With news breaking about the Chicago Blackhawks possibly making a critical error in filing qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents Cam Barker, Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Troy Brouwer, I can’t help but think Brian Burke is salivating at the thought of acquiring two players who would strenghten the Leafs' core in an instant.
Those two players are Barker and Versteeg. The pair of twenty-three year-olds are coming off remarkable seasons with the Blackhawks. Barker had a career-year, scoring 6 goals, 34 assists and 40 points. The 6'3, 222 pound offensive defenseman is the kind of player the Leafs could potentially replace Tomas Kaberle with -- should Burke opt to trade him, of course.
Versteeg, who played his first full season in the NHL, performed at a surprising rate, notching 53 points and 22 goals. While he lacks size (5'10, 180 pounds), he is said to have defensive awareness in his own end, which will help him have a lenghty career in the NHL despite his smallish stature. His role in the NHL is yet to be determined, but there's no denying his potential -- 4 goals and 12 points in 17 playoff games, anyone?
Burke, who has close to 10 million dollars in cap space, has the flexibility to not only offer the duo contracts (should they be rendered Unrestricted Free Agents), but to also stay in the hunt for UFA goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who is believed to make his decision in the coming days.
While Dave Nonis informed the media today that the Leafs are done with signings until the dust settles, you can bet that claim will be withdrawled should the Blackhawks epic fail with their qualifying offers.
Of course, adding another defenseman in Barker would further crowd the Leafs' defense. But no worries, this is the kind of problem GM's pray for. Particularly those whose names start with Bryan and end with Murray.
If Barker joins the mix, then all indications point to the trading of Kaberle, who would presumably be shipped for a young scoring forward.
So let's recap the potential events should the Blackhawks fail to secure their RFA's:
1) Leafs acquire Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg
2) Kaberle traded for a young scoring forward (Phil Kessel?) and/or prospects
Leafs upgrade their defense to a god-like level and acquire forwards to start building the top-six. Epic.
This is probably a dream, of course, but it's fun to speculate. It is a possible scenario, though, so is it really that absurd?
Probably. But hey, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter because I'll still wake up every morning knowing that the Leafs are going to completely manhandle the Montreal Canadiens' Fellowship of the Midgets next season.