Maple Leaf Trade Options: Should Toronto Move One of Its Centres?

Curtis NgContributor IIIJuly 16, 2012

EDMONTON, CANADA - FEBRUARY 15: David Steckel #20 of theToronto Maple Leafs  of the Edmonton Oilers on February 15, 2012 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have too many centremen, and that's not including James van Riemsdyk, who may or may not pan out at that position.

Jay McClement was signed to be a faceoff-winning, defensively responsible, penalty-killing third-line centreman.

An interesting scenario would be to have McClement centre the fourth line as well as the first penalty killing unit and simply trade David Steckel.

Steckel is an excellent faceoff man and isn't bad on the PK, but he adds very little offense and doesn't skate very well.

If JvR pans out as a centreman, Tyler Bozak will get bumped off the top line. With McClement on the fourth line, Bozak would slot in perfectly as the Leafs' third-line pivot.

Bozak is pretty good on the dot and can be relied upon for secondary scoring.

McClement had 17 points during the 2011-12 season to Steckel's 13, but the former brings a little more in terms of skill and speed.

Alternatively, the Leafs could keep Steckel and trade Bozak instead.

The 26-year-old has decent trade value—definitely more than Steckel—and could be sent to a team in need of forward depth.

The Leafs are fortunate, if you can call it that, to have a glut of forwards who are able to fill in as top-nine centremen because it gives them flexibility.

For instance, if JvR falters, the Leafs could play Bozak or Tim Connolly on the top line for awhile.

Or, if a centreman gets injured during the course of the season, Matthew Lombardi could fill in temporarily or perhaps Nazem Kadri could return from the wing back to his natural position.

Even prospect Joe Colborne could be given a shot at centre with the Leafs, if only for a few games.

The thing with many of the aforementioned names is that they don't fit on the team.

Colborne might not be ready for full-time NHL action, and even if he was, he'd likely have to play wing due to the number of centremen on the team. Unfortunately for him, Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin are standing in front of him on the waiting list for a roster spot.

Lombardi and Connolly can be relied upon for a little secondary scoring, but at the end of the day, they are overpriced forwards who will be taking away playing time from more deserving players like Kadri and Frattin.

Forget the fact that Lombardi and Connolly are centremen—the Leafs should just get rid of them.

Those two likely won't be competing for a job as a centreman, so really, this whole discussion comes down to who gets to be 1C, 3C and 4C.

Mikhail Grabovski, of course, is pretty much a lock as the 2C unless the team wants to try him between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel on the top line.

Much of this depends on whether James van Riemsdyk pans out as a centreman.

If he doesn't, Bozak can be the top-line centre for now, McClement could centre the third line and Steckel the fourth.

If he does, one of Bozak or Steckel becomes expendable.