With the draft approaching, there is a lot of talk about what Brian Burke could possibly be up to, in order to better the club for the upcoming season and the future. There have been many scenarios bounced around over the past few weeks and every option discussed seems to have a bevy of supporters, regardless how different the path may be. After watching some of these conversations between fans, I have come up with 3 distinct paths that the Leafs can continue on. So let’s get right into them.
1. Win Now
This seems to have large support by many fans, as they have grown tired of Toronto’s losing ways. With that said, many of the fans that support this path appear to underestimate what it would cost the Leafs to continue along it. Ideas for immediate help include trades for any of the likes of Luongo, Nash, Staal, Getzlaf, etc… Granted many of these players could help us out significantly, it would cost us dearly in terms of the future.
Regardless, I am here to discuss the possibility. So here is what I see as the most likely way to continue on this path.
a) Deal for Luongo
Reimer may very well become a starting goaltender, and the same can be said of Scrivens, but this plan is to win now. This would be something we can clearly not wait for. As such, we would need a proven starting goaltender, and if that is the case, the best option available right now is Luongo. His hefty contract would make him the cheapest (in terms of what it would cost to get him), and rumor has it that he would approve a trade to the likes of the Maple Leafs. So what would this cost Toronto? Being as realistic as possible, Vancouver would likely have to take back salary, as a deal would otherwise never work between the two clubs. A likely scenario?
Luongo for Armstrong + Franson + 2nd
Vancouver takes back salary in the form of Armstrong, and hopes to add some grit to their line-up (assuming he stays healthy), and They gain assets in the form of a young blue-liner with potential and a high 2nd round pick. Leaf fan’s will say that the 2nd is too much to throw in to get a goalie with Luongo’s contract, and Vancouver fans will think that an elite goalie is worth more than that package. When both sides think they are getting ripped off, you know the trade is somewhat fair.
b) Deal for Getzlaf
The decision between Getzlaf, Nash, and Staal was a tough one, but in the end Getzlaf would be the absolute perfect centre for the team, should we have the desire to acquire a top flight centre. The problem here is the price. Getzlaf would demand a king’s ransom, especially with the lopsided deals that have recently been made between ANA and TOR. With that said, to construct a deal, I could see the following occurring:
Getzlaf for Schenn + 2012 1st (5th) + Kadri + Bozak
And there goes the future. Anaheim gains assets in the form of 2 former top 10 picks as well as a current 5th overall this year. A huge price to play for any team, but if we are going for a player of Getzlaf’s ability, we know it is going to cost us. Anaheim gets a ton of pieces to revamp their roster. They would now have chance to replace Getz with the 5ht overall, hoping to select one of Grigorenko or Galchenyuk, and they can now use their 9th overall to replace the likely departing Schultz at years end. Meanwhile the Leafs now have the first top line centre since Sundin.
c) UFA signing of Gaustad, trading of Connolly, resigning of Crabb, Blacker called up and Lombardi to the minors.
With Bozak gone and Colborne still needing time to develop, we would need a defensive centre for the 3rd, and let’s face it, Connolly is not that guy. Gaustad can be signed, but it would cost us more than he is worth, seeing the shortage of centres available in the Free Agent market this offseason. Expect a move like this to necessitate the need to move a guy like Connolly for whatever we can get. It would be nice to move someone like Komisarek, but Connolly is definitely the more moveable asset. Move him for a 3rd, a 4th, or a 5th; whatever is available. Crabb can then be resigned to a reasonable contract, which might press us up against the cap. This is where Lombardi comes in, or better yet, goes out. He may have some use in the NHL, but not in Carlyle’s system, and not for $3.5M. Balcker is then called up to replace the departed Franson and Schenn.
All this complete, our 2012-2013 line-up becomes:
A definite improvement on last year’s team, but the Marlies would now be back to square one, even with the potential additions of Ross, Percy, and Mckegg.
