Toronto Maple Leafs: Latest Trade Rumors, Free Agent News, Post-Draft Buzz

John B MathesonCorrespondent IJune 21, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs: Latest Trade Rumors, Free Agent News, Post-Draft Buzz

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    With the draft set to get underway tomorrow, the usually vocal Brian Burke has been fairly quiet leading up to this draft.

    Normally, at this time of year, Maple Leafs GM Burke is telling Leaf Nation that he will do everything in his power to obtain the top pick or free agent.

    This year, he has been holding his cards to his chest.

    There are still a number of rumours floating around that involve trade or free agency to bring Toronto out of the cellar.

    Draft day tends to be one of the busier days in the NHL for trades; with July 1 right around the corner, there will be teams moving the rights to players, as we saw Washington do with Vokoun.

    In the slides that follow, we'll look at the trade rumours and the free-agency buzz, and on Sunday, there will be an update to this article looking at the post-draft buzz surrounding the Maple Leafs.

Luke Schenn Traded for James Van Riemsdyk

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    6/23: The long rumoured trade has finally gone through. Luke Schenn has been traded to the Flyers for Forward James Van Riemsdyk.

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    During the middle of last season, the trade rumours surrounding James Van Riemsdyk began swirling.

    As is common in Toronto, there were rumours that Philly was looking at a trade involving Luke Schenn going to Philly.

    An injury to Van Riemsdyk stopped the rumours dead; however, with the draft approaching, the rumours have once again picked up speed.

    While Toronto’s name has not been heard as often in connection to the talented left winger, he is a player that could perform well in Toronto.

    Picking up van Riemsdyk would involve a possible line shuffle, as Joffrey Lupul has been on Kessel’s left wing this season.

    Lupul can play well on either wing and could be placed on the second line with Grabovski and MacArthur, freeing up Kulemin for a trade.

    Adding JVR may not solve the hole at center on the first line, but having Van Riemsdyk and Kessel on the first line with the aforementioned second line would help the Leafs deepen their offensive capability.

    Van Riemsdyk is another coveted forward this offseason; teams including Columbus are looking at him as well.

    A recent article on NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk website stated that Van Riemsdyk would be “[M]ore than willing” in regards to a Columbus trade.

    This lessens Toronto’s chances of landing another big-name forward, as the Blue Jackets have quite possible one of the most attractive players on the market, Rick Nash.

Trade Rumours: Roberto Luongo

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    It’s been a hot topic all over Leaf Nation whether or not the Leafs should go after Vancouver's current starting goalie, Roberto Luongo.

    The fact is that Toronto is in desperate need of a starting goalie until either James Reimer or Ben Scrivens are ready for the task.

    The main thing that could be holding this deal up is that Burke does not like long-term deals, and Luongo has one. The contract in question is a 10-year deal with a cap hit of $5.3 million.

    In defense of Luongo, his save percentage has not gone below .913 in the last 12 years, according to the Vancouver Sun. That is an attractive quality in a goalie.

    It was reported on Twitter that Darren Dreger said on TSN1050 that a Luongo deal would only happen if money was going the other way.

    With the other teams who had been hunting for goalies quickly snapping up the available targets, a trade with Vancouver is looking more and more like a possibility.

Trade Rumour: Rick Nash

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    Ever since it was announced near the trade deadline that Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash was looking for a trade, Toronto has been rumoured as a potential candidate.

    Aaron Portzline, a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, reported on Twitter that any deal involving Nash will require three to five assets.

    If Toronto were to pursue Nash, the cost of obtaining him would be high.

    Even the lower amount of assets would have to include at least one player already at the NHL level and two prospects ready to move up to the NHL level.

    The skills that Nash brings to the table are attractive, and he would make an immediate impact if Toronto could acquire him.

    There are a number of teams expressing interest in Nash, including the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.

    It makes Toronto's negotiating a little tougher. If it is not willing to pay the price for Nash, some other interested team will.

Trade Rumour: Jordan Staal

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    Jordan Staal is already a star in his own right, though he has been stuck playing in the shadows of Pittsburgh superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

    Toronto has been looking for a talented first-line center to play with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel; Jordan Staal could be that center.

    At 23 years old, Staal could be a long-term player for Toronto, who not only has playoff experience, but was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

    Like the others mentioned in this article, Staal would cost the Leafs quite a bit to acquire; however, unlike with Nash or Luongo, Staal still has many years left to play.

    Because Staal is a star player with many years ahead of him, he has become an attractive target for a number of teams looking to add to their roster.

    This could cause his price to rise for the Leafs should they attempt to trade for him. 

Free Agency: Zach Parise

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    The New Jersey captain is possibly the most sought-after free agent this year. There are a large number of teams hoping to acquire his skill.

    Parise does seem happy in New Jersey, but speculation about the financial situation has sparked the rumours that he will play elsewhere next season.

    Parise is a left winger, and like JVR, would require a shuffling of the lines if Toronto can manage to make him an offer he accepts.

    That offer would be upwards of $6 million and would be for a minimum of five years. That seems to be the longest that Brian Burke is willing to sign a player for.

    Parise had 69 points in 82 regular season games this season and 15 points in 24 postseason games. He helped New Jersey make the Stanley Cup Finals this year, giving him postseason experience.

    In the offseason, Toronto will have approximately $11 million to spend on free agents and re-signings at the current cap space. It is being predicted that the cap could rise as high as $70 million.

