You need to "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and when to run." Kenny Rogers is famous for singing those words, but Brian Burke is playing the game as we speak!
Know when to HOLD 'EM—Tomas Kaberle is an asset Burke has held onto thus far.
Know when to FOLD 'EM—When the "No-trade" clause was lifted, Burke made it clear that he's listening, not shopping. He played the media card, letting the world know he's received four offers, one of which was insulting.
Know when to WALK AWAY—He's had offers, but nothing up to the level he wants for the smooth-skating defenseman , so he takes a step back and focuses on other parts of his GM duties for a few days.
When to RUN -This is what we are all waiting for, that offer that Burke can't resist.
This may not be the exact reference the original Gambler intended, but Burke is playing a high-stakes game of poker. Let's hope he makes the right read. In a highly critical market like Toronto, Burke has been busy changing over the Blue and White roster. Since he's taken over in Toronto, Burke has overhauled the foundation of the team, and this offseason , most of Leaf Nation felt more was coming. This has created great excitement for Leafs fans. We all knew this was a soft UFA crop, but the prospect of trading long-time defender Tomas Kaberle has us all on the edge of our seats.
Burke has already kicked up the drama with a very positive trade, adding Kris Versteeg in a five -player deal, plus widely-coveted, gritty forward Colby Armstrong as an UFA. This has been done without moving the key bargaining chip, Kaberle.
Considering the lack of UFA pop this year, Burke has been very patient thus far. He may still have a few UFAs in mind, but at this time, it appears he's focused on cleaning up his own RFAs . Recently, he came to terms with Kulemin and Mitchell, leaving only Hanson to be settled. Hanson should be a reasonably cheap asset. That takes us back to Kaberle before completing the 2010-2011 roster.
Brian mentioned in his conference call late on July 1st he expected the Kaberle talks to pick up after the holiday weekend. Most of the available UFA defensemen have found homes, hopefully driving up the price for Kaberle amongst the teams in need. That seems to be the key going forward for Burke's summer plan. Burke also stated he planned to be close to the cap when done, leaving a little room for the unexpected. This doesn't take into account the chances of Jeff Finger being sent to play for the Marlies this season, freeing up even more money.
The priority going forward is trading #15. So let's say Kaberle will be traded. Who are the likely teams interested, and what do they have that would fit Burke's price tag of a top-six forward?
Anaheim —The Bobby Ryan talk just won't go away. The only other name that could fit would be Corey Perry.
Atlanta —RFA Bryan Little interests me. His numbers slipped last year, but all signs are this 22-year-old is a top-six talent.
Boston —We've all heard Savard's name mentioned in a number of reports and articles, but what about RFA Blake Wheeler or 24-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who will be an UFA next July.
Buffalo —Please, don't even think about Tim Connelly . We all know he's talented but the odds of him staying healthy are minimal. That being said, Derek Roy in a package deal, or even Thomas Vanek , is tempting.
Columbus —The Blue Jackets' executives are badly in need of a playoff berth, and will likely be looking for a Tomas Kaberle. They have a young talent in Derick Brassard, who was taken one pick after Phil Kessel and an interesting Burke-type player in RJ Umberger .
Dallas —The Stars have ownership issues, so they may be looking to reduce payroll, which makes players such as Brad Richards, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro possible targets.
Edmonton —The Oilers seem unlikely to me, although Burke may have some interest in Dustin Penner or RFAs Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner .
Florida —Since Florida has already unloaded Nathan Horton, they may be looking to move Stephen Weiss. Joining Kaberle with McCabe would be entertaining for the Panthers.
Los Angeles —The Kings are the NHL darlings heading into this season. They seem to be losing footing with Kovalchuk, so they may change their focus to acquiring Kaberle. They will likely be looking to move prospects, although Jarret Stoll would be a target from Burke. Stoll has nearly joined the Leafs on two separate occasions, why not three?
Minnesota —This one is very simple. Mikko Koivu is an UFA next July and the Wild fear he won't be looking to sign with them. This would make Toronto a great fit.
New Jersey —Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise are both very familiar with Wilson and Burke.
Pittsburgh —The Pens have already signed two UFA defensemen , but they still haven't completed their blue line. Kaberle would have been a nice replacement for Gonchar, but the Pens cap issues heading forward makes this move less likely. I believe Jordan Staal was a top target by Burke, but until next July, the Pens will be unlikely to move him. That being said, I believe he will be traded next offseason . Max Talbot is also worth a look, but he's like Colby Armstrong, fitting more of a third-line role.
Philadelphia —Jeff Carter to Toronto has been mentioned so many times I thought I'd say it again, as I would love to see it happen. The Flyers have also filled in their blue line by adding Sean O'Donnell, so this move is unlikely. I also don't see Gagne coming to Toronto, although if he did wave his no-trade clause, Burke may be interested in taking him as a Flyer cap dump.
Ottawa —Carrie Underwood. That move would include Mike Fisher, which would be fine by me too. I seriously doubt Ottawa and Toronto could work out a deal, and with Gonchar being in the nation's capital now, I'll have to accept the fact Carrie will be a Sens fan.
San Jose —Now this may be the most interesting possibility to me. Joe Thornton to Toronto? He's an UFA next July and being from St. Thomas near Toronto, he'd be likely to enjoy the move back to the area. This would be a huge trade if Burke could put it together, and at 30 years old, Joe has lots of hockey left in the tank.
St. Louis —Not as glamorous as Thornton, but I would still enjoy David Backes coming to Toronto.
So those are the teams that could use a defenseman from what I can see, and the players I mentioned from each one would fit Burke's goal of a top-six forward. Some may seem far-fetched, but you never know what type of package can be put together.
From that point, it still seems possible for Toronto to add a couple UFAs to complete the lineup. A No. 6 defenseman , once Kaberle is moved, at around the $1 to $2 million mark is possible, maybe a veteran like Brian Pothier, Brett Clark, Shane Hnidy or Paul Mara. Willie Mitchell seems to be looking for more money, but he could fill in the blue line. Burke may look at adding another forward, since we all know depth is so necessary. Raffi Torres has been mentioned along with John Madden, Marek Svatos, and Alexander Frolov, but keeping Burke's connections in mind, how about Mike Modano or Teemu Selanne? I enjoy the NHL offseason , as anything is possible.
Since none of us are in the room when the trade discussion occur, I would say keep an open mind and believe in the blue and white. I personally never saw the Phaneuf trade coming last year, so in Burke I trust!
Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and when to run... Brian Burke, I'm all in!!!