Players Who Brian Burke Should Target Through Trades or Offer Sheets
Brian Burke is a man of principles and as he has stated time and time again, he does not like offer sheets. He's said that he does not like the idea of prying key players away from teams, stating that it is sleazy and underhanded.
I personally feel that offer sheets are a part of the game and one shouldn't just write off an opportunity like that in order to spare the other team's GM's feelings. I do, however, agree that Burke should let the other team know that he is interested in one of their players. Not to spare their feelings per say, but to potentially explore other trade options on the basis that a contract agreement can be negotiated.
This list will consist of teams and current RFAs they have who Brian Burke and Leafs management should at least explore as trading possibilities. I don't want to start speculation and false rumors. These are only players who I believe could help fill some of the holes on the Leafs' roster and should at least be looked at throughout the re-building process this offseason.
The Philadelphia Flyers
This one seems like it would be a long shot, but I think that Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers would be a great pickup for the Leafs if Burke and management could find a way to pry him out of Philadelphia.
I have been a big supporter of Jakub Voracek ever since seeing him play during his junior career for the Halifax Mooseheads. There was just something about him when he played junior that made him very exciting to watch. He seemed to have a switch he could turn on whenever he wanted and just dominate games.
Voracek was drafted seventh overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2007 and scored 18 goals and 49 points this past season and added two goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games. Jakub made $2.25 million last season and after putting up very similar numbers, he followed it up with a great playoff campaign, so I could see him signing a three-year, $3 million deal. Judging from this year's RFA compensation, that would require the Leafs to send the Flyers next year's second-round pick. I can't see the Flyers let a promising young player like Voracek go for a second-round pick, however.
Ideally, to pry Voracek away, Burke would need to offer him a long-term contract with an average salary between $3.5-4 million. Compensation would be next year's first- and third-round picks, but I think Voracek will be worth it. He's big at 6'1", 205 pounds, he and knows how to use his body. He's got great playmaking skills and a nice accurate shot. He would make a perfect second-line option for the Leafs.
If it comes down to a trade, I wouldn't mind seeing the Leafs offer Nikolai Kulemin or Clarke MacArthur and second/third-round draft pick.
Kulemin had an off-year in 2012 but still plays a great game, and MacArthur has been able to prove over the last two years that he is a great second-line option even though he can be inconsistent at times. I just feel that Voracek has the potential to be a top-line player in a few years or even a great second-line threat.
The Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have two players who should be on Brian Burke's radar come free agency: Mason Raymond and Cory Schneider.
When it comes to Mason Raymond, the only way I would like to see the Leafs get him would only be through an offer sheet.
His best season was during 2009-2010 when he scored 25 goals and 53 points, but since then his production has only declined. Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur are better second-line options for the Leafs, and I would rather see them there over Raymond.
However, if the Leafs can sign him for $2.5-3 million and only offer up next year's second-round pick, it would let them explore deals involving other players like Kulemin, MacArthur, Frattin, Colborne or Kadri—not that I'm saying that they should. It's just that the more options available the better.
Cory Schneider, on the other hand, would be a much better player for the Leafs to target. Offensively, the Leafs were fine last year; it was keeping the puck out of their own net that was problem. And what better way to fix that problem than with an upgrade in net?
Schneider has been on the cusp of becoming a No. 1 goalie for a few years now and may have finally taken over the reins in Vancouver after an impressive season where he went 20-8-1 with a 1.96 GAA and a .936 save percentage. After making basically the bare minimum the last two seasons while doing very well, he is in for a big pay raise.
The only way I could see an offer sheet working with Schneider would be if it was for $4-4.5 million a year for at least fours years. That would involve the Leafs giving up next year's first- and third-round draft picks. Vancouver has the cap space to match an offer like that, but it would mean looking to trade longtime No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo's contract (which still has 10 years remaining on it) in order to not hinder themselves in the long term.
It would take a pretty significant trade to convince Vancouver to part with the highly touted youngster but from a Leafs perspective, I wouldn't mind seeing them trade Reimer, Kulemin/MacArthur and a second-round pick for Cory Schneider. Don't know if people would see that as a fair deal, but acquiring Schneider would definitely make the Leafs a much better team come October.
The Boston Bruins
Just like with Cory Schneider, Tuukka Rask is another young goalie headed into restricted free agency who could fill the Leafs' No. 1 goalie spot.
During the 2009-2010 season, Rask had a spectacular season, going 22-12-5 with a 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage. People thought that that was his breakout year and that he was officially ready to take the reins from current No. 1 Tim Thomas until Thomas stepped up even more the last two seasons. Now with Tim Thomas stating that he will probably look to take next season off to explore other ventures, Rask will finally get his shot at being the team's No. 1 guy.
