Brace yourself—the NHL's Trade Deadline is Monday, Feb. 27, 2012.
With trade talk heating up around the league in response to the closing window of opportunity for GMs to improve their respective teams, imaginations are running wild with speculation.
If his track record for January and early February is any indication, Brian Burke will undoubtedly be looking to make a splash with the Toronto Maple Leafs well ahead of the deadline.
Burke told ESPN on Jan. 6, "We are listening to a lot right now, and there is a good chance something will happen, but I don’t think it’s going to happen today or tomorrow. We’re talking to a lot of teams about a number of things—mostly we’re listening because we like our group—but I can’t sense if something is imminent or not."
Fans are now salivating in anticipation of the magic Burke might display in his next big move as Maple Leafs GM.
Based on the Leafs' current position in the Eastern Conference (7) and the comments by Burke expressing his satisfaction in his players, it may not be in the cards this year for him to make the kind of blockbuster trade that Toronto has come to expect from their GM.
In all likelihood, there may only be a few types of players Burke is on the hunt for.
The most obvious target would be a legitimate No. 1 center as the Leafs have been without one since Mats Sundin's departure at the end of the 2007-08 NHL season.
The next priority would probably come in the form of a responsible two-way forward to add some grittiness to a lineup that has—in large part—been devoid of the so called "truculence" Burke vowed his team would possess.
To pay homage to all of the "what if" scenarios Leaf fans have pondered over the last few weeks—and for the sake of creating a forum for discussion of trade scenarios—here are 10 players the Maple Leafs should relentlessly pursue ASAP.
For those of you keeping track of rumors and speculation surrounding Eric Staal coming to Toronto Maple Leafs, this might be opening old wounds—or maybe even rubbing some salt.
XM Radio's Bill Watters generated some waves in the hockey world when he speculated that a trade was in the works that would see Staal shipped off to Toronto, but Carolina's front office was quick to dismiss that their captain was going anywhere.
The Carolina Hurricanes may be in no rush to move this big, talented centerman, but no one can deny their need for change or a serious wake-up call.
As the total package of size, skill and leadership, Stall may very well represent an elusive piece to Burke's vision of the Maple Leafs as perennial cup contenders.
Do the Leafs have enough collateral to offer Canes' GM, Jim Rutherford?
T.J. Oshie is currently in the midst of a one-year contract with the St. Louis Blues, worth $2.35 million.
Oshie is a fantastic combination of skill and aggression to offset his relatively average 5' 11" frame. He also has the on-ice vision to be an effective playmaker, the hands and instinct to put the puck in the net and the pugnacity to throw big-time open-ice body checks.
Bringing Oshie to Toronto would give the Leafs a very capable and versatile player at a reasonable price tag.
It also would allow Brian Burke to improve the team without leaving the cupboards bare after the dust settles on Feb. 27, 2012.
Zack Parise is now nearly halfway through the one-year $6 million contract extension given to him by the New Jersey Devils' GM, Lou Lamoriello.
Sure, he's an unrestricted free agent next season and Brian Burke could potentially lure him to Toronto in the offseason without having to give up a single roster player, prospect or draft pick.
However, if the Devils aren't confident they can resign him in the offseason they may opt to recover something for him while they still have the opportunity to do so.
With Toronto having more quality players and prospects currently in the system than they have had in recent memory, bringing Parise to Toronto might be more feasible now than ever before.
Ideally Burke would prefer adding more size to his top line, but make no mistake about it—if Parise is in play at the deadline, the Maple Leafs will definitely be in the fold.
This of course begs the question—What trade scenario would work for both teams enough to finally bring Parise to Toronto?
Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild is a player Brian Burke would love to see wearing blue and white.
He can provide the extra sandpaper the Leafs are lacking in at times and still has the speed and hockey sense to be an impact player all over the ice.
In light of Colby Armstrong's injury-plagued season, he would admirably fill that void left in Armstrong's absence.
Apart from having the tools to be a perennial 20-goal scorer, Clutterbuck is better-known for being one of the best hitters in the league—leading all players with 336 during the 2010-11 season.
He may not be the No. 1 center that fans desperately want Burke to manifest, but Clutterbuck might just be that character role player the Leafs didn't know they've always needed.
But how do they get him out of Minnesota?
Paul Stastny might not be Brian Burke's ideal choice to bring in as the No. 1 centerman for his Toronto Maple Leafs team, but should the Colorado Avalanche want to make a deal, Burke won't put the brakes on landing a talent like this.
The Avalanche may ultimately feel the need to take his $6.6 million cap hit off the books in order to make room for the likes of Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly—the future of the organization at the center position.
