Toronto Maple Leafs: Could They Be the Answer to the New York Rangers' Problems?

Francesco PiacenteContributor IIIJuly 4, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs explains a play to linemates Clarke MacArthur #16 and Nikolai Kulemin #41 during a play stoppage in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 1, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Penguins 1-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Thus far in free agency, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers have done little to address needs in their top six.

While both teams have added valuable grinders to the mix, with Toronto signing Jay McClement and New York inking both Aaron Asham and Taylor Pyatt, none of these players are anything more than third-liners. They do not address either team's needs for help in the top six.

The Rangers have a distinct need for another offensive winger on their team. They were arguably the best and most well-rounded team in the league last season, but they dried up offensively when the playoffs came around.

There is no lack of talent in their forward ranks—they are led by Brad Richards, Marion Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan in that regard.

However, they seem to need an infusion of new talent to get their team going. Chris Kreider may be the answer eventually, but expectations should be tempered for the rookie, assuming he even makes the NHL team out of training camp. This leaves the Rangers with the likes of Artem Anisimov and Carl Hagelin to fill their top six.

On the other hand, while relatively bare of top-line centre depth, Toronto has what seems to be a glut of wingers on their team. With the recent trade for James Van Riemsdyk and the re-signing of RFA Matt Frattin, they have as many as seven forwards who have the ability to play the wing in the top six.

This list includes:

  • Joffrey Lupul
  • Phil Kessel
  • James Van Riemsdyk
  • Matt Frattin
  • Nazem Kadri
  • Nikolai Kulemin
  • Clarke MacArthur

From this list, the player I feel would be most available is MacArthur. MacArthur has scored 20 goals in both of the past two seasons, adding 64 assists over that period.

Despite not being the biggest player, MacArthur is not afraid to go hard to the corners and dig for the puck. He put up 62 points two years ago playing with Grabovski (playmaker) and Kulemin (sniper). Imagine what he could do with an upgrade over those two in Richards and Gaborik.

Kulemin is also a trade option, but one would assume that his value has been severely lowered by his underachieving season. He regressed tremendously last year, but the effort was there, and I would be sad to see him go.

A swap of Kulemin and Rangers centre/winger Brandon Dubinsky could be considered. Both had very poor years after breakout 2010-2011 seasons and could benefit from a change of scenery.

A sleeper on the trade market, however, is Joffrey Lupul. I feel he would be as perfect a fit as possible for the Rangers' top line, as he complements Richards and Gaborik perfectly. Lupul would be a huge upgrade over any candidates on their roster, and after putting up over a point per game with Tyler Bozak as his centre (no offense to the kid, but he's no Brad Richards), he could approach 90 points and make the Rangers the most complete team in the league.

With approximately $18.75 million coming off the books next year in forward contracts, according to CapGeek, the Leafs will undoubtedly have the money to give Lupul a raise.

However, if GM Brian Burke does not think he can re-sign Lupul when he becomes a UFA at season's end or chooses to go after other players like UFAs Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Scott Hartnell or Jerome Iginla, among others, he may choose to move him now while his value is highest.

If he views Van Riemsdyk and Kessel as his top wingers of the future, it may make sense to trade Lupul for assets and play the aforementioned wingers together right away. Still, this is just speculation on my part.

As for the packages required for the Leafs to trade these players, I can only speculate. In my eyes, trades would start with this as basic framework:

  • To NYR-F Clarke MacArthur and fourth-round pick
  • To TOR-F J.T. Miller


  • To NYR-F Nikolai Kulemin
  • To TOR-F Brandon Dubinsky


  • To NYR-F Joffrey Lupul
  • To TOR-F J.T. Miller, F Artem Anisimov and 2012 third-round pick

Once again, these are just what I believe to be the starting points for packages.

Burke owes it to the Leafs to inquire about the packages that might be available for his players. With extra assets from a deal with the Rangers, or any other team for that matter, Burke would free up pieces for a trade with another team.

Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan may be available for the right price, and he would undoubtedly be a huge asset for this up-and-coming Leafs team.

Feel free to comment or leave your own trade proposals.


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