... and all through the league,
there were plenty of rumors,
for us to enjoy ...
When out of the shadows a blogger appeared,
With laptop in hand and opinions to share!
Well, with that out of the way ... I figured it would be interesting to evaluate the current Leafs on their contributions and performances so far and gauge whether they should be available in Burke's to-be yard sale as well as speculate what they could potentially fetch on the market from now until the trade deadline.
The format will be as follows
Player's Name - Grade based on performance - Number 1-5 (1 - should definitely not be available up to 5 - should definitely be available)
*Being available obviously contingent on receiving an appropriate return
Nik Antropov - B - 5
Until his recent lengthy goalless drought, Antropov was scoring at a pace that exceeds his career highs. Even still, he is on pace for nearly 30 goals. His +/- rating of -12 will be of some concern, but as a general rule, Antropov plays relatively soundly in his own end, so one wouldn't think that this will be an overwhelming deterrent to those interested in his services. That being said, Antropov is one player who is reportedly available, and could realistically garner the Leafs a return in the range of a mid-level prospect and and first round draft pick or a high-end prospect and mid to late-level draft pick.
Jason Blake - B+ - 5
Blake is simply one of the best offensive players in the NHL in the last month and a half. As of tonight, he has 7 goals in his last 7 games, and has been a big part of keeping the young squad energetic and focused on a nightly basis. He is one of the few players on a Leafs team, which as a general rule has performed at a dismal rate in their own end, who has a plus-rating measuring +2 in that category. His contract has been a stumbling block, however, as of late he is playing at the level his contract would dictate he should be. Sources say that Blake is available, as he should be, and a reasonable asking price could start around a 2nd and 3rd round pick or a top 6 forward prospect.
Matt Stajan - B - 3
Stajan has played at a pace that one would consider a break-out season by his standards, and this is without the assistance of former captain Mats Sundin. He is a dismal -9, but his pace for around 20 goals and 40 assists helps to alleviate the distress that this may pose to a potential buyer. With another year on a very affordable contract for a 60 point scorer, a team in need of a second line scoring center may be dialing Brian Burke's number shortly. There hasn't been much said about Stajan's availability, but it remains unsaid that any reasonable offer wont go unexamined by Burke. If a first round pick is offered, it seems relatively safe to say Burke would have some thinking to do. Expectations for a return would likely start around a 2nd rounder and a mid-level prospect.
Alexei Ponikarovsky - B- - 5
Ponikarovsky is another leaf on pace for a break-out season without Sundin there for assistance. He is another of the few players with a +/- rating above 0. He is on pace for nearly 30 goals, and that should definitely be something that attracts some offers from other General Managers around the league. His contract has another year remaining, and if he continues putting up the numbers he is this season, his price tag is extremely affordable. The asking price will likely start at one high draft pick, or 2 mid level draft picks. A medium to high prospect is not out of the question either.
Dominic Moore - A- - 5
Moore's price tag could not be more reasonable for his production this season. He is on pace for just under 60 points, is an even 0 in his +/-, and plays a very up-tempo energetic game that a team in need of depth down the middle would crave. His 43 PIMs indicates that he can get himself into penalty troubles, which is a deterrent to his value because he is in the box too often to flex his penalty killing muscles, but in general, he would be a valuable commodity to many playoff teams down the stretch. Asking prices would likely start around a mid and a late level draft pick, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that Moore could fetch a 2nd rounder and a depth prospect.
Tomas Kaberle - B+ - 5
Kaberle is unarguably the most valuable asset the Leafs have to offer. One might worry that his recent hand injury might decrease his trade value, but realistically, it shouldn't weaken his value on a large scale. He was on pace for over 50 points. His -12 rating is of course a understandable concern, however, up until recent years, history has proven that Kaberle is more than competent in his own end. With four straight seasons of 45+ assists on the line, he is viewed as one of the true legitimate puck-moving defensemen available at the deadline. With missed opportunities in the past that would have landed us great assets in the back of Kaberle's and Leafs management's minds, the asking price is likely to be quite high. I do think however, that this price will be met. Of course, a trade is contingent on Kaberle waiving his NTC, but with his conversations with the media this season, it seems Kaberle may be accepting the fact that moving on may be what is right for his career. Put him on a team with a legitimate top line such as Vancouver, Chicago, Washington or Pittsburgh, and there is no way to accurately predict how well he could perform. That being said you would have to find the right partner. It doesn't seem unreasonable that the Leafs would ask for a combination of 2 or 3 of the following; a first round draft pick, 2 second round draft picks, a high-end prospect, 2 mid level prospects, and a legitimate goaltending prospect.