2. Yard Sale
This is an option that is gaining momentum slowly among several fans, but many are still hesitant to go the Edmonton route after all the suffering that has been endured over the past few years. This option would also cause Burke to go back on what he has built for us so far, as the most marketable would need to be on their way out in order to make this option worth it. So with that said, let’s look at some interesting options for how to proceed with this strategy.
a) Trading Lupul
This is a difficult move to make, as it is tough to gauge what the true value of a player like Lupul would be. There is no doubt that there would be teams that interested, but only a few I would think seriously looking at making an offer, as he has only had one true year of success. For once however, the Leafs would be trading a player at full value, rather than shipping him off when he is of no use. Teams that would be interested:
Pittsburgh would be an option, as they are looking to upgrade the wingers playing along-side the Crosby and Malking. With Staal likely on the way out to make room, perhaps they would also be interested in Bozak, a cheap centre who could fill in the 3rd line centre position. What would it cost them? Let’s say a package of something like:
Lupul + Bozak for Morrow + 2012 1st + 2013 1st
Morrow would add even more depth on D for the Leafs, and the 2 draft picks are a necessary part of a team trying to continue stocking the cupboards. This is essentially three late 1st round picks for a top 6 forward and a replacement centre. A fairly modest return (in my opinion) for what Pittsburgh would be receiving. That said, it is likely all we could get seeing how Lupul has only had one true season of glory.
New York Rangers are another option as a trading partner. This is a team that is always looking to add top-6 talent. Given that their #1 and #2 targets this offseason will likely be Parise and Nash, Lupul would not be a top priority. Should deals for these players fall through, I could see them having interest in Lupul, should he be made available. The question is what would this team offer up for a player of his calibre, and what would TOR be interested in?
Lupul + 2012 4th for J.T. Miller + 2012 1st.
Rumour has it that Burke was interested in trying to grab Miller has he been able to acquire a higher pick in last year’s draft. Well here is his chance, as Miller would be a very nice addition to our youth movement, having the potential to be a very impactful player in a few years. The 1st rounder in addition may be a little much, but a second would be too little. To balance it out, we add in an early 4th rounder, and use the Ranger’s late first to possibly address another area of need.
b) Trading Phaneuf
This would be my personal favourite of moves. While Dion brings some size to our back-end, as well as a booming shot, I just don’t see him as the #1 defenceman he has been built up to be by the media. That said, he still has some very real trade value across the league, especially if traded to a team where he wouldn’t need to be relied upon so heavily. His contract does decrease his value, but that would be taken into consideration in any deal. So who would be interested? I see a few possibilities, but only 1 I want to comment on:
Tampa Bay is an option seeing as they have very little going for them on the back end. In addition to that, they have recently acquired Keith Aulie from us, who Phaneuf had a solid year playing with as a defensive pairing. That said, TB may not be able to afford the hefty salary, but if they could find a goaltending solution, management might be willing to take a flyer on spending a little more in order to take another deep playoff run. So who would we need to make this work?
Phaneuf for B. Connolly
This would be a tough pill to swallow for Tampa, giving up a player with such a promising future, but this trade was based on the premise that TB would want to win now. Connolly has a few years left before he makes a meaningful impact, and defence is a much bigger need at the moment. Meanwhile the Leafs pick up a promising player who looks to be able to fill a top 6 role a few years down the road.
c) Trade up for Galchenyuk.
There is not much to elaborate on with this comment. Galchenyuk seems as if he would provide everything we need in a future centre for this team. He has size, skill, and is American (so Burke would draft him!). What this would cost? I could see the #5 pick being combined with a player like Franson as well as a mid-late first, which we acquired via the previously mentioned trades, going to Columbus for the #2 overall pick. Would that be enough? It seems like it could, as Columbus could use a young defender in Franson. They could still pick Murray at #5 (potentially), and try to use the mid-late first to pick up a Malcolm Subban, who become their goaltender of the future. Any other needs for Columbus would then be addressed through the assets acquired by trading Nash this offseason. Seems like a very good deal for both clubs.
d) Wait out the Waste
As for players like Komisarek, Connolly, Armstrong, and Lombardi, there would be no use trying to move them, as the return for any would be minimal, and at the moment we still need players to fill out the roster while the young players develop. Scrivens would split the net with Reimer for the upcoming year, both gaining valueable experience, with the hope that one can emerge as a future starter. The blue line would feature such younger players as Schenn, Franson, Holzer/Blacker, and Gardiner on a regular basis. In a years time, The onlder players contracts will be up, and Burke would not sign many of them to extensions, allowing the younger forwards and defenders to begin filling out the ranks. In a year’s time, the roster would look similar to the following:
Not a great roster by any means, and many of these players likely wouldn’t be on the team as of yet, but this is just to show the options we have from our youth. Many positions would have to be filled by veterans signed to short term deals that would take the pressure of some of the younger players, but in the end, another top 5 finish wouldn’t be the worst thing for a team taking this route of building.
The third option is the one that is my personal favourite, however this has dragged on long enough, so I will save it for another day this week. Let me know your thoughts of both options. Which would you prefer?