Looking Down The Bench: Who Is Available?
We have all heard, read, and pondered about what avenue Burke might go in order to make a roster change. Although the route of dumping a player in the minors, or sitting them in the press-box may be a logical option, but that only solves the issue for the short term.
This team still needs some major solutions in order to correct this issue and get back on the right track.
Some may say that this year is over, and we should focus on the next where we can see upwards of seventeen players leave the team. However, this season is not over just yet, there is plenty of games to turn this around. Not in the sense of contending for the cup, but fighting to escape the bottom five of the draft.
After last night's shootout win versus the Capitals, the Leafs sit nine points back of eighth place. Despite that, the eighth spot is currently in a four-way tie (Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders) with 23 points, while Boston is seventh with 24 points, and Ottawa and Philadelphia are tied for fifth with 25.
Is it impossible to make up ground? No. Is it logical to think this team can go on a winning streak with their season long struggles to pick up victories? No.
Back to the point. As we all know, Burke will be investigating trade options, so what team and who is out there that can make an impact on this team? As always, it's fun to speculate what we can do.
Peter Mueller (Phoenix Coyotes)
As reported on the Hot Stove, he has fallen out of favour with Coyotes head coach Dave Tippet.
As his team continues to play and attempt to cement a playoff spot, perhaps they exercise the options of moving their young centre. That is when Burke makes the call.
Here is a potential top line centre that the Leafs so desperately lack, and even more enticing for Burke, is the citizenship of Mueller: american. All kidding aside, he would be a valued member of this team, and would only help our current laughing stock of a top line (minus Kessel).
So, what could we be looking at giving up in order to acquire him?
Marek Zidlicky (Minnesota Wild)
An expiring contract, and a fellow struggling team, makes Zidlicky an option to acquire. Not exactly what you would consider to be a monumental move, however acquiring him opens other avenues for trade.
A smooth skating, pass first Zidlicky on your blue line is similar to what you would get with Tomas Kaberle. Having a guy like Zidlicky, despite his age (32 years old), makes moving Kaberle for a solid return less of a burden on the team.
Zidlicky is a capable perennial 40+ point defenseman, and would be a solid acquisition. If all else fails, he is another option to ship out at the deadline, and recuperate what you lost.
Or, he is a good option for a resign, similar to what Kaberle is making at this moment, not what Kaberle will soon command ($6M+ a season).
So, what would we offer to the Wild for Zidlicky?
David Backes (St. Louis Blues)
One of the better players last season for fantasy teams, Backes has struggled this season to repeat his successful stats. He is a player who exemplifies the qualities Burke is looking for in a player, so it's a no-brainer that he should be a target.
A drastic trade for the Blues, potentially, but might be a necessary one. A struggling player for another struggling player could benefit the Leafs, but it will take a bit more to pry Backes from the Blues.
Andrew Cogliano (Edmonton Oilers)
There are rumours that the Canadiens are looking into trading the struggling SK74 to the Oilers for Cogliano.
Now, when I look at that, I say, why? From an Oilers standpoint, that is an awful trade. SK has threatened to bolt to the KHL, and it is just not worth the risk.
Cogliano, a hometown talent, would be an intriguing option for the Leafs to look at. He has struggled to earn his place in the top six in Edmonton under Pat Quinn, but in Toronto he will be given the opportunity to get major minutes on the ice. His struggles on face-offs have been documented, but like Grabovski, things can change.
With Andrews' blazing speed he would be able to keep up with Kessel and pass that puck magically to him. Perhaps better served on the left wing, it would be a welcome homecoming for this young talent.
Can he handle the media and be the Leafs' hometown golden boy much like Stajan?
Brent Sopel (Chicago Black Hawks)
Perhaps the most recent possible acqusition from the Leafs, Burke is familiar to what Sopel brings to the table including his cap hit. However, if Burke can snag a second RD Pick along with the—at times frustrating—defenseman, than the return is a solid one.
The Hawks will be looking for merely a prospect or pick in this cap dump, and other options are available where they can avoid having to give up the pick.
