Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke entered the 2012 offseason with a few clear objectives which he was open in sharing with Leafs Nation: upgrade the goalie situation, add size and grit to fit head coach Randy Carlyle's style, leadership to support captain Dion Phaneuf and a first-line centre.
Burke was under no illusions that his focus for addressing these needs was via the trade market.
Here we are after the draft and the most of the unrestricted free-agent (UFA) buzz has settled down. The time for Burke to act is now.
It should also be pointed out that the Leafs' brass did make a very nice trade during the draft weekend. They shipped hard-hitting defenseman Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for offensively gifted winger James van Riemsdyk (JVR). The GM also dabbled in the UFA market, bringing in hardworking defensive centre Jay McClement. Both solid moves.
From this point their have been numerous names and rumours involving random players, centres and goaltenders alike, along with the usual suspects.
The purpose of this article is to give each alternative a boom, bust or echo designation in regards to the needs Burke outlined before the offseason and add my two cents on whether they are real options. A player maybe a BOOM but the cost to get them could be more than fans may like.
My BOOM, BUST and ECHO is not intended to be connected to the Economics book called by the same name.
- BOOM means they would be a great fit and accomplish an objective for the Leafs.
- BUST means the Leafs failed to fill the objective, hurting the team further.
- ECHO means nothing really happened, keeping the same issues going forward.
Which goalie should Burke add?
Rick Nash won't be a topic directly, however, his move may free other targets.
I will start with goalie options. Roberto Luongo, Jaroslav Halak and Jonathan Bernier are the most common names, with the goalie list seeming to shrink daily.
Luongo's is a name that continues to swirl. There is no doubt he is a very good tender that would benefit the Leafs greatly in their quest to success. That being said, he makes no sense for Burke.
Luongo has a contract that is a perfect example of what the Leafs' GM despises.
The market for a goalie of Roberto's talent has many layers. He has 10 years left on his contract as a 33-year-old. The salary cap value for this circumventing contract is only $5.33 million which is good value. Another unspoken plus is in all likelihood he will retire in approximately seven years, around 40 years old, taking that monetary cost off the Leafs' books.
What it would cost to get Luongo is widely debatable. The Toronto side of the coin is taking on Luongo's contract is value enough. I'm sure the reality is between the two. My guess Clarke MacArthur, Ben Scrivens and a third-round pick might do it.
Nearly every team would welcome him but only a select few need and can afford him. Whether Luongo is willing to accept a move to Toronto may be a factor. However, over Brian Burke's professional career he rarely, if ever, flip flops on topics he's spoken about. For that reason, Luongo is likely heading to the state of Florida. If he were to become a Leaf I would call his addition a BOOM!
Which Number 1 Centre should Burke add?
Jaroslav Halak is a clear starter in today's NHL.
Halak has had proven success in both Montreal, where he had a very nice playoff run, and then in St. Louis, where he and his partner in the Blues' crease, Brian Elliott, won the William M. Jennings award for lowest goals-against average (GAA) in the league. In 46 games, Halak collected 26 wins and seven were shutouts and a 1.97 GAA.
The unexpected rise of Elliott makes the availability of Halak possible. He is 27 and under contract for two more years at $3.75 million, which makes him a good find at the right time.
So what would it cost to get him in a Leaf jersey? How about Cody Franson, Nazem Kadri, Greg McKegg, Ben Scrivens and a third-round pick.
For my money, Halak is Burke's true target and if the Leafs' GM can land him, I would call it a very impressive BOOM!
Jonathan Bernier is a blue-chip talent, and with LA signing their starter Jonathan Quick long-term, Bernier is expendable.
Burke doesn't seem interested in unproven tenders, and to this point Bernier is no more experienced than James Reimer.
Bernier is young and will be a restricted free agent (RFA) after this coming season, but for now is great value with a salary of $1.25 million.
