I'm positive I don't have to explain that the Leafs are going in to the March 4 trade deadline as sellers. As an avid reader and poster here on hockeybuzz, I have seen my fair share of lopsided proposals resulting in high draft picks and stellar prospects for our 2nd and 3rd strings of roster players.
With that in mind, I decided to analyze each team's prospect pool that is currently either making a strong push for a playoff spot or that is in serious contention for the Stanley Cup finals. These teams will be looking to exchange a piece of their future for capable roster players who can help their team now.
It is not the purpose of this article to suggest that these players are on the trading block, that these players are currently the part of any deal, or that Brian Burke has any interest in acquiring these players at all. It is however, my intention to unveil these players as potential targets and open the avenue for more realistic trade discussion. That being said, I will not be including players such as Stamkos or Doughty, as players of their caliber are not players that NHL GMs look to trade on a regular basis.
Here's a look at some teams that could make good trading partners with the Leafs and the prospective trade bait they possess:
Matt Lashoff, D
Big-bodied defenseman who projects to be a reliable penalty-killer with defense as his priority. Plays similar to Schenn with less edge and less poise. Lashoff has some offensive upside as well which makes him an attractive target for a rebuilding club. Projects to be a solid top-four defenseman.
Brad Marchand, C
While Marchand is considered to be rather small, the definition of 'too small' by NHL standards is currently being redefined by the play of diminutive forwards such as Zach Parise and Daniel Briere. With speed and soft hands, Marchand plays a solid two-way game and could become a top-six forward.
Tyler Myers, D
The first round pick of the Sabres in 2008, this hulking defenseman is already 6'6, 211. A pure defensive defenseman, Myers has the skating ability that few would expect a man of his stature to possess. Myers is one of the top prospects of the Buffalo Sabres, and would require an enticing offer to pry out of their system. Myers should develop into a stalwart presence on the blueline capable of matching up against the leagues top talent.
Jhonas Enroth, G
It is becoming apparent that the Leafs require more than just Justin Pogge in their system to be assured a quality starter in the years to come. With Ryan Miller locked up to a new contract, it is entirely possible that Enroth could be moved to fill the void the Sabres have on defense depth. Enroth is not large, in comparison to other goaltending prospects, but plays a purely technical game. Enroth's positioning and quick reflexes make him ooze the potential to be a 1A or 1B goaltender in the NHL.
Cody Goloubef, D
Projects to be a legit NHL defender who plays a defensively sound game but possesses the speed and smarts to quarterback a powerplay unit. Another all-around defenseman that will lay the body as often as he makes a smart pass. Had an impressive World Junior showing. Top-four potential, but more likely a 5th or 6th on a quality defensive team.
Jakub Voracek, RW
This is the highest quality prospect/player I expect Toronto to make a play for at the deadline. The only reason I have included such a talented player is, not only because of my personal desire to see him in a Leafs uniform, but because the rumours have been out there that he could be available for the right price. An article several weeks ago had rumoured him coming to Toronto (along with Marc Methot and a 5th) for Pavel Kubina, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and a 3rd in 2010.
Voracek is a dynamic offensive player. There is little doubt that he will be a first-line right wing capable of putting up 70+ points on a team with a solid surrounding cast. With Filatov, Nash, and Mason it looks as though the Blue Jackets have an overabundance of young star players and a lack of playoff appearances. This is a team that needs to make a push, and Voracek would net them several quality players (from any team) that would help them make that push.
Shawn Matthias, C
Another team that needs to make the playoffs now, Florida is on the verge of achieving just that. While this current Florida team is a vast improvement over last year, it is still a few players shy of being anything but a first round flop. With the shadow of possibly losing Jay Bouwmeester to free agency looming over the GM in Florida, a decision must be made. Trade him and start the rebuild several steps ahead? Or move forward with the hopes of making the playoffs and resigning your all-star defenseman? Should it be the latter choice, Matthias could be worth a roster player or two from the Leafs. Matthias is strong and talented with a lot of upside. While Matthias hasn't shown a penchant for wanting to stay with the big club, he is still a strong two-way player who could be a very adept second-line center.