However, sending Sopel to the minors will not work in terms of resigning the Chicago elite. Due to tagging, he will still have a ratifying effect on their cap situation and so it will not be possible to resign their talents with him in the minors. Therefore, the trade route is the only route.
What do the Leafs send the Hawks way for Sopel, but more importantly, the ability to grab a decent draft pick?
By the way, the Hawks are my pick to win it all this year, so this second RD Pick may end up being as close to a third RD Pick as it gets. An expiring contract would do the trick for the issue involving with tagging. Taking on Sopel and keeping him on the big club in Toronto would mean the Leafs need to make a secondary move.
Jonas Frogren to the Windy City?
Patrick Sharp (Chicago Black Hawks)
So begins the trio of Hawks forwards that the Leafs brass should have their eyes on. We all know the names; Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, and Dustin Byfuglien. First lets look at Sharp.
Patrick Sharp possesses one thing that most Leafs lack. Well, all but one. And, that talent is the ability to finish. Come to think of it, he is a pretty solid penalty killer. So that's two. Well, he is also pretty good on the draws. So that's three. Hmm, he also plays a strong two-way game. So that's four.
Patrick Sharp is a guy the Leafs really lack, and should strongly consider. Playing with Kane and Toews on a regular basis can help, but Sharp is a talented winger who can play at centre, and his skill should not go unnoticed.
While his pricey cap hit is a concern in Chicago, his ability to finish is what should entice GM Burke into including him in potential trades.
Kris Versteeg (Chicago Black Hawks)
The talent of Kris Versteeg is undeniable. His place on the Hawks is not.
The crafty winger has all the tools to be a perfect fit on any team's top six, but due to his cap hit, potentially not on Chicago. Enter Toronto, or just about any other team in the NHL.
Versteeg is young, talented, and a player waiting to breakout. Undeniably a talented option for the Leafs to consider, but he won't be as easy to pry from Chicago as Sharp would be.
Dustin Byfuglien (Chicago Black Hawks)
Perhaps one guy Burke truly is after.
Byfuglien is a big, physical, and dominating presence in any team's top nine. He has shown that he can play top six minutes, and on the Leafs he would certainly be getting that. A player that Burke has been after (rumoured piece of the Kaberle to Chicago offer), and it is no shock as to why.
I could name the words Burke expresses to describe his hockey teams, but none really apply to the current Leafs. Enter Byfuglien, and things change.
Joffrey Lupul (Anaheim Ducks)
A cringing cap hit, but still a young player with offensive upside. He is on the trade block in the pond, and could be an interesting addition if salary is being sent back.
The Ducks face the potential worry of having a diminished blue line, with players leaving, so a package surrounded by Jeff Finger could be enticing to the Ducks. Lupul does have a hefty contract, but could find a home in Toronto on the Leafs' top line.
Evgeny Artyukhin (Anaheim Ducks)
A little off the board, however, the massive Russian has some sand paper the Leafs would not mind acquiring. It is a minor move, and could benefit the Leafs.
Anaheim is looking at getting rid of him, as well as Erik Christensen, and Burke should get in and scoop up Artyukhin. I'm a big fan of his game, and he would help build a team identity.
Nathan Horton (Florida Panthers)
Most of the Leafs' Nation has thought of acquiring this player. Horton exemplifies great size, speed, and skill. Three key S' most Leaf players lack, especially the last.
Florida has struggled to maintain playoff hopes thus far, and if things continue to go downhill—much like the Leafs' current situation—then the rumours of Horton leaving will only intensify. Many fans would like to see him dawn the Blue and White, one number shy of what many envision as Leafs former captain Wendel Clark.
However, Horton has a bit of an attitude, though some may say that is a plus for a guy who has a bit of a mean streak. I would be all for the Leafs finding a way to acquire this guy, despite his struggles for consistency.
The question is, does Florida really want to give him up, and what would we have that would entice them into doing so?
Be The Armchair GM: What Are Your Trade Offers?
There are many other names out there, and possibly other trade routes Burke could go. But from the names who have popped up, some of these options don't look so bad.
So, what are your trade proposals? Speculation is always some fun.