Roberto Luongo and Ryan Getzlaf for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs last hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1967, the last season the NHL had only six franchises. Toronto last made the NHL playoffs in 2003-04. These facts are even more unbelievable when you consider the franchise helped create the NHL, along with the Montreal Canadiens, in 1918.
The Maple Leafs clearly need big changes to occur within the franchise to turn the luck around. Today, I will discuss some things general manager Brian Burke should do with trades that would put a winning team back in the Air Canada Centre.
These deals would upgrade areas of weakness for the Maple Leafs, and they would significantly impact the ability of Toronto to win now, not a few years down the road.
After 2012-13, the Maple Leafs roster could look a lot different, as a boatload of the franchise’s players become free agents in the summer of 2013. I do not think Burke should wait until then to make all the decisions, though.
Toronto will play the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 NHL Winter Classic. This would be a great time for the Maple Leafs to show off their new and improved roster to the NHL.
Without further delay, let’s look at four players the Maple Leafs must consider acquiring via trade this offseason.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need goaltending. No disrespect to James Reimer, but if Toronto wants to make a run in the 2012-13 playoffs, acquiring an elite NHL goaltender must happen.
A trade for Roberto Luongo would be a huge deal. Considering how many Maple Leafs will hit free agency next season, the team could be in a position to manage the 10 years remaining on Luongo’s contract. For 2012-13, though, Luongo would be a huge upgrade between the pipes.
“With [Canucks] backup goalie Cory Schneider’s emergence (and his new three-year, $12 million deal) and the fact that Luongo was benched in the top-seeded Canucks’ first-round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the goalie has been deemed expendable.”
Luongo was reportedly not interested in a trade to the Maple Leafs, but Canucks general manager Mike Gillis says those reports were untrue. Therefore, Luongo remains an option in Toronto.
Luongo has gotten some criticism as a goaltender who cannot step up in big situations, particularly follwing the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. If this criticism is justified, then Toronto might not want to bring him in. However, Luongo is simply too good to pass up.
Luongo’s .919 save percentage is fifth-best in NHL history. The three-time NHL All-Star also ranks in the career top 20 in wins and shutouts. Luongo has represented Canada twice in the Winter Olympic Games and four times in the IIHF World Championships.
With Luongo, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Also, Luongo is scheduled to earn the same salary from 2012-13 to 2017-18. This should provide Toronto with consistency at goaltender financially and hockey-wise.
Quite a few people have discussed how well Ryan Getzlaf would fit on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto traded for James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers to center its top line, but van Riemsdyk has never played center in the NHL. Should the Maple Leafs simply hope van Reimsdyk excels in the middle and leads the team to the playoffs with the current roster?
I think not. Toronto needs someone who has already proven himself as a No. 1 center. Enter Getzlaf.
Getzlaf has averaged 0.92 points per game in his regular-season career. He also scored seven points in seven games for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Getzlaf, the most recent captain of both the Ducks and Team Canada (2012 IIHF World Championships), becomes a free agent following the 2012-13 season. Ducks forwards Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu all become free agents then as well, and forward Bobby Ryan wants out of Anaheim, according to Randy Miller of USAToday.com. All things considered, I would want to load up with young talent rather than try to negotiate contracts with all these guys, if I were Ducks general manager Bob Murray.
Prior to becoming the Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke held the same position in Anaheim. According to Jake Leonard of SFGate.com:
“The Leafs have been on the prowl for a big playmaking center like Getzlaf for years…Burke has a history of dealing with [Ducks GM Bob] Murray, who worked under and eventually succeeded Burke in Anaheim.”
Burke knows Getzlaf from their Anaheim days, and Getzlaf fits a glaring team need for Toronto. This sounds like a great match.
At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Getzlaf is a big man. With 0.91 PIM per game in his regular season career, Getzlaf is a physical man on the ice. Also, with a regular season career plus-67 rating, Getzlaf plays well defensively. As a team captain, Getzlaf brings leadership.
Toronto could theoretically wait until 2013 to test its luck with Getzlaf in free agency, but if the team wants to win this season, it would need to acquire him via trade.
A goaltender like Roberto Luongo should help a lot defensively, but the Toronto Maple Leafs ranked 29th of 30 NHL teams in goals allowed per game (3.16).
Mike Komisarek has not been the same player since coming over from the Montreal Canadiens prior to the 2009-10 season. Injuries have surely impacted his performance, but Toronto needs defensive upgrades regardless.
The Maple Leafs have a lot of young defensemen who will likely improve with time, but a sure thing for 2012-13 on the blue line is needed. Now that Toronto has traded Luke Schenn, defenseman and captain Dion Phaneuf could use some more help stopping pucks.
Toni Lydman is an intriguing option. Lydman will be 35 in 2012-13, but he is only one season removed from leading the NHL in defensive point shares, according to Hockey-Reference.com.
Lydman’s contract with the Anaheim Ducks expires after this season. Next summer will be a big one in Anaheim, as the Ducks need to determine whether to re-sign Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, among others.
Lydman would also help to mentor Toronto’s young defensemen. Like Luongo, Lydman has represented Finland in two Winter Olympic Games and four IIHF World Championships.
In 2011-12, Lydman had an even plus/minus rating but was a plus-32 in 2010-11 with Anaheim. Not one Maple Leafs defenseman registered a plus rating in 2011-12.
I think Pascal Dupuis would fit well on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dupuis is very good on the penalty kill, something the Maple Leafs struggled with in 2011-12. Also, Dupuis scored 25 goals and had a plus-18 rating for the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season.
The summer of 2014 will be decision time for Penguins general manager Ray Shero. Many Penguins stars become free agents then, such as Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang. As of right now, only four players are under contract with Pittsburgh following the 2013-14 season.
Dupuis will earn $1.5 million this season. Based on his production, Dupuis is arguably one of the NHL’s biggest bargains. With Dupuis becoming a free agent after this season, Toronto can make up any offer it wants financially.
Jumping the gun would benefit the Maple Leafs, because I think a lot of NHL franchises will come calling for Dupuis after this season.
In Toronto, Dupuis will not have the luxury of Sidney Crosby, Malkin or Jordan Staal feeding him the puck. At the same time, though, I think Dupuis would become a featured player rather than an overshadowed one.
At the very least, Dupuis brings plenty of playoff experience. Dupuis has played what equates to a full NHL season’s worth of playoff games; he also has two Stanley Cup Final appearances (one win) and three conference finals appearances.
This move would help the Maple Leafs offensively, defensively and in experience without breaking the bank.
General manager Brian Burke should consider trading for these players.
Acquiring all four of the players I discussed would certainly put a lot of good prospects on the trade block. I do not think Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke should give up the farm, especially considering the team is young and primed for the future.
If Toronto walks away with only one of these players, they should make it Roberto Luongo. A truly world-class goaltender like Luongo would improve the lackluster defense overnight. Good goaltending literally shuts the door on a lot of a hockey team’s problems. Just look at how much the Los Angeles Kings have invested in Jonathan Quick.
After the 2012-13 season, we will have a much better idea of what adjustments the Maple Leafs plan to make moving forward. We know today Toronto needs a No. 1 goaltender and a No. 1 center. Those question marks have not gone away this offseason. Will they in the coming weeks?
As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, feel free to discuss other trade options for the Maple Leafs.