The Summer of Burke: What's Next for the Leafs ?
Brian Burke started the free agency period with a pugnacious bang. Acquiring Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico, and the oft-traded Philip Paradis.
Before Leafs Nation could fully adjust, the next day the Leafs signed the truculent Colby Armstrong (3 mil/yr) to be followed by Nikolei Kulemin (2.35 mil/yr) and John Mitchell (750,000/yr) in later days.
With signings and trades to be non-existent over the 4th of July weekend, it remains to be seen what tricks Burke & Co. have left up their sleeves leading into the second week of the free agent frenzy.
Only Fools Russian
Coming off his lowest scoring season since 2003 (41 goals), Kovalchuk is clearly still a hot commodity. Deservedly so since there aren't too many players who can call 41 goals an off year.
While many members of Leafs Nation still say that Burke is making a covert offer to Kovalchuk, there isn't much to support this theory. Since Burke has repeatedly stated his lack of desire to sign the russian sniper it would be odd to suddenly change his mind.
There are those in Leafs Nation that still cling to their thread of hope that the next headline will read "Kovalchuk Signs with the Leafs". Unfortunately for them this doesn't appear to be in the cards.
“We are not involved with Ilya Kovalchuk at this time. We have never been involved. I don’t even know who his agent is,” said Burke.
A statement like this sure doesn't sound like a black ops courtship.
While the money to be spent on high level bottom six forwards may be gone for the Leafs, if there is any money left over it should be used on Raffi Torres.
Many say that the Leafs are always full of third line players, the difference now is that Burke is pursuing players who can fit into a predetermined role. Sounds logical and something you really wish they had thought of in the past.
Torres is an aggressive, support scoring winger who can go into the corner and always leave with the puck. Torres would provide depth at the wing position and 15-25 goal potential.
At the age of 28 Raffi Torres has had his share of injuries and as such his stock value has gone down. A deal in the 2- 2.35 million a year range for one or two years seems plausible.
Anything more than that and this hometown boy will lose the opportunity to rejuvenate his career in Toronto.
Blue & White
With the trade of Tomas Kaberle pending the Leafs may want to look for an old friend when it comes to running their powerplay. Ian White the lone Leaf missed by Leafs Nation in the trade for Dion Phaneuf seems to have run into some contract troubles.
Ian White represented one of the few bright spots in for the Leafs last year. A young defenceman coming into his own after being drafted by the Leafs in the 7th round. A career year with 13 goals and 38 points while being one of the few players in the positive plus/minus column for the Leafs earned him a ticket out of town.
Recent reports out of Calgary suggest that the Flames aren't even close to signing Ian White, and it's not hard to figure out why. With 21 players signed (7 defenceman on one-way deals) and just over a million left in cap room the flames simply don't have the space for White.
A reunion with the Leafs wouldn't be so far-fetched if Kaberle is moved out. If the Flames are going with the old is new again theme, why not the Blue & White.
A New Captain
After resigning with the Kings and becoming their leader, some have questioned the progress of the young Captain.
A 33 goal and 60 point season made Dustin Brown appear to be a perfect core player for a young kings team. Two seasons later and Brown has yet to reach either plateau again.
Brown has by no means been a bust but hasn't progressed as well as the Kings management had expected.
With a potential Kovalchuk signing combined with rumours of a Lecavalier or Gagner trade, acquiring a top 3 defenseman and the emergence of Drew Doughty as an elite level rearguard, the Kings have been rumoured to be shopping their Captain.
The reasoning is that it would create cap space, add a defenseman and the could name a certain young stud Captain.
The rumours have surfaced again,surprisingly the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in acquiring Bobby Ryan. Often dismissed as impossible, it is actually just improbable.
Bobby Ryan is a belligerent scorer who uses his imposing frame to create space for himself and his teammates. A 30+ goal scorer who uses his body would be a perfect fit for the Leafs as Brian Burke continues to build the team in his image.
After turning down a 5 year 25 million dollar deal from the Ducks, frustration from GM Bob Murray may turn into a trade with good friend Brian Burke.
Leafs of Change
With the weekend coming to a close Tuesday appears to be the day where the Leafs will turn back on the engines to make the move to acquire a top 6 forward.
A few quick notes:
The alleged pursuit of Maxim Afinogenov is fabricated. Not only would Afinogenov be the exact opposite of a driven, team-first centre, the talks between the Leafs and Afinogenov wouldn't have occured this weekend. Do to the holiday weekend Burke & Co. decided to shut down the UFA season briefly, further dismissing the scenario.
Also clearly any of the possible trades mentioned in this article would be large swaps and not one for one player deals. For those of you who don't believe that they can occur I ask you to remember when Dion Phaneuf appeared to be set to be a lifelong Flame.
Remember with Brian Burke things are never impossible...only improbable.