Last week I predicted that Kaberle would not be traded in “In Brian Burke’s Shoes: Keeping Kaberle” article. Since Sunday, I’ve been analyzing Burke’s future plans this upcoming season. From what I’ve thought about, the future looks bright for the blue and white.
In Burke’s attempt to trade Kaberle, though unsuccessful, he is now armed with new knowledge of available players in the market – at least “double digit” of them that include veterans and prospects alike. Of those “serious” offers we have heard about, count on Burke go after those guys by the trade deadline.
Burke’s Secret Weapon: Goaltenders
How exactly is Burke going to get those forwards? The answer lies in the very back-end: Goaltending. Because a decent, young goalie is a rare commodity in the NHL, Burke has the advantage of swapping one of his goal keepers for a forward. In the net Leafs have Giguere, Gustavsson, Rynnas, Scrivens, and Reimer. Burke will continue to monitor the free-agent pool for young talented goaltenders.
Besides Giguere and Gustavsson “the Monster”, I can see Burke trading any of the other goaltenders mid-way through the season if the Leafs are out of playoff position – especially James Reimer. Why Reimer? Because trading Scrivens or Rynnas may hurt Burke’s business integrity. Reimer, on the other hand, was Leaf’s own draft pick - just like Justin Pogge. Rynnas and Scrivens both signed with the Leafs after the Pogge-trade.
The best time to trade a prospect goalie is around midway through the season; at that point NHL top-six forwards will still be available. Near the trade-deadline however, Burke will look no further than J.S. Giguere to make a splash. With playoff picture becoming clearer, playoff-bound teams will be buyers looking to upgrade. Teams like Philadelphia who has unstable goaltending problems will be interested in veteran goaltenders; this is when Burke bids farewell to his faithful J.S. Giguere. Giguere at trade-line should fetch a decent prospect and/or a high draft pick.
Shallow as the kiddie pool is the Leafs front-line. If I’m not mistaken, he and his scouts are studying the free-agent pool everyday. With tremendous amount of cash, expect Burke to pick up a couple of veterans and young talents here and there.
Names? I'm sure you already have some ideas.
We all know Leafs have plenty of those around. Kaberle, Komisarek, Schenn, Gunnarson, Phaneuf, Beauchmin, Finger, and Lebda. Unlike many others, I don’t think Burke will bury Finger in the minors. Instead, I can see Burke putting Schenn or Gunnarson in the minors until he’s hungry and feisty. I won’t get into the nuts and bolts, but I believe Finger is the most under-rated defense on Leafs roster. Like some others have said earlier, Finger is NOT Kessel, he’s not brought in to score goals.
As for the defense line-up on opening night, Burke and Wilson may put players like Mikus and Aulie who have size and skating ability to start the first few weeks. These guys are hyped about playing in the NHL, they’ll deliver high-intensity and energy. Burke will keep his core-defense group, and likely trade those who are in their 30’s: Kaberle, Beauchmin, Finger if a deal comes up.
When I predicted Kaberle won’t be traded by the 15th, I knew this could be a greater plan. The reason Burke was unable to get a “ridiculously awesome” deal for Kaberle is because A. Kaberle didn’t have that great of a year, and B. Kaberle has one year left in his contract. To obtain maximum value for Kaberle, Burke will undoubtedly extend Kaberle’s contract, likely another two years, and pray every night that he won’t get hurt. If you take a look at Kaberle’s stats midway through the season, you’ll find him a very attractive piece for any team in the playoffs. If the Leafs aren’t in the playoff race at the deadline, expect Kaberle to be shipped out. He has a no-trade clause, but that doesn’t guarantee Kaberle won’t be traded. Remember the ‘list’ Kaberle gave last year at the trade deadline?
So there you have it, Burke’s weapon depository. With all those weapons handy, more change will come.