"Right now, we're looking for a winger, not a center," says Brian Burke, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "So we disagree with the public, I guess." (Courtesy of The Hockey News)
Words that were spoken by Pope Burke of the Hockey Vatican known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. Against what many have been speculating, the Leafs are not currently looking for that ellusive top line center.
Whether they have placed their faith in Tyler Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski or Nazem “the Future” Kadri isn’t known but a Bozak, Kadri one-two punch isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
With the only top-six free agent (players who scored 40+ points) wingers available being: Bill Guerin, Lee Stempniak, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alexander Frolov, Maxime Afinogenov and the hugely pursued Ilya Kovalchuk, Burke’s options on the wing don’t look great from the crop of UFAs available.
Too old, too soft, too unreliable and too recent (Stempniak & Poni I’m looking at you) characterize the wingers available to Burke, suggesting that this avenue is not to Burke’s liking.
The only potential UFA winger that may appeal to Burke is Toronto-born Raffi Torres, an aggressive, grinding, support scoring winger who would fit in the bottom-six category.
That only leads to one other option, trading for a winger.
With contract talks at a halt, and having refused a 5 year, $20-25 million dollar deal, the Ducks are clearly frustrated when it comes to dealing with the Bobby Ryan camp. Speculated to be going to the Leafs for months now, Ryan brings a strong fore check and physical presence combined with a goal scoring mindset.
Another possibility would be Los Angeles Captain Dustin Brown.
Not as highly regarded or speculated as Ryan, the Brown rumours have cooled off since the Kovalchuk to LA also came to a freeze.
While there are many other possibilities. None would offer the belligerent physical presence of these two wingers combined with their ability to play a prominent role anywhere on the top-six.
With the addition of Brett Lebda the Leafs have an over abundance of defense-men ready to play at the NHL level, including a few from the Marlies who deserve at least a shot. While many believe the Leafs will acquire a top-six winger for Kaberle, unfortunately I believe more will be required.
For a player of Bobby Ryan’s quality there will be a strong push for return of a young player in the deal. While many in Leafs Nation like Luke Schenn, he represents one of the stronger assets to deal in search of a forward of Ryan’s ilk.
Whether it is Ryan, Brown or someone similar, Kaberle alone will not be enough to solidify a deal. With eight defensemen on the Leafs NHL roster something has to give, Kaberle certainly but even more certainly a young prospect with NHL experience.
Schenn was sought after at the draft, and if Burke didn’t want us to know he was a hot commodity we would not have found out.
As Burke would say “We have a few deals on the back-burner” and Luke Schenn just joined Kaberle in front.