The Leafs are preparing for a training camp that is not pushed off, or even worse, a season locked out if the owners and NHLPA can't come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
There are some players who are entering into the last year of their contract, some of which Toronto may consider trading either before the season or some time midseason.
One name that may be on that list is the young and quite talented Nazem Kadri, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season due to his entry-level contract.
There are many fans that will dislike this suggestion immensely, as Kadri seems to be a popular favorite to move into a top-line role either this season or next. The issue that surrounds Kadri is that he does not play the style that head coach Randy Carlyle likes, nor was he able to pick up his play for Ron Wilson, but no one will hold that against him.
Kadri is still young and has many years to develop into a top-line center. If Toronto uses him in that position this year, it could end up being a huge mistake.
In his past few seasons, when called up, he has failed to play at the level the Leafs needed him to. Again, that is not to say that he is not talented. Sometimes, it just so happens that a young star in the making does not find his stride on the first team they play for. This was the case Joffrey Lupul, who last season put up career-high numbers.
It could be as simple as finding Kadri the proper linemates, as with Lupul. However, so far, it has failed to happen, and Kadri seems to struggle when at the NHL level.
Kadri’s talent has caught the attention of other teams in the NHL, which could be used to find Toronto a better fit than Kadri has been.
Carlyle seems to like the big, aggressive players who like to play an aggressive game, a fact which some Toronto players may have some difficulty with. Should GM Brian Burke look to trade the young Kadri, who could excel at a run-and-gun style that Ron Wilson favored, there are a few places that Kadri could end up and see the ice time Leafs fans feel he deserves.
The teams that could be considering Kadri would most likely be those that were a few points out of last year's postseason. Teams like Calgary, Carolina or Winnipeg could potentially have interest. These teams are all speculation and are not rumored to have interest in Kadri, but they could make good trading partners.
One player who would help Toronto from the Carolina Hurricanes could be Jeff Skinner. A trade to obtain Skinner would have to involve an additional player with Kadri, such as Matthew Lombardi or Tim Connolly. Skinner plays centre and with the offseason addition of Jordan Staal, he will not be centering either top line this season. If he came to Toronto, he would be a top name in the running.
Kadri was switched to the left wing last season (Sportsnet), a position that Daily Faceoff predicts Skinner will be placed at for this season. This deal could help both teams address positional challenges they are facing. The main issue with a Carolina deal is the fact that Skinner was just re-signed this offseason to a six-year, $34 million deal (680News), though it could be a possibility by midseason.
Another team that may have interest in Kadri is the Winnipeg Jets. Like Carolina, the Jets have a young, talented centre that will not be playing on the top line this year. Bryan Little had some time on the top line last season with Andrew Ladd, but it has been predicted by Illegal Curve that Little will be bumped down to the second line.
One thing that the Jets have been lacking is a quick-scoring, capable top-six player. Enter Nazem Kadri. Kadri could easily replace Little on the second line, adding some speed and scoring ability to the team and while sending a seasoned centre to Toronto.
Another good preseason trade Toronto could make could involve the Calgary Flames, who possess a solid veteran goaltender that Toronto desperately needs in Miikka Kipprusoff. This deal would take a lot more work than the other two, as Kipper is a solid and much sought-after goaltender. With James Reimer’s play still in question and Burke remaining firm that he will be the future starter for Toronto, having a seasoned veteran to cause Reimer to become more consistent would be a good idea.
The Flames lost their top centre this offseason when Olli Jokinen signed with the Winnipeg Jets (TSN). While the Flames managed to snap up Jiri Hudler (TSN) from the Detroit Red Wings to replace Jokinen, they still have a hole on their second line, as Matt Stajan has been inconsistent with the Flames.
Again Kadri could be the fix for that problem. The main issue would be trying to pry Kipper from the Flames.
The only deal that would work would involve a multiple-player deal that, along with Kadri, would have to include either Reimer or Ben Scrivens and possibly one other player such as Lombardi, Connolly or even Mike Komisarek. Calgary has a number of defensemen, but a deal including Komi could be a benefit for both, as he has struggled for the Leafs. The deal would also allow two defensemen on Calgary to become available for a potential trade.
The Calgary deal may be the least likely to happen, but Brian Burke has been known in the past to pull off some amazing trades that benefited both teams involved.
Let’s see if he has another one in him.