With the trade deadline less than four weeks away, Brian Burke will be looking for deals to improve the Toronto Maple Leafs' top-six forward group.
The current top line of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin have been a pleasant surprise. Still, it is unrealistic to expect this line to produce on a nightly basis.
The line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joey Crabb has been decent at times, but I think we can all agree that Kessel needs more skilled help to take his play to the next level.
I decided to go through the rosters of teams who I think will be active during the days leading up to the trade deadline. I'm certain that Burke has been kicking tires with teams such as the Sharks, Panthers, Blue Jackets and Thrashers—teams who will be looking to upgrade their rosters for a late playoff push or simply to build for the future.
It is unrealistic to expect Burke to pull off a trade for a top NHL forward without a first round pick or other top-end assets (i.e., blue chip prospects, expendable skilled talent). So I think Burke should target young, underachieving players who could benefit from increased ice time.
These types of players are easier to acquire—and eliminate the need to compromise the future of the franchise.
Before I get into the three deals, please note that these are strictly my personal opinions and are not sourced rumors of any kind. With that in mind, here are three deals I think could improve the Leafs top six forward group:
To Toronto: David Booth
To Florida: Kris Versteeg, Jussi Rynnas, 2012 Third-Round Pick
This deal would give the Leafs the skilled left winger with size they desperately need and the rebuilding Panthers acquire a younger more versatile forward in Kris Versteeg.
Versteeg does not have the scoring ability of Booth, so giving them a solid goalie prospect and a pick would even things out in my opinion.
Ben Scrivens is showing he is a capable professional goaltender, so losing Jussi Rynnas would not hurt the franchise.
Nazem Kadri would benefit from taking Versteeg's place on the third line wing, having the ability to develop at a more gradual pace while learning the defensive side of the game.
If Burke wishes to keep Kadri in the minors for the rest of the season, Crabb would slot into this spot.
To Toronto: Derick Brassard
To Columbus: Clarke MacArthur and Kenny Ryan
It may be tough to get the Blue Jackets' first line centre, although he has not developed at the pace they would have wished. With the recent drafting of top prospect Ryan Johansen with the fourth overall pick in 2010, Columbus may consider moving Brassard for the right price.
Clarke MacArthur is having a career year and would fit in nicely with the Blue Jackets' blueprint. He's always had the ability to be a top six forward in the NHL; he's just now showing it with the opportunity Ron Wilson has presented to him.
I understand that it might be a big mistake to break up the Grabovski, MacArthur, Kulemin line, but this could be a fantastic opportunity to sell high on a player that didn't cost the Leafs anything but salary.
Brassard would upgrade the Leafs roster at the centre position, and would allow Tyler Bozak to assume the third line role that he is much more suited for.
To Toronto: Devin Setoguchi
To San Jose: Francois Beauchemin
I know, I know, this deal has been proposed to death. I still think it could help both teams and does seem like fair value.
Neither player seems to be able to perform to the best of their abilities with their current teams, so this deal could prove to be a win-win situation for both clubs.
If Burke was able to land these players, the roster would look something like this:
Booth - Brassard - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - Setoguchi
Kadri - Bozak - Armstrong
Orr - Brent - Brown
Phaneuf - Schenn
Kaberle - Aulie
Komisarek - Gunnarsson
Of course it would be difficult for Burke to pull off all three of the above trades, especially in today's salary cap system.
Hopefully Burke will be able to shake the roster up before the trade deadline and put a more entertaining team on the ice.
I would like to hear your thoughts on these potential deals, and if you think these are the type of players Burke should target within the next month.