Yesterday, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke dealt veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks for defensive prospect Jake Gardiner, a conditional fourth round draft pick in 2013 and the apple of Burke’s eye, Joffrey Lupul.
Lupul, who has battled back problems and a serious blood infection over the past two seasons, has three 20 goal seasons to his name, scoring 28 goals in 2005-06, 20 in 2007-08 and 25 in 2008-09, respectively.
In Gardiner, Burke got a converted forward who is known for his quick outlet passes, puck control and skating ability. All in all, Gardiner is regarded as a tremendous prospect who may very well emerge as a top four defenseman in a few years.
At yesterday’s press conference, Burke said he was not done dealing and while he was non-committal about the number of trades he would be making, he gave every indication that the Maple Leafs will be sellers and that no reasonable deal will go without being given every consideration.
Burke also reiterated the fact that he sees his squad getting younger, pointing to defensive prospect Keith Aulie being summoned back to the big club “as soon as a roster spot was made available.”
Early speculation has veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle on the move, but we have all lived through about a dozen Kaberle rumors, so I’ll try to resist rehashing things.
Outside of Kaberle—who could bring a handsome return if he was willing to waive his pesky no-trade clause—Burke has a number of players he could deal, starting with the likes of goaltender J.S. Giguere.
Giguere (who recently stated he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause) could be a valuable addition to a Stanley Cup contending team—insurance in case their starting goaltender faltered or succumb to injuries.
While it is unsure what Giguere would garner in return, it appears as if Burke is gunning for draft picks and prospects, which is a reasonable return for a player that has won a Stanley Cup in the past and has a good reputation both on and off the ice.
Leadership, experience and a good working relationship with his understudies are all valuable attributes in a rental goalie. Contending teams love bringing in a proven winner, but they are also aware of the fact that they do not want to disrupt their team chemistry—something Giguere has proven he will not do.
Other unrestricted free agents include Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent and Joey Crabb. Sjostrom may garner some interest as a defensive specialist, as may Brent, but don’t expect either player to bring back a huge return.
Crabb (a career AHL player) would be tough to deal and will likely be re-signed by Burke as an insurance player, remaining in the AHL as a member of the Toronto Marlies with the odd call-up presenting itself, should the big club need a depth player.
Burke, who traded for Versteeg this summer, may be inclined to trade the speedy winger, but don’t expect him to give him away for free—a roster player would have to be coming back the other way, or a serious prospect and/or draft picks.
MacArthur has enjoyed huge success in Toronto, teaming up with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin for a combined 59 goals and 125 points through 161 games (combined), which equates to one of the better second lines in the entire NHL.
On the surafce, it would appear to be suicide for Burke to mess with the chemistry this trio has enjoyed this season, but given head coach Ron Wilson’s recent penchant for separating this potent line, anything is possible.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson could also find himself on the trading block, but given his sub-par performance this year and recent news that he suffered another heart ailment, the likelihood of him being moved is very slim.
Rest assured Luke Schenn isn’t going anywhere. Look for Burke to sign the youngster to a long-term deal this summer, keeping the pending restricted free agent off the market.
All in all, unless Burke is blown away by an offer, he will not be moving any key pieces to the puzzle.
Of course, no player is untradeable, but with Burke getting closer and closer to assembling the four lines he had set out to bring to Toronto, it is unlikely any big changes are on the horizon.
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