Well, things have certainly gotten interesting today in Leaf Land with a number of published reports suggesting that Brian McCabe is almost ready to waive his No Trade Clause....some variety in the reports too - one suggests a deal has been sketched out with Florida, another has said that McCabe has green lighted a trade to any one of number of eastern conference teams. So what do I think of the Florida option?
Let's pick through some facts first:
(1) The Leafs and Panthers are very close in terms of the amount of available cap space - Both in the neighborhood of $5 to $7 million worth of flex room.
(2) The Leafs were looking mainly for help up front or for a younger d-man with a better contract.
(3) Everybody wants to tie Jay Boumeester's impending free agency in with a potential trade. Most agree that the maximum return on Boumeester would come around mid season, or before the trade deadline.
(4) The Leafs have hired Joe Niewendyk this summer who is very familiar with the Florida management and prospect scouting. If there are guys in the Florida system who are getting squeezed out or perhaps possible hidden gems, he'd likely be aware of who might come cheap or not fit into plans for the Panthers short term.
(5) If the Leafs do save some salary in McCabe's departure, they may have to spend in in re-signing Sundin. (More rumors today that, it could be Toronto or retirement....of course more talk that Montreal is still optimistic....from the interview I saw last week, it really seems that Sundin honestly has not ruled out retirement and could well take until Labour Day to decide where and if to report.)
(6) In terms of established players, there really isn't an obvious exchange to be made. The Panthers may have a few veterans who they'd consider moving, but none would be an upgrade on current Leaf forwards, Van Ryn has been mentioned as a candidate from the blueline, but it is unclear whether he's entirely healthy or ready to win a top 4 spot on the Leafs' blue line.
(7) Chad Kilger - traded to Florida last winter - has never reported to play in Miami, and no doubt GM Martin, would love to ship Kilger back to Toronto for a pick if Kilger's personal problems continue to stand in the way of him playing.
So who would I expect to be asked for if I'm looking at Florida getting McCabe ?
Let me preface my comments by saying that there is talk that a second player may be going with McCabe to the Panthers....likely one of Antropov, Ponikarovsky, or Thomas Steen.
If there's any truth to that - then you might actually see a big package develop for Bowmeester, but I'd think it more likely that Fletcher would be looking at at moving this second tier established talent for a hot prospect with the potential to be a marquee guy down the road. To me, that would suggest Michael Frolik, or Shawn Matthias could be a target. Another name is Anthony Stewart - a player drafted high in 2003, but still struggling to make the Panthers' roster full-time. He may be looking at this being his last season to make the jump or simply fade back into an AHL career. He has the size and power to be a Fletcher favorite, but just hasn't put together the offensive numbers that have always been expected of him.
There are possibilities, but really on close examination, I'd not really see Florida as a great fit, but hey - who knows? If this story has "legs", I'll do a little research and let you know who I think WOULD be a better fit.