Brian Burke can be said as one of the most active GM's with the media
Despite going through a rather successful road trip recently among various offensive outbursts this season, it is still quite gloomy and dark in the city of Toronto, with no apparent bright light ahead. The team has had yet another disappointing season to this point, sitting below .500 and being 10 points out of a playoff spot just after the midway mark of the NHL's season.
Now, with Brian Burke being his usual stubborn self (at least in front of open doors), he continues to reiterate that he still thinks this Maple Leaf team can qualify for the postseason. Can they still do it? Sure, technically every NHL team still has a shot at making the final 16. Is it likely? No. In fact at this point, it is very unlikely.
Despite being very positive with the media and in public, Burke has to know that this team is in shambles and in no position to even fight for a playoff spot. He does know this; it's too clear-cut and obvious not to notice the poor shape this team is still in. So, going into this year's trade deadline you can surely expect Burke to be one of the most active GMs on either side of the table, as a seller or buyer.
With that, let's take a look at five names on the Maple Leafs squad that could be part of selling or buying deals come February 28. Some of the players will be dealt only if the team enters a complete rebuild, while others could be part of a bigger package to land some coveted needs for the Leafs. So, here we go.
Kris Versteeg was never thought to be trade bait by Burke and Co., until of course his name broke in a trade offer that reportedly "made the Leafs step back and think for a second."
Since then, Versteeg's name has been an active commodity in regards of trade rumors, being linked to teams such as Vancouver, Florida, and Atlanta. Should he be dealt, it's likely he won't be had cheap, mainly because of his value to the team—a 24-year-old, 25-goal scorer. His asking price will likely be in the range of a mid-level prospect plus a second or first rounder, depending on where the team trading for him sits in the standings.
Versteeg can do what not many current Leafs can do consistently: score. Versteeg is on pace for career highs in all three categories (23 G, 38 A, 61 P), and should injuries stay out of the way there is no reason why he shouldn't continue his pace.
Scoring such points would put Versteeg in a small group of Leafs who have scored 60-plus points since the lockout, a rare commodity for the Leafs nowadays. Versteeg is always what can be called a workhorse for the Maple Leafs, another asset that is highly valued by Burke and Wilson. Versteeg can work on all special teams units as well as play all three forward positions.
It's evident that Versteeg is a very important piece to this year's Maple Leafs' squad, which begs the question: Why even consider trading him? Well, the exact reason that tells us he won't get dealt is the exact same reason why they might trade him. He is having the best season of his short career and isn't showing any wear and tear signs of playing almost 25 minutes a night, leading many to believe he could achieve even higher than 61 points.
Potential trade suitors - Atlanta, Florida, Vancouver
Only way "Verbeauty" gets dealt is if the team starts a fire sale. Otherwise, he's in the long haul as a Maple Leaf. Should the Leafs start this fire sale, here's what will most likely happen.
Most likely trade completed - With Atlanta, in exchange for one of Atlanta's better prospects and a middle draft pick.
Mikhail Grabovski peforms his exciting shootout goal vs. Ty Conklin of the St. Louis Blues
Coming into the 2010-2011 campaign, would you have believed me if I told you that Mikhail Grabovski was going to score 34 goals and 66 points? Well, that's what he's on pace for and isn't showing any slowing signs. The Belorussian pivot has been at his best this season, finding something that slowed him down during the first four years of his career in the NHL: consistency.
The center has been, undoubtedly and with no contention, the Maple Leafs' best player this season, and exactly because of that he might get traded. And this is all coming from a player who was said to be one of the worst centers in the NHL.
You'll find a trend among the Leafs' trade commodities: they're either all going to be on the market or they're all not. Grabovski is no exception. However, from going from being projected as one of the worst pivots in the league to one of the better centers is an exceptional and rare jump, which has obviously helped catapult his once ever-so low value. Burke will also have an additional amount of leverage in any deal involving Grabovski because of the rarity of a 30-goal scorer going on the market.
Grabovski is having too big a season for the Maple Leafs for them to just "dump" him for prospects and picks. Burke has made it known he is not interested in that type of deal for anyone, and Grabovski is again no exception. His season has been too valuable to the Leafs for them to complete a trade like that. The only way Grabovski is dealt is if he's part of a bigger package to land the Leafs their much-coveted top-line center.
Potential trade suitors: Dallas, Nashville, Washington
Dallas is on a budget and could look to shed some salary while remaining competitive, while Washington seems to have forgotten how to score all of a sudden. Nashville just seems like a fit to me after seeing them acquire riskier players like Sergei Kostitsyn and Matthew Lombardi over the offseason.
Most likely trade completed: With Washington, more than likely involved in a deal for Alexander Semin.
Clarke MacArthur was a bargain UFA signing
Being awarded a perhaps unfair amount at the time in $2.4 million from arbitrator, Clarke MacArthur was denied arbitration from the Atlanta Thrashers in the offseason, a move which Brian Burke is perhaps kissing the hockey Gods' feet for.
