Could The Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Thrashers Be Close To a Deal?
While taking in the Leafs vs. Sabres game on Friday night, Pierre Lebrun of ESPN.com tweeted:
"Chatted with Atlanta GM Rick Dudley who's here tonight. Still scouts a lot. Says when he trades for a player, wants to have seen him in person."
This tweet could possibly mean that Rick Dudley has his sights set on a player or players on the Buffalo or Toronto roster.
Seeing as how the holiday roster freeze is quickly approaching, I would assume many general managers are interested in making a move or two in the near future to shake up their underachieving rosters. Brian Burke would most definitely fall into this category, as would Darcy Regier, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.
Atlanta has been nothing short of an offensive juggernaut so far in this young season, scoring 80 goals in 25 games, which is good for fifth best in the NHL. Not many hockey analysts saw this coming, and now Atlanta is most likely one of the first teams other general managers look to for offensive help.
The Thrashers are currently the team the Leafs strive to be: full of youth, size, toughness and skill. I'm sure many players on the Thrashers roster would appeal to Burke and would fit in nicely with the current blueprint of the teams reconstruction.
As with almost all NHL teams, there are always "untouchable" players who their respective general managers refuse to trade unless they are absolutely blown away by a massive overpayment.
In my opinion, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd are the core of the Thrashers and are currently considered untouchable to Rick Dudley.
The players left that Brian Burke would have interest in include:
Anthony Stewart: 6'2", 235 pounds (7 Goals, 14 Points)
Rich Peverley: 6'0", 200 pounds (6 Goals, 16 Points)
Niclas Bergfors: 6'0", 200 pounds (6 Goals, 16 Points)
Bryan Little: 5'11", 185 pounds (4 Goals, 9 Points)
Bryan Little typically plays the centre position, and in my opinion, would not be a significant upgrade over the Leafs current centres. He also does not address the current lack of size in the Leafs top six forward group.
I think Rich Peverlely would be an option, although he isn't exactly the impact player Phil Kessel needs to reach his potential.
Niclas Bergfors would be a great addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, with Bergfors able to step right into the Leafs top six. He may also be part of the core I mentioned above, although for the right price Dudley may be willing to part ways with the speedy young winger.
He doesn't seem to fit into the gritty blueprint of the Thrashers and could be the odd man out if Dudley is looking to improve his defensive core. A package centered around one of the many talented Leafs defensive prospects may be a start.
Anthony Stewart would also fit nicely with the Leafs, mainly due to his willingness to play around the crease and punish players along the boards.
This budding power forward is the older brother of Chris Stewart, the dominant force that is primarily responsible for the Colorado Avalanche's recent success. Anthony is slowly turning into the player that Chris is, and he's currently experiencing a breakout season while playing on a line with Evander Kane and Bryan Little.
Stewart is showing that he can be effective if surrounded by the right players and given the ice time. He would be given every opportunity to succeed in Toronto due to the lack of size in the top-six forward group and the apparent unwillingness of these players to pay the price in front of the net.
Stewart would not have such a high price tag as the other forwards mentioned above, mainly due to the fact that his current offensive production is considered uncharacteristic when compared to his previous professional seasons.
I am one Maple Leafs fan that believes one trade could make the Leafs a more competitive team, especially if the player brought in has size and a willingness to make the front of the net his office. This would hopefully improve the power play and give the Leafs a dimension they currently lack.
Hopefully Brian Burke can bring in a player such as this to keep the hopes of playoff hockey alive.
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