Everybody knows that this upcoming offseason is going to be one of the most important in recent memory for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After failing miserably to make the playoffs and finishing once again at the bottom of the league, the team needs to make some big changes. With his job on the line, president and GM Brian Burke cannot afford to be quiet at this year's draft.
The Leafs have a lot of players currently on the roster that need to go.
Players like Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, Colby Armstrong and Mike Komisarek have to go, and while they probably can't fetch some good pieces themselves, I think the Leafs would be more than able to trade each of them separately for draft picks. These players should be able to fetch some second and third-round picks, especially players like Connolly and Lombardi, who could be appealing to certain teams given that both have only one year left on their contracts.
Teams that can benefit from acquiring one or the other would be Calgary, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota and New York Islanders. I believe these franchises would benefit from having a stopgap second- or third-line center for the upcoming season. I believe Connolly could get as high as a second-round pick on his own or a first-selection if packaged with a pick and/or a prospect.
Meanwhile, Lombardi on his own would probably fetch no better than a third-round pick.
Finding suitors for Komisarek and Armstrong would be a little harder to do. But if anyone can do it, it would be Brian Burke.
If Toronto does get another first round pick what should they do?
Armstrong will be hard to move, regardless, but there are teams out there who might benefit from adding an experienced defender like Komisarek. Who knows, maybe a change of scenery will help Komisarek's game like it has numerous ex-Leafs over the years.
There are plenty of teams that the Leafs can approach, but Toronto may need to offer a small premium with Komisarek to get other teams to take on the last two years of his large contract.
If Burke and company manage to trade some of these players for more draft picks, they can afford to offer more in order to get what they want.
Toronto's best option for getting another first-round pick would be to move up from the 35th overall pick. However, like I mentioned earlier, the team could also explore trading one of its current players, along with a mid-to-late-round pick or a mid-level prospect.
Now, what would be the best position to target for another first-round pick?
In an ideal world it would be another high-first rounder but that is very unlikely. I can see the Leafs possibly acquiring a pick in the 10th-20th overall range. Teams with picks the Leafs can help are Tampa Bay at 10th and 19th overall (could use more talented wingers and help in net), Washington at 11th and 16th (could use help on defense and possibly a stopgap center), Dallas at 13th (need help down the middle) and Calgary at 14th (need a stopgap second- or third-line center and some help on defense). The Leafs could also target Buffalo with the 12th overall pick, but the only way the Leafs could do that would be with prospects.
What Toronto does with a second-first rounder is the real question.
What is Toronto's primary need when it comes to exploring trades?
In my mind the Leafs will have three options: They can hold onto both picks and draft some of the highly talented players in the first round, package their later first-round pick for a top-six forward or number-one goalie or trade the fifth overall pick in a deal for the same thing.
It would be very difficult for the Leafs to not have any first-round picks once again and Brian Burke still keep his job. Ideally I would much rather see Toronto hold onto the fifth overall pick.
The Leafs need to add at least one blue chip prospect through the draft especially since they are in a good position to draft one of Galchenyuk, Grigorenko, Forsberg or Murray—all of whom have the potential to be franchise players. Also drafting one of these guys opens up the possibility to trade guys like Colborne, Frattin, Kadri, Franson, Schenn or Gunnarsson and not suffer for it in the future.
However I feel that Toronto should explore trading no more than two of these young guns. They are still great players who have a lot to offer the Leafs next season.
Now let's look at what the Leafs would have to offer in potential deals.
They could use their second first-round pick (packaged with either Kadri, Frattin or Colborne) and one of Franson/Schenn/Gunnarsson for starters. I'm going to assume Toronto finds a way to trade at least two or three of their bad contracts (Connolly, Lombardi and Komisarek would be the most likely).
Since the Leafs have a lot of young players vying for full-time NHL duty, they can also afford to trade either Kulemin or MacArthur. Reimer or Scrivens may be available if Toronto manages to get a surefire number one goalie. According to hockeysfuture.com the Leafs have good depth in all position so if need be they can afford to dip into their prospect and draft pick pool as well.
So to recap, Toronto will have a first-round pick. They also could afford to trade a prospect or two and even some of their other draft picks. The Leafs have a lot of pieces they can use to put an attractive package together, whether it be for a top forward or a top goalie.
I won't list possible players that Toronto can target because more and more names are being rumored everyday.
Preferably I would like to see the Leafs focus first on acquiring a goalie then a top forward. There are some good top-six free agent options that Toronto can go after in case the team is unable to find an ideal trading partner.
I hope Brian Burke has something special planned for this offseason to turn the team around, but we will just have to wait and see what happens.
Enjoy and I look forward to reading your comments!