schenn and Kadri are certainly under the microscope here, no question, Anon. Whether they would play to their potential elsewhere is always the kind of question we ask as Leaf fans. I'd be surprised if Schenn straight up would be enough to acquire the first overall, but the next few days should see a lot of jockeying for position....

  14. Thanks again for another great post, Michael. Certainly getting to be crunch-time again! Kind of sad this year seems so jaded compared to year's past, but hopefully that'll dissipate.

    I don't know how many people caught Brian Burke's interview with Steve Paiken a few days ago (link:, but he said something that got me thinking.

    He said his he considers himself to be in the Entertainment Business. Seems reasonable on the face of it, but Paiken presses him further, asking if his goal is to Win or to Entertain. Burke picked the latter.

    You might remember that I've always been a pretty staunch admirer of Burke's style, but this had me scratching my head, and quite frankly upset me. It seems impossible that winning and entertainment are mutually exclusive (I'm sure it's not as simple as that, but boy, what a communications blunder from an otherwise crafty communicator). The Red Wings play a boring game, but they see the post-season more often than not. Detroit is known as hockey town, for Cripes' sakes.

    This is a long-winded way of asking: Do you think Burke OVERTHINKS his trades? Is it possible that some GMs take a more business-like approach to deals (Glen Sather wants tougher scoring power = he goes hard after Nash) whereas Burke weighs too many options in his players (Speed is fun to watch = a lot of questionable money is taken on in the form of Matthew Lombardi)?

    I realize those are very simple examples, and I'm sure Commenters could come up with better ones, or punch holes in my theory. But food for thought as we approach a very tense week of trade activity. Thanks Michael!

  15. I don't want to just give an off-the-top-of-my-head response to a very good question, Steve, so let me instead think on this and consider it in a future post.

    Briefly, I'll simply say Burke probably cares so much about his image (as much as he does about results, maybe more) that it impacts his thinking at times. Other GM's, less concerned with what people think, may indeed not over-think things as much.

    I'm not a supporter of Burke's manner of communicating, as I've acknowledged here in the past, though I respect that you and many others see him differently. (For me, he focuses far too much on his constant discussion about how he builds "his" teams... there is just too much "my" and "I" when he speaks...)

    Great question Steve. Maybe others will chime in and I will try to respond more thoughtfully in a future post. Thanks.

  16. Josh Harding Re-Signs with Wild. 3 years. $5.7 Million.

    There goes one option. The Leafs could have paid that on a two year term.

    "It's funny DP, I'm in a minority. I know the Leafs need big, skilled centres as you correctly outline above. I'd just love to see them get their hands on the best available young defenseman, too."

    I am counting on Justin Schultz...I am thinking that could be the best available young defenceman.

  17. Thanks DP.

    There seems to be a line of thought that Harding is satisfied being a back-up in Minnesota. He's been there for years, his whole career, really, so he's probably happy making great money in a low-profile, no-pressure market.

    But yes, it's one less goaltending option for the Leafs, if he was in fact on their radar.

    As for Schutlz, you'd like to think the Leafs have an inside track, but who knows?

  18. According to Alec Brownscombe of MLHS:
    “… last night on “That’s Hockey” TSN insider Darren Dreger reported Mike Gillis is looking for a hockey trade for his goaltender, not a salary dump scenario. According to Dreger, all offers for Luongo to date fit the latter description. Today on TSN Radio 1050, Dreger added that the Leafs are not interested in trading for Luongo unless they are sending salary back Vancouver’s way. All this likely means is that it may be a while before the Luongo situation comes to a resolution. Ultimately, Luongo has asked for a trade and must be moved. If no GM is willing to deal on his terms, eventually Gillis will have to take the best deal available.”

    It is a cold reality that NHL trades are now predominantly about trading contracts and futures. Gillis appears to be in a weak position. He cannot have too much money tied up in goal and therefore one of Schneider or Luongo has to go. Luongo apparently wants out and can control his destination. Conversely, Burke is in a strong position, because Luongo’s list of acceptable destinations is purportedly very short.

    The Luongo situation is playing out as I said it would all along. The unique dynamics of the situation allow Burke to take the calculated risk that Gillis will be forced to accept a “soft deal” rather than keep a disgruntled goaltender and have an outlandish amount of money tied to the net. There does not appear to be any reason for the Leafs to sacrifice futures, unless for some reason Burke wants to help Gillis save face and/or accelerate the process.

  19. I well know that you called this scenario a long time ago, Bobby C. (Insert a professional and respectful nod in your direction here...).

    I guess it's not a unique perspective but let me throw this on the table for discussion: Teams interested in Luongo are taking your position. That is, they are willing to take Luongo off Gillis' hands, but only if they can either dump bad salaries in return, or don't have to offer any young or important organizational assets.

    However, I cling to the notion that Gillis will insist on a "hockey deal". He needs to live in Vancouver, as I've said before, and he wants at least one good piece coming back his way.

    Right now, it's a stalemate between he and fellow GM's.

    Soon, I presume someone will blink. I think Gillis will blink last, because he has a key asset that he can peddle at any point up to the trade deadline next season. It's in Luongo's interest to, if necessary, return to Vancouver and play well, so other teams will be willing to pick up his large contract.

    I think Chicago is still in the running, contrary to what some have suggested. And that would be a good fit, I believe, for Luongo.

    Thanks Bobby!