Toronto Maple Leafs: Grading Each of Brian Burke's Offseason Moves
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has taken a careful approach this offseason.
Many of the moves he has made are low-risk/high reward kinds of deals. After making many trades and signing last summer, Burke didn't need to make a ton of moves this offseason, especially when the free-agent class didn't offer many players who would have made a significant impact to his roster.
Let's grade the offseason moves that Burke has made thus far.
Entry-Level Deal for 2011 1st-Round Pick
The Leafs signed Tyler Biggs, their first-round pick from the 2011 NHL Draft, to a three-year entry-level deal this summer.
At 6'3" and over 200 pounds, Biggs is a physical presence on the ice and has the potential to be a top-six winger at the NHL level. The OHL and the Toronto Marlies are the most logical places for Biggs to play next season after leaving the Miami (OH) Redhawks following the 2011-12 NCAA season.
Signing first-round picks is important, especially when they have the talent that Biggs has. This was a good deal for the Leafs, even if it was expected to happen.
James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn Trade
Luke Schenn's name came up in trade rumors a few times during his tenure in Toronto, and the Leafs pulled the trigger on a deal in June by sending the young defenseman to Philadelphia in exchange for winger James van Riemsdyk.
Health is always a legitimate concern with van Riemsdyk, but the amount of defensive depth that the Leafs have in their organization will help the team replace Schenn in no time.
Van Riemsdyk does give the Leafs more toughness and goal scoring in their top-six forward group, which is exactly what they're looking for. JVR and second-line center Mikhail Grabovski have the potential to be a great duo this season if they can develop some nice chemistry early in the year.
This has the potential to be a great trade for Burke if JVR can stay healthy.
Jay McClement Signs 2-Year Deal
Veteran forward Jay McClement signed a two-year contract worth $1.5 million per season with the Leafs via free agency.
The 29-year-old center scored 10 goals with seven assists in 80 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season.
McClement won't be asked to be a goal scorer in Toronto. He will be valuable for his penalty killing and leadership. The Leafs were 28th in penalty killing last year, so McClement's value on the PK will definitely help.
For a young team, it's important to have hard working veterans on the roster who set a good example. This was a good signing by Burke that will add depth to the team and a good voice in the locker room.
Colby Armstrong Not Re-Signed
After missing 85 games over the last two years and not producing well offensively when he was on the ice, buying out the final year of his contract was an easy decision for Burke.
Grade: "A" for buying out the final year, "F" for the signing as a whole
Morgan Rielly Drafted No. 5 Overall
After watching division rivals, the Boston Bruins have tremendous success in the past two seasons with strong defensive play and the Leafs are starting to build a promising core of young defensemen that will help the franchise tremendously.
The team continued to build their blue line by drafting Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) with the fifth pick in the first round of this year's draft.
Rielly suffered an injury that forced him to play in just 18 games for the Warriors last season, but his ability to skate well in all three zones, pass effectively and excel on the power play will benefit the Leafs for many years to come.
Keith Aucoin Signs 1-Year, 2-Way Contract
Keith Aucoin signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Leafs this summer and is expected to be nothing more than a fourth-line player.
However, it wouldn't be surprising if he spent a good portion of next season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Aucoin has played 96 games in the AHL over the past two seasons.
This is one of the low-risk/high-reward signings by Burke. If Aucoin brings some toughness to the Leafs and kills penalties, he will have a spot on the NHL roster. If he doesn't perform or isn't a good fit, he will be sent to the Marlies.