This presents the perfect opportunity for the Maple Leafs to make a move for an elite playmaker that is in need of a change of scenery.
Because the Leafs are no longer a team well below the cap ceiling, to make a deal like this work they would have to find a way to send salary back the other way to Colorado.
Are there any wannabe GMs willing to take a stab at this one?
Recently there has been some very interesting speculation surrounding a potential trade developing between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Based on the fact that general managers Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren have a fairly extensive history together—and that Luce spent similar time in Toronto prior to the deal that sent Kris Versteeg out of town for draft picks—it's entirely possible this report is based on more than just a hunch.
The report further speculates that Luke Schenn or Cody Franson might be the Toronto players on Holmgren's radar.
There's no way Burke is going to let either of those players go without pulling in a significant return, especially from a conference rival.
Enter James van Riemsdyk.
With the probability that very few Flyers would actually be made available prior to the Feb. 27th trade deadline, he might be one of the only names of comparable value to make a deal like this palpable.
For Burke to let go of Schenn in good conscience, van Riemsdyk might have to be his target by default.
At 6' 3" 200 pounds and with huge potential, he represents exactly the kind of player Toronto's front office is trying to add—and he is still just 22 years of age.
Regardless of which Leaf players are being targeted by Philadelphia, what would it take to lure this big, skilled forward to the Blue and White?
Jeff Carter is many things but he isn't working out with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Maybe it's too early to give up on Carter finding his game but it's clear he hasn't made a smooth transition out of Philadelphia to his new team.
Getting Carter out of Columbus would definitely cost the Maple Leafs key players and prospects, but designing blockbuster deals like this is exactly what Brian Burke does in his sleep.
Carter is a goal-scoring machine and exactly the kind of big centerman Burke longs to bring to Toronto. His elite talent definitely makes him a commodity. The problem is this isn't a secret to any of the 29 other GMs in the NHL.
Columbus may have good reasons not to pull the plug on Carter quite yet, but it doesn't help that they are starting to look rather comfortable in the basement of the NHL overall standings.
If Burke exercises some killer instincts and puts pressure on the Blue Jackets' front office to consider dealing their struggling centerman, there might not be a more opportune time than right now.
But is this just too far out of the realm of possibilities to consider?
Rick Nash is one of the premier power forwards in the game today.
The Columbus Blue Jackets—on the other hand—are not one of the premier teams in the NHL...
General manager Scott Howson might be on the chopping block before Columbus' All-Star captain, but to avoid enduring what could be a lengthy rebuild, Nash may opt to waive his no-trade clause to move to a team a little closer to being a legitimate contender.
Although Nash would probably benefit from a fresh start somewhere else, if he doesn't voice a desire to move on to greener pastures he probably won't be going anywhere.
More likely than not, a deal that would see Nash come to Toronto would not be a knee jerk reaction from the Blue Jackets for the simple reason that you don't let your star players leave without thinking long and hard about the repercussions.
A commodity such as Nash certainly is hard to come by and would garner a significant return.
He would satisfy Brian Burke's desires to increase the size of his top six forwards and would elevate the Maple Leafs to another level entirely.
But is the timing right to steal Nash away from the lowly Blue Jackets?
Bobby Ryan is a piece Brian Burke should be looking at prying out of Anaheim in the wake of their disastrous 2011-12 season.
A change of coaches was the first step to spin the Anaheim Ducks back in the direction of success.
Now that this adjustment hasn't exactly resulted in the immediate turnaround Bob Murray was hoping for, a player personnel change may be the only option.
Some consider Ryan to be the more attainable star player, should the Ducks opt to rebuild on the fly.
For the right price, Anaheim's tragic season might have invoked the perfect storm to see the legendary "Bobby Ryan to the Maple Leafs" deal finally come to fruition.
Do the Toronto Maple Leafs have the right auxiliary talent to appropriately compensate Murray, while still avoiding a catastrophic loss to their roster?
Let the bidding war begin for Ryan Getzlaf.
Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray has made it clear in an interview with the L.A. Times that the only untouchables on the team are Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
It remains to be seen whether the Maple Leafs have the type of assets the Ducks are looking for in return for their No. 1 center—or rather, whether those assets would be made available to get the deal done.
Getzlaf might just be the biggest "what if" trade target as he has attracted an incredible amount of attention and speculation since being added to the rumor mill.
Is he exactly what Brian Burke dreams about putting in between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul?
Is it likely to actually happen?
The concept of the Leafs being able to acquire Getzlaf may seem a little far-fetched, but the fact remains he doesn't have a no-trade clause that would prevent such a move from happening.
If Burke can sweeten the pot enough to make this happen—without mortgaging the future of the organization—it would admittedly be an incredible day in Leafland.