NHL Trade Rumors: 15 Deals To Fix the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team in transition. The youngest team in the NHL (to everyone but CBC's Glenn Healy), the Leafs are trying to find their stride. Amidst the turmoil of the transition general manager, Brian Burke is looking at all his options and hopefully has a few deals on the back burner.
Following the holiday roster freeze, many members of Leafs Nation are hoping Burke is saving a big deal for after December 27—when the freeze ends. While Burke hasn't hinted that anything is on the table, the following are 15 different deals/moves that could be available to the rugged GM to help his struggling squad.
Veteran Presence: Jamie Langenbrunner
The captain of the New Jersey Devils, Langenbrunner isn't in the best situation right now. The Devils are sitting at 29th in the league with almost everyone on pace for career worst years, Langenbrunner included. While Lagenbrunner's stock may be falling, another team free of the Devils clear-cut personel problems could be exactly what he needs.
At 35-years-old, the heart-and-soul winger isn't getting any younger. However, a player with his grit, experience, leadership and determination isn't available everyday. Who better to teach Phil Kessel how to go to the tough areas than a fellow American and one of the hardest working players in the NHL.
At 2.8 million, Langenbrunner could be a steal should he pick up his play. Currently on pace for 33 points, the pugnacious winger is in a funk. While this could be due to the wear and tear of 15 years in the League, Ilya Kovalchuk is on pace for just 46 points so clearly there is a problem on the Jersey shore.
The pieces to such as deal could be less costly than many think. Patrik Elias has always wanted to play with Tomas Kaberle, perhaps a deal could be reached to achieve this end. Kaberle for Langenbrunner and maybe a swap of draft picks could be a reasonable return for a defenceman who controls whether he stays or goes.
If all it costs for getting Langenbrunner is Kaberle, I would say picking up a proven leader who lead the USA to the Olympic finals wouldn't be so bad. Add in a swap of some picks and the trade is relatively low risk as Langenbrunner goes UFA this summer.
Addition through Subtraction: Trade Mike Komisarek
When the Leafs signed Mike Komisarek to a five-year $22.5 million deal, they expected to receive an elite shot blocking, dominating shutdown defender. What they received instead was a injury-prone, aging player who is either extremely self-conscious or has little to no hockey I.Q.
After two seasons, Komisarek has an amazing 11 points and +/- of minus-12. In recent games, the slumping defenceman has received only 10 minutes of ice time each game. Hardly the $4.5 million a year stud the Leafs thought they were receiving.
By getting rid of Komisarek, the Leafs would rid themselves of a horrible contract. While it is likely that the Leafs would have to accept one in return, Burke has proven in the past that he is willing to take on higher paid and higher cap hits over shorter terms(See Giguere for Blake).
If the Leafs can somehow find a place for Komisarek, they would be doing him, themselves and the fans a favour.
High Risk, High Reward: Jason Spezza
The Ottawa Senators and Jason Spezza may have had about enough of each other and with Spezza's contract, the Sens may only have one GM willing to deal with them. With four years left after this season at a $7 million dollar cap hit, it's been rumoured that the Sens want to move Spezza, and that Spezza may have even asked for a trade.
On pace for just 46 points, Spezza may want to avoid the boos and leave Canada's capital for good. Though Spezza has a no-trade clause, chances are if the situation is right a deal can be made.
Any deal involving Spezza would have to have the Sens receiving salary back. This gives the Leafs the opportunity to deal either Beauchemin or Komisarek. Burke has proven that he doesn't mind trading within the division, and acquiring Spezza would give the Leafs the talented centre they have been looking for—if he can find his game again.
Reclamation Project: Devin Setoguchi
The San Jose Sharks thought they had the real deal when Devin Setoguchi avoided a sophomore slump by recording 31 goals and 65 points in his second year. Now two seasons removed, Setoguchi's production has fallen.
After a 20-goal season last year, it appears that Setoguchi's production is going to fall even further this year. On pace for 15 goals, Setoguchi has seen his ice time drop with his lack of production. At only 23, Setoguchi still has plenty of time to prove that his 31-goal season wasn't a fluke.
While Setoguchi can still prove to be a top-six talent, with the emergence of Logan Couture, he could become expendable. A RFA July 1, Setoguchi could still receive a larger than deserved pay day due to his 31-goal season. To avoid such a situation, the Sharks could move him.
The Leafs have proven with Clarke MacArthur that for some players a change of scenery and a more prominent role can produce more points. Given Setoguchi's stock is relatively low right now, the Leafs may even be able to acquire him with a combo of mid-to-late draft picks and/or prospects.
A Good Pick Up But at What Cost: Shea Weber
When the Leafs acquired current Captain Dion Phaneuf, Leafs Nation was stunned. If Burke is able to pry Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators, Leaf fans would be even more shocked. An RFA on July 1, the fact that Weber hasn't resigned with Nashville doesn't look good for their chances of keeping the truculent defenceman.