A tall, lanky defender with above average hockey sense. While he can sometimes go out of his way to make a hit, his over-aggressiveness often results in scoring opportunities for the opposition via an odd-man rush, or a powerplay. Even so, he is a capable defender and is capable of putting up respectable numbers if given time on a powerplay unit. Potential to be a shutdown defenseman.
Patrice Cormier, C
Highly skilled, strong hockey player with the proto-typical power-forward build. Capable both offensively and defensively. Injuries in his draft year had him fall to the 2nd round, but is considered to have extreme upside. Should become a solid 2nd-3rd liner.
Matt Halischuk, RW
Another smart, two-way winger. The only knock on him is his size. While small in stature, Halischuk plays to his advantage. His speed and skill earned him a 4th round selection by New Jersey in a draft where he wasn't even ranked. Great penalty killer. Potential to be a solid 2nd or 3rd line forward.
James vanRiemsdyk, RW
A former 2nd overall pick who hasn't impressed the Philadelphia GM enough to earn himself a roster spot as of yet. Reports say that he has fallen out of favour of the current GM, and could be moved to help the team find a puck-moving defenseman. Kaberle fits that mold, and if the reports that Kaberle had blocked a trade that would have sent Jeff Carter and a 1st round pick to Toronto holds any merit, one can't help but imagine vanRiemsdyk could be had for a similar offer. James vanRiemsdyk is a complete player who is already a physical force and hard to knock off of a puck. Projected to be a first-line winger.
Ryan Parent, D
Another personal favourite of mine, and a player I wanted Ferguson to trade for when he was still in Nashville. While Parent is having a hard time on a crowded blue-line in Philadephia, one could imagine how easy it would be for a physical defenseman like Parent to slide into the Leafs lineup as an established top-four. Parent brings the same edge to his game that Wilson and Burke admire. He has leadership qualities and the ability to shutdown some of the top-lines that are thrown against him. Potential to be a number 5 or 6 defenseman and shot-blocking/penalty kill specialist.
Cory Schneider, G
With Roberto Luongo in goal and still young, goaltending prospects aren't high on the priority list. Schneider could be had for the right price. Schneider is an aggressive goaltender with a penchant for challenging shooters and positioning his big body square to the shooter. Positionally sound and possessing quick reflexes, Schneider could become a solid 1A or 1B goaltender.
Michael Grabner, RW
With the emergence of Cody Hogson as the leading man to help the Canucks next season offensively, the once highly-touted Michael Grabner may now be available. A solid two-way winger with untapped and unlimited offensive potential. Grabner could, with the right linemates, pot 30+ goals if he establishes a hard work ethic and refines his offensive game.
Anton Gustafsson, C
Described as a Swedish hockey player playing a Canadian style of hockey. Gustafsson plays the body and is solid in both ends. A strong face-off skill is always an asset, and Gustafsson does not disappoint. Possesses leadership qualities and savvy hockey sense. Potential to be a top-six forward.
John Carlson, D
Carlson is a strong defenseman who specializes in penalty killing. Not afraid to get in the shooting lanes and known to throw his body around. Is known for developing a mean streak, but capable of reeling himself back and maintaining control of his emotions. Plays a smart, sound defensive game. Has great offensive upside. Potential top-four defenseman.
There you have it! Several players from each team that I feel would be a valuable trading partner. Once again, I would like to say that in no way, shape, or form do I believe that these players are being offered around to everyone in the league. More than likely, none of these players will be involved in a trade to the Maple Leafs. I merely took the opportunity provided to point out several strong prospects currently in the possession of viable trading partners.
Let me know what you think about these players, and feel free to include several prospects you may think are worth consideration from Brian Burke.