Rask has been developing nicely and may finally be ready to play in 50-60 games in the upcoming season. He is also coming off of a two-year contract that saw him make $1.25 million annually and will likely be looking for a raise but would not be worth spending more than $3 million a year on. However, an offer sheet like that would see Boston get little in return, so they would match that easily.
Instead, it would likely take a trade to pry Rask out of Boston, but only if a young goalie is offered up in return along with a mid-level prospect or a second-round draft pick.
A trade possibility I could see would be Reimer and second-round pick for Rask. I could even see the Leafs offer up another late-round draft pick. However, if Boston wants anything more than that, I say Burke refuses.
Rask has been looking great the last few years, but Reimer is the same age and both youngsters still have room for improvement. Reimer will be a good goalie in the future, maybe not as good as Rask, but he still has a lot of unrealized potential and with the right guidance, he can flourish. It wouldn't be in the Leafs' best interest to overpay for Rask.
The New York Rangers
Michael Del Zotto just finished up his entry-level contract and will be looking for a big raise this offseason. Del Zotto had a great rookie season but followed it up with a less-than-stellar sophomore year. However, this past season Del Zotto showed just who the Rangers were getting when they drafted him, scoring 10 goals and 41 points in the regular season. He followed that up with two goals and 10 points in 20 playoff games while averaging well over 20 minutes a game.
Re-signing Del Zotto will be a priority for the Rangers this offseason, but they have some key player signings coming up in the next two years and can't afford to spend too much money on this signing. If the Leafs can manage to pick up Del Zotto with an offer sheet, it would give them a lot of options when making deals this offseason. It would free them up to trade either Gunnarsson, Schenn, Liles or Franson in a deal that can fill some other holes on the Leafs' roster.
If it came down to an offer sheet, I wouldn't want to see the Leafs offer more than what Luke Schenn is making now. The ideal offer for Del Zotto, in my opinion, would be $3-3.5 million a year over the next four to five seasons. That would require the Leafs to give up next year's first- and third-round picks, but acquiring a young defenseman of Michael Del Zotto's stature would only benefit the Leafs in the long run.
A deal I would be comfortable seeing the Leafs make would be Cody Franson, a mid-level prospect and a second/third-round draft pick. Not too sure if that would be a fair deal, but it would allow New York to bolster their prospect pool while also acquiring a young defenseman who has all the makings of becoming a top-four guy in the NHL one day.
The St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues will probably be one of the Leafs' best trading partner options this offseason. They have a lot of young players who would look great playing on the Leafs the next season. At the top of that list are their three restricted free agents—David Perron, T.J Oshie and Chris Stewart.
Leafs fans have been talking about Chris Stewart for months now and the truth is he would be a great addition to the Leafs' roster.
Even though he only scored 15 goals and 30 points this past season, he has shown that he is capable of doing so much more by scoring 28 goals in each of the last two seasons. He just finished up a two-year contract that carried an annual cap hit of $2.875 million. I can't see him going for much of a raise this year, and he will likely be re-signed for around $3-3.5 million a year. Since the Blues have more than enough cap space available, I can't really see the Leafs prying Stewart away with an offer sheet.
T.J. Oshie is another player on the Blues' roster who will be looking for a raise after making $2.35 million this past season and scoring 19 goals and 54 points. Just like with Stewart, Oshie will probably make between $3-3.5 million a season and, just like with Stewart, the Blues will have no problem re-signing him.
Last but not least, we have David Perron, who, in my opinion, would probably be the best pickup from the Blues. Perron has put up great numbers over the last five seasons even though he missed over a calendar year due to a concussion. This past season was probably Perron's best, putting up a career-high 21 goals along with 42 points in only 57 games. He just finished up a two-year contract that carried an annual cap hit of $2.15 million a year. He is definitely in for a pay raise, and I wouldn't mind seeing Burke offer him a long-term contract of around $4 million a year, which St. Louis, once again, would be able to match no problem.
If the Leafs want to pry any of these players away from the Blues, they will need to explore the trade route.
A deal I could see happen for Stewart would be MacArthur and a draft pick. I wouldn't want to see the Leafs give up too much and, judging by the season Stewart had, his trade value wouldn't be that high this offseason.
When it comes to Oshie, it would probably take a lot more to pry him away. A potential deal I could see happen would be Bozak, Macarthur and a draft pick, preferably a late one. Oshie has been very stellar over the last few years and is poised for a breakout season given the right environment. Who knows? He might even be the No. 1 center that the Leafs have been looking for
David Perron would be the ideal player I would like to see the Leafs acquire from St. Louis. Perron is a great young talent who could provide a very lethal second-line option for the Leafs down the road. A trade I could see happen would be Kulemin/MacArthur, Mike Komisarek and a second/third-round draft pick. Figuring out what Perron is worth is a little difficult, but he is still young, possesses a lot of potential and would be a great pickup for the Leafs. Also, if Komisarek were to be included, the Leafs would probably need to add a mid-level prospect as well.
