Toronto Maple Leafs: Buy or Sell at the Trade Deadline?

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on December 6, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The National Hockey League's trade deadline is just eight weeks away, meaning it's time to start looking at which teams will be buyers and which teams will be sellers.

Generally, any team below 11th in their conference enters trade deadline day as what people would call a seller. That is a team who is more interested in trading away their top assets in exchange for draft picks and prospects rather than be a team that acquires assets to help mount a playoff run.

Going into the 2010-2011 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs had high expectations. Many players, fans and members of the media thought the Maple Leafs finally had what it takes to make the playoffs: confidence, offensive ability (which they still lacked somewhat), grit, defence and goaltending.

After a hot start to the season, it turned out that the Maple Leafs didn't have what it takes to remain a good team. Whether they can make the playoffs or not has yet to be seen, although it looks very unlikely at this point.

However, the Maple Leafs have won five of their last six games, five straight road games, four straight games overall, and are starting to show signs of life. With talented young prospects waiting in the wings, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke might be willing to acquire a proven veteran forward who has only a year or two remaining on his contract.

What do the talented young prospects have to do with this you ask? Simple. Players like Nazem Kadri and Luke Schenn are those who interest teams in giving up big parts of their current team for a good future.

Although that sounds great, it isn't.

In 17 games this season, Kadri has seven points, all of which are assists. His minus-four rating is decent, considering he is a high first-round draft pick with huge expectations entering Toronto.

Schenn, meanwhile, has nine goals and 31 assists to go along with a minus-12 rating in 191 career games. After a roller-coaster season in 2009-2010, Schenn has arguably been one of the Maple Leafs' best defenceman this season.

Clearly, those are players who you cannot just be throwing away.

So what about other players like Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek? Kaberle, Beachemin and Komisarek have a clause in their contract that allows them to decided where they are traded, meaning trading them would be extremely difficult.

That leaves us with Grabovski, who is on pace to set career high in goals, assists and points. There is no question he has been one of the Maple Leafs' most consistent and hottest goal scorers this season.

With that being said, would the Maple Leafs actually be willing to trade him? Well, if they are offered a trade they cannot resist...sure, but they certainly shouldn't be shopping him.

For a team that sits in the bottom 10 in the league when it comes to goals for, trading your second-highest point scorer might not be such a good idea. If the Maple Leafs somehow end up in the bottom three in the Eastern Conference, however, they might be willing to do so.

Whether the Maple Leafs are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline depends on two things: what players with no-trade and no-movement clauses say, and where they are in the standings. With over a month to go before the trade deadline, it's still hard to say which category they will fall under.

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