Hedman in Toronto Would Spell a Tantalizing Product

Bleacher Report Correspondent IJune 25, 2009

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 25:  NHL Draft top prospects (L-R) Matt Duchene, John Tavares and Victor Hedman pose for a photo during the NHL Top Prospects Media Luncheon June 25, 2009 at the Marriott Montreal Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Brian Burke has already supplied the media with a bona fide answer, wherein he stated his desire to exchange, barter and consummate a deal for a top-three draft selection. On that front, there hasn’t been room for any element of surprise.

But there are still available column inches left to discuss the intricacies of Burke’s gambit, his transparency notwithstanding.

He didn’t quiver about his hitherto futile efforts to sway General Manager Garth Snow of the New York Islanders and Brian Lawton of the Tampa Bay Lightning—although the latter franchise is afflicted with managerial hierarchy issues—and that persistence has managed to string out hope in what will be met by either a disappointing or gratifying end. That is, for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Of course, with their seventh overall pick in the cupboard—the second straight instance such a draft position has been bequeathed to them—Burke intends to move up. He may as well be courteous to bring a broom on his path to the Bell Centre in Montreal, because he’ll peruse the entire floor on Friday to sort out a mutually feasible transaction.

The player after whom all is being pursued to capture, it has been stated by Burke’s overt candour, is London Knights center John Tavares, the accomplished Team Canada gold medallist and owner of major goal-scoring records in the OHL.

"This guy is a natural goal scorer," Burke said. "You can teach hockey players just about everything. You can improve every area of skill. You can make him a better skater. You can make him stronger. But you can't teach him to score."

"This kid is going to be a big-time player. He's got a nose for the net. He'll pay a price to score. He's dominated at every level he's played at."

However, Tavares’ designation as the first overall choice in Montreal on Friday, an inevitability which has fleeted from its original status like a ball of string ahead of a cat, is what’s left to debate.

Snow, to be sure of his own gamesmanship and his ultimate control over the way in which the draft will unfurl, hasn’t exactly been lauding the 18-year-old Oakville native as a coming fixture in his roster, nor has he dismissed him entirely.

Victor Hedman, the 6-6, 220-pound Swede with a capacity to cover the ice like someone within a 180-pound frame, has been the source of the GM's plight, as he made a good case over in the Swedish Elite League. He’s a stable, reliable puck mover who can be tidy in his own end while logging 20-plus minutes each game, an attribute seldom seen in prospects heading to the NHL.

So it’s understandable as to why Snow is acting like that pickle jar with a stubborn seal.

"We know we're going to get a great player and someone that is going to help us get to where we want to be," said Snow with an ambiguous tone.

But on Toronto’s end—should a deal be swung and met with the Islanders or by means of any other unorthodox avenue (see Burke’s previous web of characters who were manipulated to heist the Sedin twins in 1999)—there’s more motive and drive in Tavares.

Why Hedman hasn’t grazed the Leafs’ liking and intrigue is perhaps aberrant, if not under-reported.

Should the Leafs snag an opportunity to draft one of the three musketeers in Tavares,

Hedman or Brampton Battalion revelation Matt Duchene, consider Hedman, for a moment, as the newest addition to their rebuilding process.

All will be decided, of course, tomorrow night. But a picture with Hedman standing on the stage, donning the blue-and-white sweater should have just as much, maybe more, appeal as Tavares joining his childhood team.

Like Burke’s previous teams, of which he claimed he’ll try to replicate and use as a template for Stanley Cup contention, Hedman and touted defenseman Luke Schenn could forge a partnership akin to what Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer enjoyed in 2007 in Anaheim. To think of Hedman’s utility package in harmony with Schenn’s stout skills would certainly spur thoughts about their potential potency.

The route to that possibility is filled with many obstructions, though, and there is onus on Burke to explore some sort of recourse.

But it reminds us how many consequences there are to a draft that, in retrospect, had etched the surname of Tavares in the top slot half a year ago when Team Canada won the 2009 World Junior Championship.