Let's assume the experts are correct and, as the '08-09 trade deadline approaches, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be sitting in roughly 14th place in the East Division.
Atlanta is again having a terrible season as well, despite the best efforts of Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk to carry the team. Atlanta sits 13th overall, just a win or two ahead of the Leafs—and both teams are going to draft high.
However, while Toronto rid themselves of some of their more proven talent prior to the start of the season to kickstart the rebuilding process and get the kids going, Atlanta has hung on to Kovalchuk, hoping the star can single-handedly get them into the playoffs.
But alas, the playoffs are out of the picture—and now Ilya is extremely unhappy and rumors have floated that he will not re-sign with the team in the summer of 2009.
Should the Leafs look to pounce on an opportunity to land one of the best proven young snipers in the game? Or should they stay the course and try to land one of the top four prospects in next summer's draft—a class which includes Tavares, Hedman and the Leafs most recent first-round pick's brother, Brayden Schenn?
Perhaps the Leafs could offer Atlanta their first-round draft pick—giving them a shot at landing two of these young stars—along with a player or two to bring Kovalchuk to Toronto.
Kovalchuk could become the cornerstone the Leafs can build their offence around. Remember. he is only 25 and no one in the league has scored more goals the past six seasons. The Leafs should have the cap space to sign him should any option like this manifest itself.
The season has yet to begin, and who knows what may happen? But as we ponder the "what ifs," I definitely think this is food for thought.