Sorry Leafs Nation, Brian Burke didn’t splurge on a deal to give Leafs Nation the false hope of a playoff spot. What a shame…
Instead, Burke traded Nik Antropov, Dominic Moore and the Toronto Marlies’ Richard Petiot for two 2nd round picks (BUF and NYR), a conditional pick (NYR), Olaf Kolzig (our next savior), Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers. Also, he picked up Martin Gerber (who was sensational tonight in Washington) and Erik Reitz from waivers.
Nothing flashy, but Burke kept to his word, and the Leafs are now in a stronger position going into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal on June 26-27. For those who hoped for better returns and/or more players moved from the Leafs, don’t fret, the off-season will mark the official turnaround of a franchise in dire need of one.
The fact the Trade Deadline is so pumped up by the media is the main contributor to the madness that unfolds each season (although General Manager’s were considerably more conservative this time around). GM's feel the added pressure to fix the woes of their respective clubs, which leads to the trading of prospects, roster players and draft picks – and not surprisingly, the sellers usually come out on top.
While the Leafs were obviously sellers going into March 4th, Burke had some delicate situations with blueliners Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina, who each have a no-trade clause in their contracts. Because of John Ferguson Jr.’s spectacular business decisions, Burke had to be wary of the value of his defensemen. The scrutiny of the Deadline (cap restrictions + attempting to bolster line-up during the season) minimizes the amount of potential suitors, so Burke’s options were limited. While he may not be in a position to demand a 1st round pick, a prospect and roster player, he will have a larger amount of teams interested in his blueliners, so that means a wider array of prospects and draft picks to consider.
It would have been nice if the Leafs were free from the oppression of the NTC, especially considering the asking price for Kaberle, but there’s no rush to unload the Leafs’ core just yet. After all, Burke joined the Leafs just recently, so analyzing his club for the rest of the season may be a crucial step in deciding who is worthy of being apart of the rebuilding plan in Toronto.
The Leafs’ youth can’t do it on their own, so is keeping atleast one blueliner in Kaberle and Kubina important? And which one? Kubina is on a tear of late, and would be an excellent mentor for the Leafs’ blueline. Kaberle is an important factor the Leafs’ PP, and although he lacks the defensive game to be a two-way contributor, he’d serve as a mentor for up-and-comer Anton Stralman – who has been progressing nicely.
Kaberle and Kubina aside, the Leafs are free of NTC’s this off-season. Not only that, but their core players, who are all signed on for the 2009-10 season, all have movable contracts. So if Burke wants to give this team a make-over, he’ll be more than capable of doing it – and the fact that Antropov and Moore are subtracted from the line-up is already a shake-up.
For once, the Leafs will have the luxury of cap space with 8.75M at their disposal going into the off-season. While the Leafs’ pivotal moment will be the Entry Draft this summer, July 1st can play a big role to the Leafs’ rebuilding plan.
Take a look at some of the UFA’s available this year:
D Francois Beauchemin (29)
RW Maxim Afinogenov (29)
C Mike Cammaleri (27)
D Jordan Leopold (28)
LW David Moss (27)
LW Martin Havlat (28)
G Andrew Raycroft (29)-- I kid, I kid.
C Johan Franzen (29)
D Jay Bouwmeester (25)
D Kurtin Foster (27)
LW Marian Gaborik (27)
D Mike Komisarek (27) -- long shot, will likely re-sign with Habs.
LW Alex Tanguay (29)
D Ville Koistinen (27)
LW Taylor Pyatt (27)
If the Leafs can collect more draft picks and/or prospects this off-season, coupled with some key UFA signings (with fair contracts, mind you) the Leafs can finally take the first step in finding the remedy to this 41-year Cup drought.
In Burke we trust.