It's obvious that in Toronto, it is only a matter of time before the 'rebuilding' process gets underway. Brian Burke was brought in to make changes and its only a matter of time before he finally starts to make them. Whether it is on at the Trade Deadline, on Draft day, or on beginning on July 1st, the changes will come and they will drastic, one way or another.
Now as for what changes will be made, I have my opinions on who will be on the Leafs next season, and for some, they will call be a fool (or something worse) and say that I am just dreaming.
But that's OK with me, because when it comes to the Leafs, dreams are the only things that get me through the day.
So to begin with, I will list off some of the trades that I believe will happen between now and opening day of next season.
First off, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov will both be gone before October 2009, and I don't think this will come as a huge surprise to anyone, given that they are two of the only players on the team that much in the way of trade value.
As for what the Leafs will get in return, I would say it most likely be draft picks, but who really knows what Mr. Burke will be able to pull for these two players. The only thing that I am somewhat sure about, is that they will be gone.
Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina will also be gone come the beginning of next year, and I would have to think that these players will be gone by either the Trade Deadline, or the NHL Entry Draft.
Both players have now stated that they will be willing to waive their No-Trade clauses, so its pretty easy to see that its only a matter of time before Burke ships them out. Hopefully the Leafs can pull some prospects and draft picks for these veteran defencemen.
Mikhail Grabovsky started the season strong, but has pretty much trailed off as of late. But because he is still so young, he will still have somewhat significant trade value come the Trade Deadline
With this being the final year of Grabovsky's contract, Mr. Burke might look to make a deal and bring in someone who can make more of a consistent impact on the team.
Jason Blake's time with the Leafs is nearly over. He will not survive in the Blue and White past the end of this season. And although his production has been better as of late, the Leafs need to get rid of this ageing winger.
For the reasons behind this, check out of article on the three reasons why the Leafs need to trade Blake. It can be found at here.
Now as for new players as a result free agent signings, I personally hope to see a few big name guys come into the mix, and here are a few of the men I think will consider Toronto during the off-season.
Jay Bouwmeester is the young talented defenceman that the Leafs need right now. Nothing against Luke Schenn, but he still too young to be leading the decence core of the richest franchise in the NHL.
Bouwmeester is still young, and his talent on the ice makes him an ideal veteran player to lead the Leafs next year. He will sign with the Leafs this off-season if he is not traded out of Florida at the Trade Deadline.
Rick Nash is the all star forward that Toronto has been craving for quite some time now. His situation is similar to that of Bouwmeester's, in that he is in his second to final year of his contract, and most likely wants out of Columbus.
This young man wants to win. And although the Leafs are not winners yet, they are working in the right direction. Nash will join the Leafs at the Trade Deadline.
As for any permanent call-ups from the Marlies for next season, the only significant move will be bringing up Justin Pogge to back up Vesa Toskala on a full time basis. Curtis Joseph will retire at the end of this season, so making Pogge the number two guy only makes sense.
While I do feel that there is a chance Toskala may get moved at some point if the right offer comes along, Pogge will be the number two goalie for the Leafs next year.
Well there you have it. I have made my predictions for next year, and while I know there will be many people who disagree with this article, it is merely my opinion, so I guess I am allowed to be wrong. If anything, this is merely a wish list for the roster I would like to see next year.