By: Peter Harling
Leafs GM Brian Burke recently was a guest on the fan590 Prime Time Sports, and On ESPN, and was very candid in response to questions if he was close to making a significant deal. "We are listening to a lot right now, and there is a good chance something will happen…" Burke said. “Am I done making deals…the answer is no. If I can improve this team tomorrow, I’m gonna make a deal tomorrow that improves it”.
Traditionally now is the time of year hat Burke likes to make his trades. January 31 was a day Leaf fans will long remember as the day Captain Dion Phaneuf was acquired. February ninth was the day Francois Beauchemin was sent to Anaheim in exchange for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner.
"I do try to get my lineup set well in advance of the deadline," Burke told ESPN.com Friday. "I’ve never been a deadline guy. So January is when I try to make a splash."
Another indication that something may be coming is Burke has begun to clear some cap space by demoting players such as Colton Orr, Philippe Dupuis, Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin. While Orr and Dupuis perhaps were not contributing enough, Frattin and Gardiner were improving and playing important roles. Both Frattin and Gardiner however were able to go to the Marlies with out being exposed to waivers.
When asked what the teams needs are Burkes response was “I think we are a little small up front”, and “We don’t have much playoff experience”. It has widely been reported that Burke is after a big number one centre to play between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. “I am looking to add, and to get better now.” Burke also said he would consider making what he called a “age group asset trade – trading a 22 year old for another 22 year old that plays a different position”, saying “If I can get a kid I think will really be special I will always do that”
One position Burke seems content with is goaltending. When asked if he would be interested in adding a veteran goalie his answer was “No”, adding "We’re not talking to any teams right now about getting a goalie." James Reimer started the season as the Leafs undisputed starting goalie, but after sustaining a concussion Jonas Gustavsson has assumed that role. “I know you saved our ass this season so far” Burke told Gustavsson. “I know it; your team mates know it. You have been the difference between a great start crumbling to dust and hanging onto a playoff spot.” Burke also added “It’s a wonderful position to be in if you have two guys that can play.” In fact, with Ben Scrivens having played well in his NHL audition (2.96 GAA and .904 save percentage) and the recent recall of prospect Mark Owuya to the Marlies it is more likely the Leafs add a goalie to a package.
Burke was also rather candid when discussing what assets are available. He was asked if he would consider parting with another first round pick and his answer was “Absolutely”.
He also believes they have the assets to make a significant deal, citing players by name such as Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Joe Colborne, and Jerry D’Amigo specially. “I think we have depth, I think we have young assets…I think we have the depth to make a deal.”
Elliott Friedman said in his 30 thoughts column on CBC “Get the sense Nazem Kadri is being scouted hard. Could be Brian Burke's trade chip.”
With the trade deadline set for February 27th. There is plenty of trade rumor and speculation. Teams such as Carolina, Columbus, and Anaheim will all clearly be sellers.
Anaheim’s GM Bob Murray recently told reporters he is prepared to trade any player off his struggling roster except Teemu Selanne or Saku Koivu as those players have no trade clauses. That comment has sparked many rumors surrounding other star forwards on the Ducks roster such as Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. Bill Waters said on a XM radio broadcast the Leafs had a deal in place to acquire centre Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes. The deal was said to be announced after the holiday trade freeze. It is yet to happen of course, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted a quote from Carolina GM Jim Rutherford saying “I have no interest whatsoever in trading Eric Staal or Cam Ward. That's not going to happen” It was approximately this time two years ago Flame’s GM Darryl Sutter said the exact same thing regarding Dion Phaneuf!
Given Burkes comments about looking to add size up front, and playoff experience, the two players who fit that description to perfection are Eric Staal, and Ryan Getzlaf. Burke is already familiar with Getzlaf from there days together in Anaheim, and would love nothing more than to reunite together in Toronto. Getzlaf is 6’4”, weighs 220 Lbs has a Stanley Cup ring, and is a center. Eric Staal is 6’4”, weighs 205 Lbs also has a Stanley Cup ring, plays center and is from Ontario. Both players are only 26 years old and either player would be an ideal solution in Toronto making the Kessel-Lupul line scary good. No question Burke would be willing to part with serious assets to acquire either of these two super stars, and no doubt the price would be steep. Two top young players such as Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, and Joe Colborne would be the main component of a package. The first round pick would also likely be included as well as roster players. The roster players going back would be required to make the trade cap compliant. Such players could be potential UFA’s John-Michael Liles or Mikael Grabovski. Matt Lombardi or Mike Komisarek would also clear significant cap room.
If neither of those players truly is available (or if Burke is outbid) focus will then shift to either Bobby Ryan or Corey Perry from Anaheim. Columbus Blue jackets Jeff Carter would also fit the bill and should come at a cheaper price. Carter is a center, has size and would happily waive his no-trade clause to leave Columbus for his home town Toronto. It is questionable how well Carter would address the playoff experience need. While the Flyers reached the Cup Final falling short to the Hawks, Carter and Richards were scrutinized for their playoff performances and were possibly dealt out of Philadelphia for that reason.
Burke also has a history of uniting brothers in the NHL, with the Sedin’s in Vancouver and the Hayes brothers in Chicago. Burke may look to make an age group asset trade, either in addition to, or in lieu of a blockbuster to unite the Schenn brothers. Philadelphia acquired Brayden Schenn from Los Angeles in the summer for Mike Richards. Schenn has not been able to crack Philadelphia’s talented group of top six forwards, and with Chris Pronger shut down for the season Flyers GM Paul Holmgren may be looking add some depth on defense. Toronto has ample defense depth and could offer players such as Cody Franson, or Jake Gardiner with a draft pick in return. Perhaps the deal works better with a Schenn going the other way; Burke sends Luke to join his Brother Brayden seeking James Van Riemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, or Jakub Voracek as returning pieces. Luke Schenn is 22 and Van Riemsdyk is 22 and that fits Burke’s description of trading two 22 year olds of different positions in and age group asset trade.
While it remains unclear who will be the next member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, It seems as though Brian Burke is about to make a move or two of serious significance. Who is at the top of your wish list, and what do you think is fair compensation?
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