The NHL Draft is just a little over a week away, and there are 29 teams trying to figure out how they can be the next to lift the Stanley Cup above their heads next June. As each team evaluates their individual situations, trade rumors are running wild throughout the NHL.
Some are interesting, some are junk.
Every team has issues they are working through right now, and some situations line up better than others for potential trade scenarios. Let's evaluate two teams that might be able to make a deal: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks.
It has become a well-known fact that the Maple Leafs are dealing with four significant issues right now.
- They were not very good in 2009-10.
- They have very few draft picks the next two years.
- Tomas Kaberle will not be back next year.
- They have a ton of cap space.
- They just won the Stanley Cup.
- They have a handful of early draft choices in the next two years.
- They need to cut salary.
So how do these two teams get together to make a deal happen? With the draft in just over a week, let's examine one trade scenario that might look good to both teams.
- G Jean-Sebastian Giguere
- D Tomas Kaberle
- G Cristobal Huet
- D Brian Campbell
- F Andrew Ladd (a RFA this summer)
- A 2nd round pick in either 2010 or 2011
Why would either team make this deal? Let's look at how it breaks down, and how it accomplishes the goals of both teams.
Huet is an overpaid backup goalie. Everyone knows that. However, the reality in Toronto is that they want Jonas Gustavsson to matriculate his way to the top of their depth chart on a full-time basis sooner than later.
And Giguere has never been a big fan of being called a "back-up." Just ask the Ducks why they traded him for details.
By exchanging Giguere for Huet, the Leafs are actually saving money between the pipes; Giguere has a cap hit of $6M next year to Huet's $5.625M. With Chicago now coming to grips with both paying Antti Niemi for being a Stanley Cup-winning goalie and his limited NHL resume, having a solid veteran backup like Giguere to share the load during the regular season wouldn't be a bad idea.
Campbell, like Huet, was overpaid by Chicago a couple summers ago. However, he's one of the smoothest skaters in the league and is still an excellent puck-moving blue liner; pairing him with new captain Dion Phaneuf or youngster Luke Schenn could give Toronto exceptional defensive depth.
The tough part of this deal to stomach from a Toronto perspective would be the financial cost, but considering their cap space it really wouldn't be an enormous deal. Huet and Campbell would bring only a little mover $2.5M more to the payroll of the Leafs than they were committed to with Kaberle and Giguere for next year.
For the Leafs, the difference would be the time of the deals, though. Huet has two years left and Campbell has six, while both Giguere and Kaberle are entering the finals years of their respective contracts.
This is why Chicago would need to "sweeten" the deal for the Leafs.
Throwing in a second round pick is certainly a juicy piece for Brian Burke, but adding a big, physical (not to mention two-time Stanley Cup Champion) forward like Ladd to the deal could make him think long and hard about taking the extra salary.
By making this move before/during the draft, the Leafs would have a week to exclusively work with Ladd to get a new deal done. With his resume, Ladd hitting the market and signing somewhere else could land Toronto another second or third round pick, but they would likely want to keep him around.
Ladd on a line with Phil Kessel for the next few years could be a building block to a solid group of young forwards. Add the group of prospects the Leafs have coming up, and they could be both young and good for the next five years up front.
First, let's deal with reality: Ladd won't be back next year. The Blackhawks can't afford him. So moving him for cap space might be a necessity.
The second reality check is that Huet won't be in Chicago next year. Whether it's Rockford or Russia or Toronto (or somewhere else), his $5.625M won't be sitting on Chicago's bench in 2010-11. He wasn't good enough throughout the 2009-10 regular season to keep the starting gig in Chicago, so nobody's losing sleep over him being gone.
The tricky part of this deal is moving Campbell for Kaberle. Statistically, the two are somewhat similar, but they bring different elements to the ice; Kaberle will never hear fans yelling "Nancy Kerrigan" at him on the ice the way Campbell does.
But for Chicago, it's all about saving money now and down the road.
As I've already said, the Hawks would be cutting roughly $2.5M off their cap for 2010-11 by making this deal, which is far from settling all of their cap issues. It's a good start, but there will be more casualties to come.
The biggest win for Chicago, and what would cost them throwing in a decent draft choice, is the long-term ramifications of this exchange.
Next summer, the Blackhawks could be staring at another free agent Armageddon with Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky. The most important name on this list is clearly Seabrook, who has paired with Norris Trophy finalist Duncan Keith for the past few years to become one of the best shut-down pairs in the NHL. He'll get paid, but the Hawks need some cap space to make that happen.
So while the $2.5M cap space the Hawks would clear in 2010-11 would be important, the additional $10.25M relief they would realize in the summer of 2011 would be even more important.
While the potential of losing a puck-moving defenseman in a year isn't fantastic on the surface, the Hawks plan to have kids like Dylan Olsen, Shawn LaLonde, Brian Connelly and perhaps even JC Sawyer or Simon Danis-Pepin ready for the NHL by the end of next season; that spot on the blue line could be filled internally with ease.
Both teams would appear to get what they need from this deal.
Toronto's Burke would get back into the early stages of either this year or next year's draft, add a power forward, replace an unhappy Kaberle and have a veteran backup goalie for a couple more years.
In Chicago, GM Stan Bowman would save some money this year, a lot next year and down the road, and would improve his goalie situation in the process. While swapping Kaberle for Campbell isn't ideal, the financial side of the deal makes the deal worth it.
So for both teams, this appears to be a win-win. Could it happen?