MacArthur signed for a measly million close to training camp, and he earned that million perhaps just five games into the season when he already scored his seventh of the season. Though his absolutely nuts scoring pace at the start of the season has drastically slowed down, he's continued to produce in other categories. He could be seen as the catalyst behind Mikhail Grabovski's goal streak, racking up 23 helpers on the season already.
MacArthur, besides producing offensively, has also been one the Leafs' better defensive players as well. He has shown some true grit, and heart and soul this season, all traits that have been invaluable to the Maple Leafs. MacArthur's season has been one to remember, which brings up the question whether or not he'll be able to repeat or even come close to what he has done this year.
MacArthur has shown some real skill and talent this season, something that isn't easily taught. Mixed in with his invaluable traits mentioned above, he'll be a valued commodity by numerous teams this deadline, even more valued than he is to the Leafs.
With the bevy of offers sure to come in for the winger, adding to the fact is that MacArthur is just another name on too long a list of third-liners turned top-six forwards playing for the Leafs. Will he able to compete at this type of level again next season? Who knows? We do know that his value will never get higher than this, and trading him is just the logical thing to do.
Potential trade suitors: Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Boston
Pittsburgh has been in search for Sidney Crosby's winger since he entered the league, to no avail. MacArthur will surely not be that man, but he will be another band-aid at a spot that will never be able to be filled properly until the Pens shed some salary. Boston has been known to be looking for a scoring winger since mid-November, and MacArthur could fit that bill.
Most likely trade completed: With Pittsburgh, for one of Eric Tangradi or Mark Letestu.
JS Giguere has many intangibles that are highly valued on contending teams
Giguere hasn't been at his very best this season, but he has provided exactly what the Leafs wanted from him: mentoring for the Leafs' younger goalies. He has been great on this Leafs team, and could do the same of what he's doing here on a team that might need it more.
Giguere's repertoire of a Conn Smythe trophy, two Cup appearances—one of which he won in—and knack for performing in the playoffs are all intangibles of a veteran, winning goaltender. Many teams could use that time of resume between the pipes.
Giguere's stat line hasn't been too bad either, as he's posted a 2.69 GAA and .900 SP so far. Giguere has been consistent as well in his time in the blue ice, which is yet another intangible teams may want for their younger goaltenders. One thing going against him is the injury woes he's faced this season, missing six weeks with groin issues. However, the injuries have been minor and he has been out much more than needed due to the recent emergence of James Reimer.
Giguere has known value to the Maple Leafs, but his age and cap hit are contributing factors on why he will most likely be dealt.
Potential trade suitors: Washington, Ottawa
Washington have been noted to be interested in Giguere before, and should he be dealt Washington is most likely where he'll get dealt. Ottawa makes sense because the injury woes there, but it's unlikely he'll get traded to a division rival.
Most likely trade completed: With Washington, in a package with Mikhail Grabovski for Alexander Semin and picks.
Other than turnovers, Beauchemin's overall defensive game has been sound
Francois Beauchemin has had his name appear in the trade mill the most among Leafs players over the last few weeks, and perhaps surprisingly. His contract isn't too long and his cap hit isn't outrageous, but he has been just God-awful on both ends of the ice this season. He's on pace for under 20 points and is a turnover machine. It's actually quite surprising on how his plus/minus is only minus-3 to this point.
However, Beauchemin has been a known presence off the ice, helping the young Dion Phaneuf lead the team from the back end. These are traits not taught individually, but learned by the self over time when in the league and Beauchemin has learned them, evident by the "A" on his sweater. Beauchemin has also not had a problem moving the puck, as his first pass from the defensive zone has been solid and consistent this year.
He's also had a history of doing well in non-hockey market teams, so a return to a low-key location could be key in rejuvenating his career.
Potential trade suitors: Columbus, Washington, Los Angeles
Columbus is in need for a veteran presence on the back end after the departure of Mike Commodore, while the Scott Hannan experiment in D.C. hasn't worked out as planned. Los Angeles looks to be fighting to stay in the playoff picture and could use a veteran on a very young, inexperienced team.
Most likely trade completed: With Los Angeles, packaged for one the Kings' younger wingers in Simmonds or Parse. Potentially part of a mega-deal for Brayden Schenn, including other names on this list.
Dion Phaneuf was last year's Maple Leafs trade mark at the deadline
You can expect Burke to be one of more active general managers in the league come February 28. He has some real assets to deal with aside from Tomas Kaberle for once and you can expect he will take advantage.
Names like Mikhail Grabovski and Kris Versteeg he won't trade unless he's blown away because of their age and production. Guys like Beauchemin, Giguere, or MacArthur he will because of their intangibles they bring to a contending, young team. You can surely expect Burke to do everything in his power to drastically improve the Maple Leafs and prime them for a postseason run, but don't expect anything too big in today's tight economy and tight salary cap world.