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Luke Schenn for John Tavares: Sounds Like A No-Brainer To Me

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 07: Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends against the New Jersey Devils on April 7, 2009 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Joe MacDonaldAnalyst IApril 16, 2009

Word out of Toronto is that Leafs' GM Brian Burke has already called both the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning to express his interest in trading up for the first or second pick in the upcoming NHL draft. His goal of course is to acquire either forward John Tavares or defenseman Victor Hedman and give the club a franchise player to build around.

Given his famous direct approach, I'm sure this tactic didn't surprise anyone, although I have as much doubt as most hockey observers that he'll be able to pull it off. For one thing, most teams tend to keep their draft picks when a potential franchise player is available. There's also serious doubt that Leafs have enough in the way of assets that could prompt the Islanders or Lightning to part with such a lofty selection.

But what did surprise me is the universal outcry from Leafs' Nation against the possibility of including rookie defenseman Luke Schenn in any offer for the number one or two pick. 

Now don't get me wrong, I like Luke Schenn. I think he's going to be a fine NHL player.  But he's never going to be a great player and he's certainly not a franchise player. He's definitely a building block for a franchise in a rebuilding mode, but he can't be your cornerstone. And that's what the Leafs need.

I guess it's natural in an organization with few legitimate assets for the fans and even management to overvalue the few players of value they have. But let's be serious for a minute. Schenn is going to be a good shutdown defenseman. But he's never going to be an offensive threat. Maybe he'll score 10 goals and pick up 40 points in his best season.

And while shut-down defenseman are valuable, they aren't as valuable as potential franchise players who may well have the ability to take their team to the next level.  Hedman and Tavares both have that potential. A team only get's a chance at a player like that once every 20 or 25 years. Top defensive rearguards can be replaced.

Would the Senators not trade a Chris Phillips type player for a Dany Heatley type? Would the Penguins not trade Brooks Orpik, their shutdown guy, for Chris Pronger, a two-way franchise defenseman. Of course both clubs would make those deals.

If the Leafs brain trust actually believes that Tavares or Hedman are franchise players, a demand from a potential trading partner to include Schenn in the deal shouldn't necessarily mean the end of the discussion.

And right thinking Leaf fans should see that.

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