Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky Remain with Maple Leafs on the Way to the Cup
Well, with Trade Deadline looming, I'm beginning to believe that neither Nik Antropov nor Alexei Ponikarovsky are moving any time soon, though I'd love to see the former shipped out in exchange for Pronger. Apparently it's a sellers market. In my humble opinion, and I've said it before, Brian Burke should package a gutsy blockbuster trade, which would include Tomas Kaberle and Scott Niedermayer.
Nonetheless, after having stopped by a few Leafs-friendly pubs this past week, many fans are without too much difficulty entertaining the prospect of a Maple Leafs team that does not feature the so-called Twin Towers. As the team closes out a disastrous year, injuries to Van Ryn and Finger will put the pressure on the young blueliners: Sifers and Schenn, and certainly Stralman if Kubina ships out.
Speaking of bringing it up a notch, Ian White has had a really good year, and I wouldn't trade him, but he'd admittedly be an asset to any playoff bound team, not to mention both Dominic Moore and Matt Stajan. But I wouldn't trade them either. Notwithstanding the Leafs' vikings Frogren and Hagman, who have been instrumental in the Leafs victories lately, playing with a ton 'o spunk night after night, I'd trade the Euros. Surely Bates Battaglia couldn't do any worse.
Since Kaberle's injury, the team hasn't really fared that badly. Although Grabovski isn't ending the season on a high note, unless something radical happens...so, as a truly talented youngster, Burke should trade him now along with Kulemin. There's been nothing wrong with their play this year but I'd just be curious what they might fetch and get the deal done, in addition to some Marlies.
If the Maple Leafs had an NHL calibre goalie the team would be in the playoffs this year. It's uncanny how many opposing teams can tie the Maple Leafs in the dying moments of a game. Some might argue the team's defense was letting the goalies down on a talent-starved team, but it's not true. Any shot, at any time, can end up in the Leafs net with Toskala or Cujo between the pipes.
The Maple Leafs with Wilson at the helm but without bonafide all-stars, like Pittsburgh, are winning on any given night. But take out a few Euros and bring up a few players like Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus, and trade Toskala for any decent goalie. Well, with the injuries to Mitchell and Hagman, the choices are few and far between.
It seems management enjoys and is stocking the new winning team with Americans... like Tim Stapleton, augmenting the power duo of Blake and Stemniak. Trade 'em all, I say. I'm ready. But the more the team gels, and continues to win, albeit in an unnecessary overtime or in—aghast—a shootout, I'm wondering if Burke is contemplating status quo. He says teams trading at the deadline make costly mistakes. Whew, now we know he won't make any mistakes.
Ottawa is coming to town. I relish the though of swiping one or two Senators in exchange for Kaberle, for example, in fact fresh after the game and after Kaberle has returned from his injury.
The one thing going for the Leafs is they are playing under the cap, and substantially, which would truly be attractive when augmenting the pitch along with endorsement fees for a superstar player.
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