Mikhail Grabovski - B - 2
Grabovski has shown that he is a legitimate rookie scoring threat on the Leafs roster. He has played with a gritty edge on most nights. He is on pace for roughly 20 goals and 40 points. He leads all players on the current active Leafs roster in PIMs and is second in shooting percentage netting just under 20% of his shots. One really can't help but hope that Burke hangs on to this young gunner unless he commands a good return. In the same group as Stajan, one would likely have to offer at least a first round draft pick, but that isn't likely to happen based on the availability of other forwards at the upcoming draft.
Niklas Hagman - C+ - 3
Hagman is on pace to destroy his career high for assists, and is on a pace to be close to matching his career high of 41 points. He has cooled off tremendously in the last two months especially since the Christmas break having only 5 points since to date, however, his start to the season indicates that he has plenty of offensive upside. Reality would have to make most people think Hagman will not be moved as his contract is high and the Leafs just signed him in the off-season, but if he is to be traded, the deal would by no means be a block-buster. A 2nd round pick or mid-level prospect would probably get this deal done as I'm sure Burke wouldn't mind getting out of the heavy contract this European posses.
Lee Stempniak - D- - 2
When brought to the Leafs Stempniak was a point-a-game player this year. The Leafs were hoping that he could reclaim his past and up his offensive game and add a threat to their power play with a right handed shot. Up to this point, Stempniak has not performed near the point he was expected to. However, he is generally viewed as a player who has a bunch of upside in the offensive zone and he doesn't play an overly poor defensive game. One thing is for certain, the Leafs brass saw something in him when they gave up two former first round picks to acquire him so it isn't likely that he'll be heading to a new home anytime soon. I imagine that if there was interest in him, the Leafs asking price would likely make that interest vanish pretty quickly. The asking price would likely be 2 mid level draft picks or a high level draft pick.
Pavel Kubina - C+ - 5
Along with Kaberle, Kubina possesses a NTC in his contract and has hinted towards his willingness to listen to a potential deal. He has a cannon of a shot at has netted 8 goals, the most of any defensman on the team. His 2 game winners, for second on the team, also proves he can come through in the clutch. He is on pace for close to his career average of about 35 points per season. He is a -13, and a career -100 which is obvious to have a negative effect on his value. That being said, he is a great point man on the power play and any team that needs help in this area would surely pay a reasonable price for him. A 2nd round draft pick and a top 6 forward or a top 4 defensive prospect are not too much to expect.
Nikolai Kulemin - C- - 1
Touted as a prospect ready to produce at the NHL level by many in the Leaf's organization, Kulemin has yet to show any sign of consistent production. He has spent time in the AHL this season, however, is approximately on pace for a modest 12 goal season. Even with his lack of offensive numbers, Kulemin has provided a boost with his fast-paced game on many nights, and has shown that he can play the physical game. There seems to be little reason to move him, and little market for him to that note. If there were a deal to happen, it would be out of the blue to a team that needed some forward depth or a gritty third line scorer. If this were to happen, a defensive prospect, likely in the 3rd pairing depth, would be the likely return.
Ian White - A- - 4
White, a healthy scratch for the teams first 11 games, has remained in the lineup since, and deservedly so. Even with 11 games missed, he is still second on the team in goals from defensemen. He is also a +2 on this team full of minus ratings. He plays with an edge in his end on most nights and shows above average competence in the defensive end. He spent some time on the forward side of the lineup, but with a rash of injuries to defensemen he has spent the majority of time on the blue line. With another season under 900 000 on his contract, his stock has seen a steady rise all season since getting back into the lineup. Many would call this unreasonable, however, I would not be overly surprised if he brings a first round pick or two second round picks from a team with injury troubles on the back end or to a team that needs a reliable 3rd pairing guy who could play forward in a pinch. Most likely, a mid to high level prospect accompanied by a mid level draft pick would be the return.
John Mitchell - C- - 2
Mitchell has been nothing, if not consistent in his efforts this season. With the exception of two multi-point games, he has seen the score sheet on a very seldom basis. He is however widely viewed as a player with offensive upside, and someone who can hold their own in his own end. Any reasonable person would have to expect that he wouldn't be going anywhere, especially with the history of the Leafs trading away unmatured prospects in the last decade and a half. If there were to be a trade, it would likely be one with Mitchell being packaged with another player on the roster to enhance the return, possibly Blake. Alone, he would fetch minimal assets, perhaps a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
Mike Van Ryn - B+ - 1
With almost a point every other game, for a defenseman, Van Ryn would likely garner some interest around the league, however, this is very hampered by his injury history. He has only played 20 out of 50 games this season, but has 9 points in those 20 games. He is a +2, proving he is one of the few who have played well defensively on this blue line corps. Giving up McCabe and a mid level draft pick to get him, one can't help but make an argument for keeping him unless the return is quite good. Reasonably, the Leafs would likely want to receive a top 4 defensive prospect and a 3rd or 4th round draft pick.
