Brian Burke, hired Fri Nov 28, 2008, has now had time to put his stamp on the lineup of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
His original blueprint of six skilled players and six plumbers is still an incomplete plan more than two-and-a-half years later going into the free-agency period. Though Burke has commented that he believes the Leafs now have four, possibly five, top-six forwards, the question mark being in my opinion whether Macarthur Clark can repeat his career performance of last year.
The elusive top line, center of attention during this up coming free agency will be whether or not the Leafs will be able to sign Brad Richards.
Every indication is that Richards will not sign with the Leafs as he will certainly ask for a term in excess of five years (which Burke has stated is the maximum he would prefer to sign a player) which seems wise to me considering the fact Richards suffered a serious concussion last season that made him miss 10 games.
As well, it has been widely reported that Richards would prefer to play away from the media attention in a city like Toronto.
But considering the fact the Leafs have not had a top line center since Mats Sundin left Toronto the rules may very well may be broken in an attempt to sign Brad Richards , especially when you consider that Burke was reportedly seriously trying to trade for Mike Richards from Philly, who has a contract of nine years and $51.75 million remaining on his deal.
Really there is no comparable “Plan B" available in July 1 free agency.
Pressure will be on the Leafs to make the playoffs this year, especially considering when other teams in the North East division have already seriously improved their roster, even prior to this years free agency.
Buffalo has added Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik. Ottawa has added Nikita Filatov. Boston will be the reigning Stanley Cup champ, and Montreal just re-signed Markov and is expected to be active during free agency, including the possibility of signing Jaromir Jagr.
Patience has always been a hallmark characteristic of Brain Burke—his acquisition of John-Michael Liles being the latest example of being able to develop a trade over an extended period of time.
This brought to mind that the real Plan “B” or “C” for Burke might be Stephen Weiss, who it was reported he was attempting to acquire last year at the trade deadline. Now that the Leafs' draft picks are no longer in play a deal might be reached for future draft picks and or players.
Through July 1st, the Leafs most likely will acquire two forwards to compliment their existing roster, and a trade might very well blow up the present roster, still I thought an interesting exercise would be to consider what the Leafs might look like in three years, baring any serious surgery to the team to consider the talent pool the Leafs have coming up through their farm system.
So here are two possible looks of the Leafs in three years.
Tyler Biggs Greg McKegg Phil Kessel
Nazem Kadri Mikhail Grabovski Nikolai Kulemin
Brad Ross Joe Colborne Matt Frattin Marcel Mueller Christian Hanson Colby Armstrong
Jerry D'Amigo Brown
Nazem Kadri Joe Colborne Nikolai Kulemin Tyler Biggs Greg McKegg Phil Kessel
Brad Ross Mikhail Grabovski Matt Frattin Marcel Mueller Christian Hanson Colby Armstrong
Jerry D'Amigo Brown