So Brian Burke has been a busy man this past week, stirring the pot a little, making waves in the ocean, rocking the casbah, etc, etc...
Unless you live under a rock, odds are you have heard about the trades Burkie has made this past week with Calgary and Anaheim. I could ramble on about my opinions of the trades, but quite frankly, I have read enough articles on these trades. Heck, I’ve even read an article calling the Phaneuf trade “the sexiest trade in the NHL in years.” Yeah, he must work out.
I’m not here to talk about the present; I’m here to talk about the future, about potential free agents that could be wearing the Maple Leaf in the next two seasons. The biggest void to fill is that No. 1 center position, once we fill that, Kessel is sure to score 50+ goals, its simple math. So let’s take a look at some potential free agents.
The first name that jumps out at me is Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadians. He is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent at season’s end and is having a career year. On pace for about 60 assists this season, he is probably the best play-making centre available during the offseason. He is only 27 years old and looks to be just going into his prime.
He currently makes $2,750,000 and is having a career year in terms of points, so he will be asking for more money, probably somewhere around $4-6 million a season. So the question is, will Plekanec be worth the money? Also, we will have to stare at his stupid Turtle neck every game, so that’s a turn off.
Next player on the list is Patrick Marleau, another UFA at season’s end. He's currently on pace for 54 goals!!! I had to double check that stat, but yes, it’s true. Personally, I don’t think Marleau is the right guy for the Leafs. He’s a great scorer but not the kind of player you would like to have on a line with Kessel.
His current salary is $6,300,000 and those numbers should only go up after this season’s production. In my opinion, he will be too expensive.
Now here is a guy that I would like to see wearing the Maple Leaf, Matthew Lombardi. Obviously he is not the answer to our No. 1 center problem, but he will give the Leafs great support down the middle. He’s a UFA this year and we could get him at a low cost. I think he would be a great pickup for the Leafs.
Here are some other Center’s Burke should look at this Offseason:
- Olli Jokinen - UFA – Terrible season should bring his price tag down dramatically from the $5.5 million he is making, could be a bargain pick-up.
- Brendan Morrison – UFA – Wouldn’t mind seeing him signed to a one or two year deal, simply to add depth down the middle.
- Manny Malhotra – UFA – A Solid Second or Third line Center who would not cost much.
There are also a few Restricted Free Agents that Burke may want to extend an offer sheet to. Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals could be in Burke’s sights.
Now, I’m no expert on the NHL’s CBA policy, but I’m sure during the offseason that these players can entertain offers from other teams, only their current team has a chance to match that offer (correct me if I’m wrong). Kesler and Backstrom are the types of players you want to build your team around and both are young, 26 and 24 respectively.
Although, it is a long shot to get either of these two players, a guy can dream. Another solid RFA is Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks.
Now maybe Burke won’t go for that top center man this off-season, the 2011 UFA list is pretty stacked, but there’s no telling if these players will re-sign in the meantime. Here’s a look at the 2011 UFA’s at Center:
- Joe Thornton, my personal favourite, would look great in the Blue and White. I do expect San Jose to resign him before the end of the 2011 season, especially if they let Marleau go this off-season.
Other big name centers available in 2011 are: Mikko Koivu, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Connolly, Steven Stamkos (RFA), and Brandon Dubinski (RFA).
It’s safe to say that Burke will be going after that No. 1 center within the next two years and the names I have mentioned above are the top dogs. So in conclusion I say, “In Burke We Trust.”