My previous post was in regards to acquiring the best available free agent to fill the No. 1 center position for the Leafs. My logic being that acquiring a center to feed Kessel is the No. 1 priority for the Leafs, and this position should be filled by signing a free agent. Given that there is only one real No. 1 center available in this year’s free agents talent pool (Richards), signing the top available player to fill the No. 1 center slot maybe the best option for the 2011-2012 Leafs, as it would not necessitate blowing apart last year’s roster to fill the Leafs obvious whole in their lineup. Remember that continuity is important in a team and is a standard element in all top contending teams. This still seems to me the Leafs best option.
In the new NHL, teams have been locking up their stars to no trade long term contracts, which have reduced the amount star players available in recent years. The wild card to me would seem to be that drafted stars coming off their entry level contracts may have some strong opinion to where they wish to play out their NHL careers before they sign a long-term deal. This would seem to be perhaps the only time when a star player may perhaps decide which city and franchise he will play for the duration of his career.
Few players have been as outspoken about which franchise they wished to play for than Eric Lindros, and in Aug 11 2005, Eric signed with the Leafs. The Leafs have had great success in signing college players and for many players who have grown up in Ontario, the Leafs maybe considered the top choice as a franchise to play for. Having said that, Tampa Bay has just come off a very successful playoff run and have a very promising future in front of the franchise guided by Steve Yzerman, so it is hard to believe anyone would want to leave Tampa any time soon.
Upon reading two posts in Hockey Buzz by Eklund, he quoted inside sources stating Stamkos wishes to become a Leaf. This made me think about what would a Grand Slam be for Burke, and furthermore, what it would take to acquire arguably the best up-and-coming center in the NHL. Previously, I dismissed the possibility that Burke would send an offer sheet for Stamkos or any RFA for that matter without first trying to work out a deal with Tampa Bay.
Prospects just don’t have the same value as roster players, and the reality is that there are few roster players on the Leafs the Tampa bay Lightning would really covet. The Leafs rebuild blueprint is to develop young prospects, so emptying the cupboard of their top prospects just doesn’t make sense to me, even to acquire a top line NHL star. If you want to sell high, then instead of dumping players like Bozak after they have poor years—which would yield poor return—it makes more sense to trade Grabbo, MacArthur and Kulemin after they have career years. Sending the complete very successful second line of the Leafs could tweak Tampa Bay’s interest and would represent fair trade value for Steve Stamkos.
Stamkos to Leafs for Kulemin, Grabbo and Clarke MacArthur.
Lupul, Stamkos, Kessel
Kadri, Bozak FA
Armstrong, Brent, Crabb
Of course second, third and fourth lines could be upgraded in any number of ways, but what I’m assuming is that by playoff time, Colborne and Frattin will be up with the Leafs, and there is any number of free agents available to add depth to the opening day roster. Furthermore, adding Stamkos would in no way restrict the Leafs from signing Richards as a No. 2 center, which would give the Leafs one of the best one-two depths at the center position.
Though this would represent blowing up last years roster, it would essentially replace the strength the Leafs presently possess on their second line with a bona fide NHL first line. This would open up competition for the rest of the roster for which Leafs may have several appropriate players in their prospect pipeline, or it may much more easily acquire through trade or free agency than a No. 1 center.