Brian Burke has made some prudent moves over the past number of months, signing some of his key building blocks for the future to fairly reasonable contracts.
Some of the names that fall into this category include James Reimer, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak and to a certain degree, Mike Brown.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, Burke has also saddled his team with overpaid/underperforming players in an effort to improve the team in the long and short term. Players like Joffrey Lupul, Matt Lombardi, Tim Connolly and Dion Phaneuf come to mind.
Any one of these contracts could come back to bite the Leafs' President and General Manager, especially considering that Luke Schenn has yet to resign. When he does, the Leafs will be much closer to the cap.
As a result, Burke may be forced to move one or two of his more affordable parts in an effort to remain cap compliant when it comes to re-signing pending RFA's and UFA's in future years.
For example, next summer alone, Burke will be faced with decisions to re-sign:
RFA's Kulemin, Aulie, Franson, Lashoff and Rosehill
UFA's Grabovski, Liles, Gustavsson, Boyce and Dupuis
As you can see, there are some very important pieces of the puzzle in this list. Many of these players will be due for significant raises.
This article will outline the five most likely candidates for the Leafs to trade by the deadline in the early spring of 2012 so that Burke can continue to move forward with the true core of players that he feels will help bring a Stanley Cup to Toronto for the first time since 1967.
I will not specify possible returns—I will leave this sort of speculation up to you fine folks in the comments section.