Weber is the epitome of the Burke-style defender; he has a rocket shot and an even more fearsome compete level. Any deal involving Weber will be expensive, but Nashivlle will certainly deal Weber if it appears that he isn't interested in resigning. Though Weber is a RFA, it is fair to assume that the puck is currently on his stick with regards to contract negotiations.
To acquire Weber, the Leafs would first have to ship off either Beauchemin or Komisarek. This combined with clearing Kaberle's cap hit of the books would create the space necessary to resign Weber. The key to this deal is resigning Weber, and this would have to be determined before hand.
Clearly any deal involving Weber would come at a significant cost. Would Leafs Nation accept another loss of a first-round pick and players like Luke Schenn or Nikolai Kulemin being shipped off? And would the loss of these players and other additions be worth it?
Building from Within: Justin Hodgman
The Toronto Maple Leafs may have a player capable of contributing on their top-six forward lines right under their nose. Young Justin Hodgman is in just his first full season of pro hockey and is putting up impressive numbers with 19 points in 27 games this season with the Marlies.
For the Leafs, bringing up Hodgman could provide an offensive spark to the team. It could also provide the Leafs with a possible trading piece to be used in future deals if he proves to be efficient in the big league.
If the Leafs bring up Hodgman, it is really a win-win situation. If Hodgman does well, he could continue with the Leafs or be used as a piece in a future deal. If he plays badly, he can be sent down and will at least have a better understanding of what is needed to play at the highest level.
Decent Value at a Fair Price: Matt Moulson
The New York Islanders are one of the few teams doing worse than the Toronto Maple Leafs. An organization that appears to be based on the principle that they will do whatever appears to be the least expected whether or not it is what most would call "sane," what player wouldn'[t want out.
For Matt Moulson, the dysfunction of Long Island provided the perfect place to establish his ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Coming off 30 goals and 48 points last season, the former journeyman pro is on pace for 30 goals and 46 points this year. At only $2.45 million this season, Moulson will be a UFA come July 1. The Islanders can only assume that after establishing his ability to score he will want out of the tanking organization.
The Leafs have the chance at receiving a 30-goal scorer who is capable of reaching higher if paired with better talent than offered by the Islanders. A pending UFA, Moulson could even be acquired for one of the Leafs veteran defenceman as part of the deal to serve as a veteran presence on a young Islanders team.
Veteran Presence: Brian Rolston
Another player coming from the floundering New Jersey Devils, Brian Rolston is clearly not worth as much as Langenbrunner. Coming off last year with 20 goals and 37 points, Rolston was still contributing even with a diminished role. On pace for an 18-point this season (tied for the worst season of his career), Rolston's stock has plummeted.
The New Jersey Devils even waived Rolston last week in an attempt to see if anyone would claim him. Surprisingly, Rolston still geared up to play for the Devils despite being waived and is currently likely to be put on re-entry waivers. While Rolston may be claimed on re-entry, more than likely Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is attempting to talk people into claiming him using incentives.
By striking a deal with Lamoriello, Leafs GM Brian Burke could claim Rolston on re-entry waivers and in exchange have another deal involving the swap of draft picks (say the Leafs seventh rounder for the Devils third). By claiming Rolston, the Leafs will be clearing $2.5 million directly off the Devils cap and could receive a bit of compensation for it.
In addition, Rolston has only one year left on his contract and could still turn things around to be a serviceable depth scorer. If not the Leafs could always assign him to the Marlies and just eat the cap hit, which shouldn't be too difficult given the space the Leafs will have for the next season.
Reclamation Project: Bryan Little
The Atlanta Thrashers and Bryan Little have had an awkward relationship. Drafted by the Thrashers No.12 in 2006, the Edmonton native has been very inconsistent. A talented scorer, Little's production skyrocketed in his second year from nine goals to 31. Like Setoguchi, Little has followed it up with two years of lower production.
Unlike Setoguchi, he appears to be in somewhat of an resurgence and is on pace for 24 goals this year. While he is currently on pace for 24 goals, the Thrashers may want to put the inconsistent winger on the market to test the waters.
Little has the potential to be a consistent 25-35 goal scorer, given the right situation. In Atlanta, they have a young team with plenty of young talent and prospects that could push Little to a less prominent role. He wouldn't be the first player who needed to be taught the harsh reality of pro hockey by being traded. He also wouldn't be the first to have it make or break their career.
This deal has the potential to be both a great and horrible deal for both the Leafs and Thrashers. If Little does establish himself, the Thrashers would have passed on his talents. Meanwhile, the Leafs could acquire Little and realize he is too inconsistent to be worth the potential package of a roster player plus draft pick/prospect they would have to spend to acquire him.
Addition through Subtraction: Francois Beauchemin
For the Leafs, Francois Beauchemin represents a conundrum. A player capable of being a great No. 3 defenceman, Beauchemin has never been that for the Leafs. Expected to take a leading role with the Leafs, the blue liner has struggled.
