With Tomas Kaberle staying a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, GM Brian Burke has pretty much run out of options.
The Maple Leafs have a glaring hole on forward, most specifically on the second line. Tomas Kaberle was the Leafs' biggest bargaining chip to acquire a player for that spot, but now that his no-trade clause is back in effect, that can't happen.
Brian Burke now has to either sign a cheap free agent or trust another prospect with a second line job.
With the free agent class dwindling, the only options Burke really has are Raffi Torres and Lee Stempniak, although I don't know if Toronto wants to bring Stempniak back, so let's stick with Torres. The Leafs could sign him, put him on the second line and hope that he stays healthy.
What about the prospects? The drawback to having another prospect on the second line is that it would consist of Nikolai Kulemin, Nazem Kadri, and whatever prospect makes the team.
The only prospect that I see playing his way on to the team is Dale Mitchell. Mitchell once said he believes he could be a second liner for the Leafs. Hey Dale, guess where the Leafs have an opening? Go out and take it.
If Mitchell can duplicate what he's been doing for the Windsor Spitfires, and do it with the Maple Leafs as well, I see no problem giving him the spot. It's also definitely cheaper than signing any free agent.
The Maple Leafs offense, led by Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg, is going to have to step it up this season. The young guns such as Kadri and possibly Mitchell are going to have to prove they belong. Burke doesn't plan on missing the playoffs once again, and Leafs Nation seconds that statement.
I'm not going to say it's going to be easy, but with the defense set and the goalie position as strong as we've ever seen it in a while, it's going to be the forwards' jobs to not crumble under the pressure.
It could be a long, hard journey this season, but it's one that the Maple Leafs forwards should be willing to conquer.