Most Leafs’ fans are getting excited with the possibility of a playoff berth for the first time since the lock-out, and who can really blame them? While I think it is Burke’s intention for the team to make it to the post-season this year, I have also heard the GM mention on several occasions that the cup is his primary target, and a first-round exit is not his goal.
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With this in mind, I bring up the idea of whether the Leafs should be sellers or buyers come trade deadline? While you can make a strong case for both at this point, I myself am leaning towards seller. I understand the pain of ‘giving up on the season’ but that scenario may be the best for the Leafs in the long run. Here are my reasons for considering it:
1) Burke is an impeccable trader
There is no doubting Burke’s ability to sell his product high and buy low. He has done an impeccable job in the past 3 years bringing in some great talent, with a few exceptions. However, at this point in the year, the Leafs have plenty of ‘extra’ contracts, and it is definitely a seller’s market. The names such as Grabovski, Schenn, Komisarek, Macarthur, etc… have all been mentioned as possible targets of teams. Grabovski would easily be the most sought after centre rental at this year’s deadline, next to Derek Roy, and could fetch our team a pretty penny. The pieces landed here, similar to the Beuachemin and Kaberle deals of last year, could help set us up for the next several years.
2) We need more cap room
With the CBA set to be renegotiated soon, we are dangerous of being so close to the cap. If we could find suitors for players such as Komisarek, Lombardi, or Macarthur it would clear out some much needed cap space for the following year, which we could then be used to add players in areas with more of a pressing need. Let’s face it. Kulemin is going to demand north of the $2.3M he was making this year, Crabb, or his replacement (I hope not), will demand equal to more than the $0.75M he is making this year, and our current starting goaltender in Gustavsson will probably end up with money equal to Reimer’s contract from last year. We simply do not have the cap room to add any key pieces in the upcoming year, unless we shed some salary.
3) We need to make room for the young guys
There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Competition has been instrumental to the development of certain players such as Franson, Gunnarson, Crabb, Kadri, Frattin and Bozak. However, there comes a point where you are going to have to make a regular spot for the young guys to squeak their way into the line-up. With the number of contracts we have right now, and the eventual return of Armstrong to the line-up, it seems the spots area at a premium. Guys like Colborne, Frattin, Ross, Blacker, and Holzer are going to find it difficult to get their shot with the big club. That may lead to frustration and slower development for some.
4) We need more pieces to get an impact player, without sacrificing the future
We all know that the team is in need of a #1 centre. Unfortunately, if we were to trade for one currently, it would require names such as Kadri, Schenn, Kulemin, Gardiner, etc… going the other way. We have enough depth at these positions to not completely destroy our NHL team, but the Marlies would suffer as a result. If we were to acquire more picks and prospects ala a Roster player for 1st + Prospect route, as Burke is known for, we could help replenish the youth on our team, while still being able to draw in that impact player we need. I am all for bringing in that #1 centre, but not at the cost of crippling the team to do so. Selling now could help us ensure that a trade of prospects and picks later does not dampen our future.
I would not be against trying to make the playoffs this year, God knows I miss playoff hockey, but I am thinking long-term here. I am not interested in mediocre playoff performances, early round exits, and emotionally crippled squads year in and year out. No sir. I want a cup! That is the ultimate goal here, and it should be the only goal for Leaf fans! While I am not expecting it this year, or the next, I expect us to improve to the point where we can compete for it soon.
We are currently more than one-piece away from getting to this point, and I think we need to become sellers this year in order to get to that next level. That’s my opinion at least, and I stand by it. What do you think?
Oh, and it wouldn’t be a blog from me unless I threw in one of my ‘Fire Wilson’ comments. So….
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