Jeff Finger - C+ - 4
Finger is one player who's plus/minus rating is undeserved in my opinion. He has on most nights played a sound defensive game while chipping in just under a point every 3 games. He could easily round add depth to most contending teams defense, however, his contract is viewed as fairly large, in comparison to his production level thus far. He has also had some injury problems this year, and likely would be viewed as a 3rd pairing guy or in a pinch a 2nd pairing man. If there was a team looking at him, they would likely need to offer up a top 4 defensive prospect or a 2nd rounder or at very least a mid round draft pick and a depth defensive prospect.
Luke Schenn - A - 1
There is almost no fathomable way that the Maple Leafs would part with arguably their best defenseman and possibly the best rookie defenseman in the League. He is undeniably at this point the captain of this team in the near future. He has only 5 points and is a minus 5, however, he has on countless occasions shown the willingness to step up and defend his goaltender and teammates in the game. He has shown an ever increasing confidence, and since the All-Star break seems determined to hit the twine this season. He averages over 4 hits a game, is second among all rookie skaters in that category and first among rookie defensemen. Most trades would be viewed as a step back, unless it was something to bring in a top-level player. A trade for Schenn would have to include a pick in the top 5 in this years draft as well as a legitimate defensive prospect.
Jamal Mayers - D - 5
With his performance to date, there has to be little value seen to acquiring Mayers. With only 6 points in 39 games there is little offensive upside, and has on occasion looked lost in his own end. He has kept many others on the team focused, which can be difficult in the rebuilding process, demonstrating the leadership abilities that the Leafs gushed about when they acquired him before the season started. He has played the role of the physical leader that was hoped for, but hasn't shown any of the already modest offensive talents that he has in past years. If there were a team in the league looking for a physical veteran leader, they needn't look further than Mayers, and the asking price would not be overwhelmingly high. Any combination of mid level picks, or anything over a 3rd rounder would get the job done.
Anton Stralman - B- - 2
Having shown flashes of offensive upside, and a potential step-in replacement for Kaberle for the duration of the year, Stralman has shown that he may live up to some of the hype he generated among the Leafs brass and followers. The thought that he may be the next Lidstrom that was once discussed appears to have been miles off base, however, he still looks to have the makings of a legitimate puck-moving threat from the back end. There doesn't appear to be a trade that would make sense involving Stralman, unless of course it was to be packaged with another Leaf to enhance the return. Alone, Stralman could likely fetch a 2nd and 3rd rounder from a team in the playoff race in need of a puck moving defenseman to help their stagnant powerplay.
Vesa Toskala - D- - 4
Many have questioned whether Toskala can be a starting goaltender in the NHL with the season he is having, and understandably so. However, accompanying his multitude of weak goals is a defensive corps that is weak itself. With occasional spans showing that he may be regaining his form, Toskala does have a market for himself around the league, based on his large potential for upside and the understanding that he has played on a relatively weak defensive team. Any trade would likely not garner much for the Leafs at this point, based on his weak play, however if he were to step it up and play starting-goaltender quality play as he did much of last year between now and the deadline, Brian Burke would likely be asking a 2nd round pick and a goaltending prospect for Toskala, and a team like the Detroit Red Wings may just be willing to part with these assets to bolster their shaky net-minding situation.
Curtis Joseph - F - 5
Joseph has not shown, at any point, the goaltending he did in the playoffs last season for the Flames. He has, presumably, no value on the trade market, however, if he were to play 2 or 3 games extremely well between now and the deadline, a team that was extremely desperate for a depth goaltender to fill a temporary void towards the playoffs could conceivably come knocking. A 5th or 6th round pick would be more than enough for Joseph.
Few other players have played enough games this season to either generate interested, or warrant discussion, based on the completely obvious lack of interest in said players.
These are opinions, and in no way do expect all of, or any of these for that matter, to come to fruition.
However, one can't help but dream, what kind of future this team would have if Burke pulled off 4 or 5 of these deals at the deadline!
Let me know your thoughts.