The price to get Bernier will be less than that for Halak, but doesn't necessarily fill the need Burke stated. I would estimate a deal for Bernier would require Kadri, Scrivens and a late-round pick and would call this an ECHO.
From here I'll redirect to the first-line centre targets. The price for any of the real top-end centres will be an NHL trade, so expect Tyler Bozak, Franson and Kadri all to be included and likely more plus picks.
Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and the lesser-advertised options Matt Cullen, Dave Bolland and Sam Gagner could all be available.
Getzlaf is a UFA after the coming season and Ryan has three years left both make over $5 million per year. These twp are studs. If Burke can get either without drastically overpaying (Not sure what would be overpaying but I'm guessing Gardiner, though even that seems workable for the right package) they are clearly both BOOMS!
I don't see Ryan being a likely target as his value, age and contract seem like he will be out of Burke's budget, but Getzlaf is a UFA next and could be on the GM's radar, and I believe he is the prime target at this point.
Paul Stastny is a talented 26-year-old centre with the Colorado Avalanche making $6.6 million for two more years. His fit in Colorado has been questioned for a while, and I'm sure his cap hit is the main reason.
Media in Buffalo, Mike Schopp from WGR550 (who I am also a fan of) talks about Stastny being an ideal fit for the Sabres, and I have to agree. But with that being said, he may be a better fit in Toronto. (Sorry Schopp). The cost should be reasonable and I believe he would be a BOOM!
Patrick Marleau would likely be a possibility if Nash goes to San Jose. If the Sharks need to clear out cash it would seem likely to be heading to Columbus, but it would all depend on where the cards fall. Marleau has a big cap hit at $6.9 for two years and is 32 years old. I believe landing Marleau is a BOOM. He wouldn't be my first choice, but could be on the move.
Joe Pavelski is a borderline No. 1 centre, but the contract is a decent value at $4 million for two more years. To me, Pavelski is an ECHO, but if he clicks with the Leafs' top six, he could be a steal. His price would be on the lower end of the candidates, and as a big-boded 27-year-old, Burke may be kicking tires.
Dave Bolland is in a similar category to Pavelski, although has not been placed in a scoring role in Chicago. He's been in a similar role as Jodan Staal has in Pittsburgh, and has been very successful shutting down the opponents he faces.
Bringing Bolland into a top-six role in Toronto would be an odd fit and a BUST. Bolland's contract is good for two more years at $3.38 million, but he has battled the injury bug.
Matt Cullen is a debatable top-six forward that the Minnesota Wild may try to unload to reduce their payroll, but at the age of 35 and making $3.5 million is not the guy for the Leafs. The cost would be very small but he doesn't answer any of the objectives. Adding him would be a BUST, and Cullen is likely to be sent to a team looking to reach the cap floor.
Sam Gagner is a young, highly offensive forward. He is 22 years old and a RFA this summer. The Oilers still need help on their blue line, and Gagner is the most likely player to be moved in order to get a solid NHL D-man. For me, the idea of trading for Gagner is unnecessary as Bozak is comparable. This move for me would be a BUST.
Burke has been open in discussing his objectives, and most of Leafs Nation feel these priorities are long overdue. The Toronto GM has nicely replenished the cupboards and it's time to use some of those supplies to balance out the NHL roster.
Halak and Getzlaf are the players I hope Burke lands this summer for the Leafs, as they hit all the objectives set out. An improvement in goal, grit, size, leadership, a first-line centre and a more balanced roster.
Halak for Franson, Kadri, McKegg, Scrivens and a third-round pick.
Getzlaf for Bozak, MacArthur, Percy and a first-round pick.
These moves would have the Leafs' lineup looking something like this come September.
Lupul / Getzlaf / Kessel
JVR/ Grabovski / Frattin
Kulemin / McClement / D'Amigo
Komarov / Steckel / Brown
Phaneuf / Gunnerson
Gardner / Liles
Komisarek / Holzer