The date is Jan. 17, 2010, and we are currently 43 days away from the NHL Trade Deadline. A time many hockey fans admire and wait for year round. Media coverage spikes around this time every year, majorly due to on-line sites such as this and others like it. A very large chunk of that coverage is following the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team I have been a fan of since I can remember.
Now, to the point.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently 26th in the NHL league standings and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The odds of the Maple Leafs squeezing in the playoffs in the next 38 games look pretty grim. They would most likely need to be sitting around 90 points to limp in. So they would need to win around 23/24 more games and also have a couple OT losses. Safe to go out on a limb here and say highly probable.
Bad for the Leafs, good for Boston... Haha had to say it! (I'm a Leafs fan don't forget!)
Now since Mr. Brian Burke took over the helm of the Leafs, he's brought quite a few players into the fold. Not to mention he's probably sent the same amount of players packing. I don't need to get into specifics here since most of us already know who. But it really looks like the Leafs are on a twisty road with no sense of direction.
We Leaf fans need a path. And in my mind there's only one path to take and that's to "rebuild". The path to the Cup can only be reached by taking the long way around. Sorry Burkie.
So with the trade deadline approaching here's nine deals to help us two-to-four years from now
(trying to be as realistic as possible here).
To The Maple Leafs: Blake Wheeler and a 2012 3rd-round pick
To The Boston Bruins: Tomas Kaberle
There have been numerous rumours about Leafs GM Brian Burke wanting to aquire RW Blake Wheeler and Boston wanting Kaberle. I feel this trade would work for both parties and would be a fair trade.
With Wheeler at 6'5 205lbs, the Leafs almost instantly get the size up front Brian Burke covets.
For the first half of the season the Leafs have lacked a big man to stand in front of the net on the PP. This would not be the case anymore. Not to mention the kid is only 24 years old and makes $2.2 million per season. Although he is a RFA, at the end of the season I don't see it to be a problem. Surely Burke would be able to re-sign him for around the same or less.
Finally the Bruins get their hands on Mr. Tomas Kaberle they have long yearned for. With the addition of Kaberle you have to seriously consider Boston to be a top-four contender in the NHL (especially with Timmy Thomas in net). One might say with asurity that the Bruins Powerplay would jump from 20th to probably around 10th or so. They would definitely have a lot of options and more plays. Also with Kabby's outlet pass five-v-five has to improve as well, offensively.
If Brian Burke had this deal on the table, I truly believe he should swallow his pride and ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause. It's a win-win situation. Both are F/A's at the end of season. But Wheeler is only RFA, so the Leafs would have control. Kaberle wants to stay in the eastern conference so here's his chance with a contender.
Toronto Maple Leafs acquire: RW Steve Downie, 2011 1st-round pick
Tampa Bay Lightning acquire : D Francois Beauchamin, D Carl Gunnarsson and 2011 7th round pick.
In 2010 Steve Downie had 22 goals with 46 assists. This year has been a differant story for the 23-year-old Downie which has seen him amass 18 points (3 Goals,15 Assists) over 30 games. If there's a time to go after Downie, that time would be now as his value has lowered. Even so, the Tampa Bay Lightning look poised to make a cup run this year as they are a much improved team. They are sitting 2nd overall in the Easter Conference with 57 points. Which leads me to believe that they need to bring someone into the fold to help with those cup aspirations.
With Beauchemin and Gunnarsson going the other way, not only does the Lightning recieve depth but some much needed experience as well. Beauch has shown he is a very realiable defender come playoff time, which would be a asset to any playoff team. Gunnarsson has a lot of poise with the puck as he brings a calm demeanor to the back end. Most likely be squeezed into the No. 6 spot. That would definitely be a pretty good defence group for the Lightning.
Mr. Burke would love to get his hands on Downie, as he plays a rough-and-tumble game that Burke craves. It would cost both clubs a hefty price to do bussiness as Gunnarsson has a lot of potential as well, but the Leafs get that 2011 1st-round pick we are without due to the Kessel trade. Not Complaining! Not to mention the Leafs have a lot of defensive depth and it probably wouldn't hurt to bring up a couple guys.
Maple Leafs Aqcuire: prospect (C) Patrice Cormier and 2011 2nd round pick
Thrashers Aqcuire: (LW) Kris Versteeg and 2011 5th round pick.
What an exciting season it has been for the Atlanta Thrashers. Led by Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, two former castoffs from the 2010 Stanley Cup winners the Chicago Blackhawks. They surely look poised to make the playoffs. What better way to ensure that by bringing another former Blackhawk in the mix, LW Kris Versteeg. It seems to be paying off for Atlanta so why not add to it. The Thrashers would need to throw in a 2nd-round pick due to the fact Patrice Cormier is not a proven player like Versteeg. Versteeg has made it to and won the Grand Daddy of the hockey world. Versteeg is only 24, so it's not like they are getting an old rental player.
The Leafs need to stock up on as many draft picks and prospects as they can. There's only one proven way to build a winning team, and that would be rebuild from the ground up. Toronto really only has two untouchables which include center Nazem Kadri and defenceman Luke Schenn. As it looks right now I WOULD NOT tinker with the Grabovski line either. Getting Cormier would definatly be a risk. But at only 20 years old, he has a lot of time to grow and improve. Should be performing well when the Leafs would be ready to make the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs Aqcuire: Prospect (D) Stefan Elliot
Colorado Avalanche Aqcuire: G Jean-Sebastien Gigure and 2012 3rd-round pick.
This deal is exactly the way it looks, a veteran rental goalie with a great deal of experience and accomplishments. The Avalanche have around $12 million in cap space so it wont hurt them financially. Plus Giguere is off the books Jul. 1st.
The Avalanche goaltending has not even come close to last year's great surprise. If they wish to even make the playoffs in the extremely tight Western Conference, they will need some veteren support.
Stefan Elliot (age 19) is projected to be an offensive defenceman in the NHL. Currently playing for the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL. Elliot has been tearing it up as he has 20 goals and 49 points in 44 games thus far. Sure the Leafs have a lot of defensive prospects, but none with this skill-set or potential. With Kaberle set to be on another team come the 2011/2012 season this would replace him in one-to-two years. Great offensive rushing defenseman, but also has a wicked shot. Perhaps he can hit the net...Cough* Phaneuf Cough*
Maple Leafs Aqcuire: RW Wayne Simmonds
Los Angeles Kings Aqcuire: D Francois Beauchemin and LW Jay Rosehill
Hmmm Wayne Simmonds. If only Burke can pry him from the Kings. Before this season no fan with hockey IQ believed Simmonds to be available. But as for now it looks like quite the opposite. Beauchemin and Rosehill would bring a lot more "Jam" to the Kings and as I stated before, Beauch would instill a vetern presence on the backend.
Simmonds to the Leafs .Nuff said. It's been discussed over and over.
Now as much as Burke does not want to admit that his plan was wrong, he sure won't say it was right either. I believe every Leafs fan out there has finally accepted that we need a true re-build, not this one-to-two year crap without draft picks but a three-to-four year plan with every draft pick intact and plus some. Not once did I state these trades would happen, just kindly stating its possible. The cupboard isn't bare. We do have a few solid prospects, but I still think we are miles away from having enough high-end prospects to be considered a "Future Contender." We have our draft picks for 2012 and up so if we are going to re-build, let's start immediately.
Till' Next Time!!