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Leafs and Lightning?

Posted 11:51 AM ET | Comments 1
Here's a switch from traditional thinking - A Canadian team that will accept missing the play-offs this year and a Florida team that MUST win or face potentially franchise threatening woes.

The set-up is there to see some deals done with the salary cap as a factor for both teams, but with needs on both sides that might see a decent fit.

Tampa has continually been looking to strengthen goaltending and defense over the last couple of seasons. They have a lock on a great young player in the 2008 draft. They haven't drafted particularly well over the past few drafts - in part due to some success in the standings - but also due to their main weakness being in positions where draftees take 3 or 4 years to develop into the players that they will eventually become. They've had a taste of the Cup and they saw things collapse on themselves since. But with a short history, and a tough market for hockey, the franchise can't afford to be patient for a return to glory.

Toronto has finally seen that their old management had hamstrung the team with half-measures and overly generous attempts to appease veterans rather than seek out replacements. Witness the woes of Cliff Fletcher trying to shuffle the deck this spring - only to discover that a quarter of the cards were glued together.
This very public standoff has given him far more latitude with the fans and hopefully ownership, to get things working for the future...either by blowing things up, or by taking a short term hit in the standings. They've tried to be competitive every year by making moves and chasing free agents, but since Pat Quinn was demoted then fired, and the salary cap era came in, it has become obvious that the biggest change needed was one in player personnel strategy.

So why would I think that there's a potential for deals between these two teams?
Toronto has a healthy roster of puck moving defencemen, including Pavel Kubina, a player who saw his best success playing for Tampa. The reason he Leafs offered him so much was that he was a key player in Tampa's cup run and a versatile as well as offensively talented defenceman.
Tampa needs to find an affordable defenceman in his prime like Kubina, or a guy who is competent now but on the verge of having a break-out with the right situation. Guys like White, as a puck-mover he's above average and had the junior career to show that he could plug into a skilled offense if given the chance.
There's Carlo Coliaccovo who has always looked good, but had an incredible string of bad luck injury wise. (If you are Fletcher, you think about dealing him - but you also think about keeping him and dealing the guy ahead of him - with the knowledge that he could be "boom or bust" this year. Either you get great bang for the money or you have a ready excuse for a high draft choice next year.)

Then there's Tomas Kaberle - offensively, possibly one of the top 5 or 6 puck movers from the blueline in the NHL. Will his skills be wasted on a rebuilding team?
If you don't have Sundin back, will it make sense to have Kaberle stick around with his salary while he waits for the rest of the team to catch up? That's the problem with any sort of play-maker - if you don't have the trigger man to finish the plays, then the "beauty" pass goes to waste.
Bryan McCabe, despite his love of Toronto, surely would relish a season where he can just play hockey and not get into the mind games with the press, but his contract means he gets to choose where he'll go - so it is unlikely that any more than 1 or 2 teams will want to take that sort of baggage and I don't see Tampa being one of them.

The selling of Stamkos to the Florida market has begun in earnest already, so I doubt that a deal such as Kubina, some other player and the #7 pick would interest Tampa.

But there may be room for other deals. Watch for something here.
June 18, 2008 12:46 AM ET | Delete
What do you suggest Tampa could offer the Leafs for Kubina?Can it beat Columbus' 19th overall pick? That seems to be the consensus proposal being tossed around, perhaps made more possible if the Leafs threw in a 2nd/3rd.
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