While not a Leaf fan, I always enjoy the talk about every single player in organized hockey wanting to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It always happens around Trade Deadline Tuesday and July 1. Of course, it hasn't been helping that the Leafs are on the bubble every year recently to get in, and likely need the boost. Anyway, the Leafs need to do some major trades this deadline to prove to the fans that they listen and still care. They already promised this with the hiring of Cliff Fletcher, and now they have to come through on it. All players should be available and accountable, though half the team has a NTC. However, there are deals that can be made.
1. Mats Sundin.
This is the elephant in the living room or other living space you may have. Even though Mats has publicly denied all rumours and has a NTC. However, the media doesn't drop the case. Obviously, there is something behind the scenes. Best fits for Mats would be Vancouver, Calgary and Detroit. Vancouver seems to make the best fit on paper. Mats would skate on the top line with Markus Naslund and likely Taylor Pyatt, and leave the twins on the second line with Brendan Morrison (when he comes back), or another winger. This would give the Canucks the top six forward they desperately need to give them a two-pronged attack in the playoffs. The rumours say the Leafs would get Ryan Kesler, Luc Bourdon, Cory Schneider and a first rounder. This is a very high price tag that I don't see Dave Nonis agreeing on. He can't be that desparate to get an aging, though still surprisingly effective, soon-to-be 37 year old first line center for a close-to-top six forward who's 23, one of your top defensive prospects, your best goalie prospect and a first rounder. Likely story. Vancouver is fourth in the division, just got the snot kicked out of them by Colorado last night, and is only on the bubble to make the playoffs. Vancouver isn't in the best position to sell the farm on one guy. Bobby Lou is struggling, and the defence is hurt badly. Kesler fit in the deal? Sure. The prospects? No. Try Mason Raymond, Kesler, and a (couple?) draft pick(s). Calgary is an interesting team for Mats to go to. They already have Craig Conroy, Daymond Langkow, Stephane Yelle and Matthew Lombardi at center. One of them would have to go for Mats to fit. My money is on Daymond Langkow, or Craig Conroy. Langkow would be a pretty good fit with the top liners left in Toronto, and is a very underrated player. Conroy is a player Darryl Sutter didn't like, but re-acquired to please Jarome Iginla and the fans. So, the deal would probably go like this: Langkow, a top forward prospect, and a top D prospect or high draft pick. The top forward prospect could be a player like Dustin Boyd, Branden Prust, or Eric Nystrom. The defensive prospect would most likely be Mark Giordano, or a first or second round draft pick; the Flames don't have much as far as defensive prospects. The Red Wings really don't need Sundin, but they really didn't need Bertuzzi last year, nor did they need Robert Lang in 2004. They are prone to making these deals at the deadline, and most of the time they do tend to work. The Leafs wouldn't part with Sundin to Detroit unless players like Jiri Hudler, Valteri Filppula, Jonathan Ericsson, Derek Meech, Brett Lebda and Johan Franzen were available. Pick any three, and the deal may work.
2. Tomas Kaberle.
Although also strapped to a NTC, you have to believe the Leafs want to deal one of their most marketable defencemen. The Sharks and Thrashers would be top bidders, as they have been in all the talks for a defenceman all year. For Kaberle to go, the Leafs would have to get a good young roster player and probably a prospect in return. To know the way to San Jose, the Leafs would ask the availability of Patrick Marleau. Marleau can be a pseudo-first line center at times, although he's struggled this year. He would be able to take a first line center job in Toronto, at least for the rest of the year. I don't think the Sharks would give up Marleau, their captain and second line center, lightly. I think the Leafs would give up Kaberle and a third/fourth rounder or prospect for Marleau. The Thrashers would be an interesting scenario, but I would be hard-pressed to find a deal that would be the right fit for the Leafs.
3. Darcy Tucker.
Tucker would be an interesting trade all around. Personally, I can't see any top team not jumping at the chance to get Tucker for some secondary scoring from their third line. Don't lie; Tucker is not a top six guy. Detroit would be a good fit, as would San Jose, Pittsburgh, or Colorado. Even Montreal (gasp!) or Ottawa (GASP!) should be in the running. You have to expect the asking price for Tucker would be a young forward who can step in and play at least 15 minutes a night, with an optional draft pick. Try Filppula from Detroit, Ryane Clowe from San Jose, Eric Christensen from Pittsburgh, Tyler Arnason from Colorado, and Chris Kelly from Ottawa as possibilities for discussion. Montreal really doesn't have anyone they could fit into the Leafs deal that would equal, so a bundle of prospects would be more likely.
4. Andrew Raycroft.
The only way he's going out of town is if a team needs a backup with starter's experience as insurance. Teams like the Rangers, and Predators could be a-knocking on the door. Most likely, Red Light Raycroft would be a part of package deal that would land the Leafs a better player.
5. Nik Antropov.
Antropov has had a coming out party this year in Toronto (finally) and seems motivated for the first time since coming over from Russia. As they say, buy low and sell high. Any team looking for secondary scoring that can put up with the lack of discipline (which has been better this year, to give him credit) should give trader Cliff a call and talk about this guy. As much as I dislike Nik, he should fetch at least a decent to high end third line guy +.
6. Alexei Ponikarovsky.
See Antropov, minus the lack of discipline.
7. Jason Blake.
Blake has had a down year this year. In a buyer's market, he may fetch a good player or two, but the Leafs should hang on to him.
8. Bryan McCabe.
Regardless of his NTC, his price would be pretty high. However, if he's willing to part ways, the Leafs could greatly improve their roster. McCabe can fetch the same thing Kaberle can catch, and maybe even more. The deal would have to be really good (i.e. a Gilmour-type deal) for the Leafs to jump. Search your feelings, Cliff.
The Leafs should hang on the Stajan and Steen, unless the deal is greatly in favour for the Leafs. They should not be trade bait. Toskala should not be a part of any deal unless the Leafs get a #1 or another #1A goalie. Toskala seems to be turning it around now at the right time; trying to fill the shoes of Cujo and Eddie Belfour is no small task.
The Leafs should be a very interesting team at the deadline. Hopefully, they make deals that can shift the balance of conferences. It can only make it more interesting. Stay tuned.