Among the league leaders in give-a-ways, Beauchemin can log lots of minutes but can't do so without mistakes. The defender consistently makes passes that put players at risk of being hit hard or passes that are stolen. For many Leaf fans, Beauchemin's inability to pass the puck to the open man/zone is beyond frustrating.
By moving out Beauchemin, the Leafs create space on their blue line to accomodate one of their prospects on the Marlies. Players like Simon Gyspers, Danny Richmond, Juraj Mikus and Mike Brennan all offensive upside at the AHL level and could use a shot at the big league. Though the Leafs may have to receive some money in return for Beauchemin, injuries around the trade deadline could improve the stock of the former Stanley Cup winner.
The Kaberle Kraze: Tomas Kaberle to Vancouver Canucks
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tomas Kaberle are likely to be finished with each other by the end of this season. For Kaberle, a shot at a long-term contract and a Stanley Cup may be enough to lure the life-long Leafer. The Vancouver Canucks could offer Kaberle this exact scenario.
While Kaberle has struggled for the Leafs at times this season, the Czech native has proven that he can thrive among a solid veteran core. For the Canucks, Kaberle represents a piece of the puzzle that could push them close to Lord Stanley.
For both teams, the cap management of such a deal would come into play. Two possible scenarios could involved Andrew Alberts, Kevin Bieska and a second to mid-round pick to Toronto for Kaberle and maybe a late rounder. Or perhaps a deal for winger Mason Raymond that would feature a much stronger package from Toronto.
High Risk, High Reward: Vincent Lecavalier
If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to resign Steven Stamkos and maintain some cap flexibility, Vincent Lecavalier may be the odd man out. With a huge cap hit of more than $7.7 million a year until 2020, Lecavalier's contract is an albatross.
Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Lecavalier's stock is very, very low. However, Burke is willing to take on salary if he thinks it can improve his team. If the gritty and talented player can stay healthy, he could be the solution for the Leafs down the middle.
At this point in his career, Lecavalier doesn't appear to be able to produce like he once did. For a player who should be in his prime, this is clearly a warning sign. For the Leafs, perhaps moving him from the comfort of warm Florida and more to the climate in which he grew up could provide the spark for him to rejuvenate his career. If that is possible, the Leafs could win big. If it doesn't pay off, it could also mark the end of Burke's tenure as GM.
Reclamation Project: Peter Mueller
The former Phoenix Coyote and current member of the Colorado Avalanche, Peter Mueller has the potential to be a great player. The ability to play both centre and wing, Mueller had a breakout rookie campaign that saw him score 22 goals for 54 points.
Since then, the young American has been plagued by inconsistent play and injuries. Having suffered his third concussion of his short NHL career, Mueller is expected to be back in the Avs lineup sometime in the new year. However, whether Mueller will be the player who scored 20 points in 15 games for the Avs last year or the 17-point player in 54 games for the Coyotes is anyone's guess.
By acquiring Mueller the Leafs would pick up fomer 22-goal scorer and a potential 25-30 goal scorer who can play wing or centre. Though Mueller has suffered three concussions while in the NHL, with Colton Orr, Dion Phaneuf, Colby Armstrong and Mike Brown supporting him—players may be more wary of hitting Mueller. Given his injury history, the Leafs may be able to acquire Mueller for the right combination of prospects and picks.
Decent Value at a Fair Price: Ian White
Ian White was coming off a career year that saw him score 38 points and finish plus-eight. In less than a year, White has been traded twice. For the Carolina Hurricanes, White may be made available should they start to fade in the playoff race. Unfortunately for Carolina, White's value is relatively low right now, and many teams may not even want to take the chance, even for a rental.
For the Leafs reacquiring, White may help replace the void left by Kaberle should he leave the Toronto Maple Leafs. At just 28-years-old, White is capable of putting up 30-40 points at anywhere from $2.5-3 million a year.He has already had success in Toronto, and if the Leafs managed to pick him back up, the Phaneuf trade would be even more one-sided.
Mr. Popularity: Brad Richards
The Dallas Stars will do everything in their power to resign their top centre, Brad Richards. Unfortunately for the Stars, due to their ownership situation, they may not be able to lock up the star centre. What's their loss, is another's gain.
If the Stars cannot reach an agreement with Richards, they will certainly move him before the deadline, if they are not in a playoff position. If they are, they will have to decide whether to use him to build for the future or focus on the here and now.
Like Weber, any deal for Richards will cost a significant amount. The deal would also have to ensure that Richards resigns in Toronto, not an easy thing to be certain of. For the Leafs to make this deal possible, all the cards would have to be on the table. The question becomes at what point does trading away their core group become worth one player? And could they just wait until UFA? But if they do and Richards goes elsewhere, will there be any other options?