    As it stands, the Leafs could afford a large contract for Parise, and if the cap does in fact raise, it would become even easier for them.

    It would mean seeing some of the current free agents not being re-signed and possibly a contract or two being dumped in order to bring in a goaltender.

    While Parise may not be the center the Leafs need on the first line, his skill alongside Kessel would allow the Leafs to use Tyler Bozak as they did this season on the first line.

Free Agency: Ryan Smyth

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    There is no secrecy behind Smyth’s desire to finish his career in Edmonton. The 36-year-old winger would add a veteran presence to the Leafs.

    Again paired with Kessel, Smyth could help create a solid two-line offense system.

    A short-term, two-year deal is not out of the question for Smyth, who could then try to return to Edmonton to finish his career.

    His performance this year shows that while he is nearing the end of his career, he would still make a great addition to any team.

    Smyth had 46 points in 82 games this season, with 27 points being assists. The Leafs are looking for a player or two to join Kessel on the first line to become an offensive threat.

    Smyth could fit that role nicely.

    His current contract had a cap hit of $6.25 million, with a lighter back end of $4.5 paid this season. If Toronto can convince him with an offer, it could be in the range of the $4.5 he is currently making.

Free Agency: Olli Jokinen

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    The veteran center could be the piece that is missing on the first line with Lupul and Kessel. He has spent the last two seasons with Calgary playing alongside star Jarome Iginla.

    At 33, Jokinen still managed 61 points in 82 games with the Flames this year, with 38 points being assists. Burke wants a talented center to anchor the first line and help with its offense.

    Jokinen is that type of center. His team play shows with the amount of assists he notched this season.

    The Leafs could sign Jokinen to a short-term, two or three-year deal and progress from there. Doing so would allow the Leafs to give some of their prospects time to develop with the veteran.

    It would also allow the Leafs to attempt to re-sign Jokinen until the end of his career if he is still performing well.

    His current contract is for $3 million, and he will likely sign for a similar amount. To obtain a talented veteran center for under $5 million would be a definite asset to Toronto.

Free Agency: Cristobal Huet

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    Huet is currently on loan from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Swiss National A League. The 36-year-old has been there for the past two seasons.

    He was sent over after a season where he had a .895 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against in 48 games.

    In his two years in the Swiss league, Huet has preformed very well, even at 36 years old. For the 2011-12 season, Huet posted a .932 save percentage with a 1.99 goals against in 39 games.

    With Toronto confident in Reimer's and Scrivens' ability, bringing in the veteran netminder to either play tandem with Reimer, or play as the starter, could benefit the younger netminders.

    Huet is showing in the Swiss league that he still has a couple of good seasons left to play and brings playoff experience with him. Huet was the backup goalie on the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.

    His deal with Chicago that expires July 1 is for $5.6 million. The fact that he has been in the Swiss league for the last two seasons means that the Leafs could offer him much less however.

    Huet could reasonably be signed for between $3-4 million, which is more affordable than some of the other options, such as trading for Luongo.

    A short two-year deal would be best to offer the aged goaltender, as his best years are behind him. He would more likely do better in a tandem situation with Reimer, mentoring the young Leafs goalie of the future.

Trade Rumour: No. 1 Draft Pick

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    Burke recently was upset at CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. During the playoffs, they commented on a trade rumour that would send Luke Schenn to Edmonton in return for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

    The clarification that this rumour was false was nice, but if Toronto could trade for Edmonton’s first pick in exchange for a player, it could help the Leafs long-term.

    They currently possess the fifth-overall pick, moving up the four spots allows them to take the best available player, who some believe could be playing in the NHL as soon as next season.

    Yakupov may not be exactly what the Leafs need, but obtaining him in the draft would be great for Toronto.

    A trade that involves one of Toronto’s many defensemen and their fifth pick in exchange for the first pick overall would be a benefit for both teams. 

    Edmonton would be addressing its need for defense and still have a pick in the first round. Toronto, on the other hand, could bolster its offense with Yakupov and free up a place on the blue line.

Post-Draft Buzz

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    The draft is now in the history books, and Toronto’s picks have been made. While their first pick may have been somewhat surprising, the shock of the weekend was via trades.

    With the depth of defensemen in the draft this year Toronto’s top pick, blueliner Morgan Rielly makes sense. Even though some felt they may chase a talented forward.

    The Leafs also managed to make a good decision with the Jonas Gustavsson situation. As an upcoming free agent who had a mediocre season, no one expected him to return.

    Rather than let him go for nothing the Leafs traded the rights to Gustavsson to Winnipeg for a conditional seventh round pick in 2013.

    It may not be a high round pick for Gustavsson, who was 17-17 this season. Knowing he wouldn’t be returning the Leafs at least tried to acquire something for the goalie.

    The big news for Toronto this weekend was the blockbuster deal that sent Luke Schenn to join his brother in Philly for James Van Riemsdyk.

    Van Riemsdyk is a young power forward that Toronto has been looking for all of last season. He managed 24 points in 43 games this past season before going out to injury.

    With the loss of Schenn the remainder of the picks became clear, as the Maple Leafs drafted three young defenders.

    All in all, it looks like a decent draft year for the Leafs, they addressed one major concern. There are still a few pieces that will be needed before Toronto can truly be considered a contender.