The Nashville Predators
This offseason, Nashville has a lot of big moves to make in order to prepare for the upcoming season. The only player that the Predators currently have long term is Pekka Rinne. Other than that, every single player on their roster has contracts expiring within the next two years.
There are seven restricted free agents that Nashville will look to shore up this offseason. Out of those seven, there are two who I wouldn't mind seeing in the blue and white next year: Alexander Radulov and Shea Weber.
Alexander Radulov is a talented young Russian winger who, even though he spent the last four seasons in the KHL, would still be a great pickup for the Leafs and provide added offense up front. It's difficult to determine whether Radulov will be able to readjust properly to the North American game. He put up great totals in the KHL, scoring 91 goals and 254 points in 210 games over the last four years. In the little bit that Radulov played when he came back to the NHL, he scored four goals and 13 points in the 17 games.
Even though Radulov is still fresh back into the NHL, he will not come cheap this offseason. I can see he him looking for a multiyear deal worth anywhere between $4-5 million a season. An offer sheet like that would see the Leafs offer up, minimum, next year's first-round and third round-pick, and maximum, next year's first-, second- and third-round picks.
Shea Weber, on the other hand, is a player that every team in the NHL will be asking about this offseason. Considered one of the league's premiere defenseman, Weber won't come cheap at any point. Weber had another great season, scoring 19 goals and 49 points while once again being the team's go-to guy and averaging 25-plus minutes a game.
Last season, Weber signed a one-year contract worth $7.5 million and will likely make the same with any new contract he signs, if not more. Either way, any offer sheet headed Weber's way would likely command close to league maximum. Also, I can't see Nashville letting Weber go unless they were getting at least four first-round picks, and even then it would be a toss-up.
When it comes to both Radulov and Weber, I am not too sure what kind of trade would be logical.
First up we will look at Radulov. I personally think he is a top talent and can be a solid pickup for years to come. A potential deal could be Kulemin/MacArthur, Mckegg/Ashton and a first/second-round pick. Maybe a little more or a little less, but I wouldn't mind seeing something like that get done.
A deal for Shea Weber would be a little more tricky. The Leafs would have to offer something of greater value than four first-round picks. I don't know what kind of deal would be good, but maybe something like Kulemin/MacArthur, Kadri, Gunnarsson, first-round and second-round pick.
Wouldn't mind hearing what people have to say about any of these deals.
The Colorado Avalanche
Just like Nashville, the Colorado Avalanche are another small-market team in need of re-signing a lot of players this offseason while not overspending. Right now, the Avalanche have only eight skaters signed through next season and have nine restricted free agents in need of new contracts. Among those to be re-signed are Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson.
The 21-year-old Matt Duchene was one of those players who was able to make the jump straight to the NHL from the draft. He had two great seasons start off his career, putting up 55 points in his rookie season and followed that up with 67 points in his sophomore season.
However, this past season was less than splendid for Duchene, as he up 14 goals and 28 points in an injury-plagued 58 games.
Even though Duchene had an off-season, he will likely get a big raise, especially if the open market is involved. I can see Duchene getting offered long-term contracts, making anywhere between $4-5 million a year. A deal like that would see the Leafs give up a first-, second- and third-round pick. That would be an acceptable loss for the Leafs judging by the return the team would get. Duchene has the potential to become the top-line center that Toronto has needed for a long time.
Another option would be to get Colorado to commit a large contract to Duchene by matching an offer sheet and thus creating a likely scenario where they may look to unload a large contract, likely Stastny's, who could also be an option to fill the top-line center void in Toronto.
Erik Johnson is another player who would be a good addition on any roster. The Leafs may already have a young and prosperous blue line, but finding a way to add Johnson also has the ability to put them over the top.
Johnson has had some up-and-down seasons over the his career so far, but he has been progressing well and is poised for a breakout season.
He is coming off a contract that saw him make $2.6 million a year. In order to get him to agree to an offer sheet, it would likely have to see him make $3.5-4 million over three or four seasons. That would give him a good amount of time to solidify himself throughout the league. An offer sheet like that would see the Leafs give up a first- and third-round draft pick, an acceptable loss only if they don't give up a high lottery pick next season.
A potential trade I could see happen for Duchene would be Kulemin, Franson and a first-round draft pick. Maybe a little more would have to be offered, but I think something along those lines would be enough to entice Colorado.
They don't really need another top-line center because they would still have Stastny and O'Reilly to fill the void. Also, If Colorado ends up re-signing Duchene and looks to move Stastny's contract, a similar deal to the one proposed would probably do the trick.
Trading for Johnson is a little more difficult to predict. He has been stellar so far throughout his career, but I don't know how much it would require to let Colorado pass on him. I was thinking of something like Gunnarsson, Ashton and a third-round draft pick. This gives Colorado a chance to enhance their overall team depth. Maybe add another mid-level defense prospect like Holzer, Mikus or Gysberg.