NHL Trade Rumors: Ranking the Players the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Pursue

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIJanuary 18, 2012

NHL Trade Rumors: Ranking the Players the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Pursue

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    Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been hearing an endless stream of rumors regarding their favorite team and potential blockbuster trades.

    Whether they are rumors surrounding goalies like Jaroslav Halak and Cam Ward (which have surfaced after the Leafs most recent struggles in net, which have contributed to a three game losing streak), or All-Star caliber power forwards like Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf or Bobby Ryan, Leafs fans have heard them all.

    The key for the Toronto Maple Leafs will be to acquire the right player or players that can help them not only make the playoffs, but win when they get there as well. As a result, this article does not simply list players the Leafs should pursue, but the order in which they should pursue them to best address the team's needs.

5. Zach Parise

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    With the current financial situation in New Jersey, the likelihood of Devils' star forward Zach Parise being dealt has increased.

    Parise has also indicated he will be expecting a pay raise in the offseason, something the Devils may not be able to afford, meaning they are probably going want to move Parise to bring something back to New Jersey instead of just letting him walk away on July 1st.

    Parise would be a great fit in Toronto.

    He would be another All-Star offensive threat for Toronto and has been putting up points consistently this season after his poor start.

    The reason he falls below Bobby Ryan on this list is because Bobby Ryan's salary is much more friendly to the salary cap, something the Leafs always need.

4. Bobby Ryan

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    Maple Leafs fans are no strangers to the "Bobby Ryan to Toronto" rumors. They have been going on for weeks now.

    Many consider him to be the best target for the Leafs.

    I would beg to differ.

    While Ryan is a superb talent and has put up 30 goals every season for the last three seasons (and is on pace to score 30 again this year), he tends to be inconsistent in his play and has only managed to put up more assists than goals once in his career.

    He has also failed to eclipse the 70-point plateau in two of his three seasons (and probably won't make it to 70 points this year either).

    Let's not forget that he's also had the advantage of playing with some of the best players in the league in Anaheim in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf his entire career.

    For all the hype, Ryan may not be worth the price he would demand. He's also not the No. 1 center the Maple Leafs are looking for.

    He does have his positives: His age (he will still only be 25 at season's end) and his contract (he is locked up for three more seasons at a cap hit of just $5.1 million).

3. Eric Staal

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    Though Carolina Hurricanes' general manager Jim Rutherford has indicated that he will not move stalwarts Eric Staal and Cam Ward, it has not stopped rumors from flying around regarding the Hurricanes' young center and goalie.

    While many would love to see Eric Staal in the blue and white, his cap hit may be too much for the Maple Leafs to handle. Coming in at $8.25 milloin, Eric Staal has one of the highest salary cap hits in the NHL.

    If the Leafs can find a way to pry him loose from Carolina, there is no doubt about the fact that Eric Staal would be the perfect fit for the No. 1 center the Leafs have been looking to acquire for a few years now.

    After a sluggish start to the 2011-2012 campaign, Staal has been a point per game player under new head coach Kirk Muller and has returned to being one of the top players in the NHL.

2. Jaroslav Halak

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    While these rumors are fairly fresh, it would make sense that Halak-to-Toronto talks may be under way.

    With the Maple Leafs lack of consistent play from their goalies, there are sure to be some talks about picking up a bona fide No. 1 starter.

    Jonas Gustavsson has shown that after his stretch of stellar play, he's still a career backup netminder that continues to allow a soft goal or two every game. James Reimer hasn't been much better since his return from a head injury suffered early in the season.

    As a general manager who has not only seen his teams go to the postseason, but win a Stanley Cup, Brian Burke knows that without consistent goaltending, a team would be lucky to win even one playoff series, let alone four.

    Whether he chooses to pursue a goalie before the Feb. 27th trade deadline, or wait until the offseason remains to be seen. The Leafs, however, do need an upgrade in the blue paint, and Jaroslav Halak could be a great fit.

1. Ryan Getzlaf

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    Young. Tough. Winner.

    Those three words describe Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke's ideal player.

    Ryan Getzlaf is all of the above.

    He also happens to be a center, which makes Toronto the perfect place for him to land.

    Getzlaf's cap hit is also one of, if not the most, manageable contracts of any star center in the NHL. He will not become a free agent until the end of next season, at which time the Leafs will have over $15 million coming off the books to work with in order to re-sign Getzlaf to a long term deal in Toronto.

    Even though he has indicated he'd like to stay in Anaheim, there is no doubt that Brian Burke will flood Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray's voice mail with offers for the talented center man.

    He is Toronto's ideal trade target and could instantly bolster Toronto's offense.