Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke's In, but Who's Out???
It's been over 48 hours since the big announcement of Brian Burke's arrival, and I already find myself waiting with bated breath for the first transaction to occur.
So, what will that first move be? Will it be big? Will it be small? I guess we'll just have to wait and see, but I couldn't help but let my mind wander today.
Here's a look at the current roster and what may happen in the months to come.
35- Vesa Toskala- Two weeks ago, I would have said that Toskala better pack his bags, but in the past two games he has been nothing short of spectacular! I think he is the Leafs' starting goalie until he plays his way out of that position.
31- Curtis Joseph- Curtis has been horrible in most of his starts this season. Burke will give him the benefit of the doubt and at least a couple more starts before deciding his fate. Cap space is not a problem for this team though, and Burke will not hesitate to get someone else especially if Toskala finds himself struggling this season. Curtis will be offered a position with the organization though, which will soften the situation if it happens.
15- Thomas Kaberle- With a no-trade clause in place, Kaberle would have to agree to a trade. I believe that Kaberle WILL waive this time as he does not look happy this season. There will be teams lining up to acquire his services, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with the Panthers alongside his old powerplay pal McCabe. If you believe what you read, the Leafs are interested in both Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton.
77- Pavel Kubina- Kubina has a no-trade clause as well, but I don't see him as a lock to waive it. He genuinely seems to like it in Toronto and chose not to waive his contract earlier this season at the trade deadline. Burke will try his best to convince him though and if he does, there will be plenty of interest. What team wouldn't be interested in a 6'4, 244-pound defenceman with an offensive upside?
4- Jeff Finger- He has played well this season, but will turn 29 this month and is not untouchable by any means. There will be interest but alot will depend on whether Burke can move Kaberle and Kubina.
26- Mike Van Ryn- In my opinion, he was the best defenceman on the team before the Kostitsyn hit. If he returns to that same form then he will be definite trade bait for many of the teams looking for experienced rearguards for their playoff run.
2- Luke Schenn- The "man" they will build their blue line around for years to come. Need I say more?
7- Ian White- He was in the doghouse coming out of camp and rumours had Fletcher trying to move him. To his defense, he waited patiently until he got the call, and played well when he got the chance. His versatility makes him a valuable commodity as well. His improved play pretty much signaled the end of Carlo Colaiacovo's run as a Maple Leaf. At 24-years old I don't see him going anywhere.
24- Jonas Frogren- He has spent more time injured than healthy, but has been hot and cold when in the lineup. He will block shots with any part of his body and is not afraid to throw the weight around. Not sure how much interest there will be for him, but if the right offer comes he's gone.
36- Anton Stralman- I often wonder why Stralman is playing in the NHL at this point. He definitely shows a TON of promise, but might be better off playing with the Marlies. It's too early to be shipping a 22-year old prospect out of town.
80- Nik Antropov- Once referred to as "our only top six forward" by Cliff Fletcher, Antropov has done nothing to prove him wrong putting together a very decent season without playing on Mats Sundin's wing. He will turn 29 in February and is probably the only guy in the forward group that will bring some value in return.
14- Matt Stajan- After a trip to the press box early in the season, Stajan has responded by leading the team in points, so he's definitely a lock to stay right? Not necessarily. I don't believe he is Brian Burke's type of player, however I may be wrong.
23- Alexei Ponikarovsky- He's 6'4, 220-pounds but is guilty of not always using it to his advantage. Not sure what the market will be for a big guy who plays when he wants to, but if he wants to stay he needs to start showing some consistency.
84- Mikhail Grabovski- Shares the team lead in goals with Nik Antropov in his rookie season. Burke obviously likes him and admitted that he tried to acquire him last season with the Ducks. Not untouchable, but won't actively be shopped.
9- Niklas Hagman- This is pretty much a non discussion because I believe he has a no-movement clause for the 2008-09 season. He has played very well and it's unlikely the Leafs will try and move him anyway.
41- Nikolai Kulemin- This one is tough. If you go by Brian Burke's formula of "Top six Skilled Players-Bottom six Plumbers," he doesn't seem to fit. He has 10 points in 23 games which is not exactly Top six forward material. At the same time though, I also don't feel that he could do the third and fourth line checking role. Does this mean that he will be traded? No, of course not, but if Burke can get a prospect that fits better and the opposing team insists Kulemin be involved, he's gone! This isn't Luke Schenn here.
19- Dominic Moore- Burke has made it loud and clear that the Todd Bertuzzi issue has no bearing on this player. Dominic is one of the hardest workers on this club and fits the plumber role to a tee.
12- Lee Stempniak- The jury is still out on this new acquisition. It's too early to tell.
55- Jason Blake- There is no room on the team for this selfish and underachieving player. I believe this will be one of Burke's first moves. He will either do the impossible and find somebody to take Blake off his hands or he will simply buy him out.
39- John Mitchell- Mitchell beat out veterans Mark Bell and Boyd Devereaux to earn his spot on the big club this season, and looked very good before being injured last month. Since the injury, he has looked like a different player and at times timid. If he doesn't want to end up back with the Marlies then he may want to change that.
21- Jamal Mayers- When the Leafs signed him away from the Blues this summer, i'm sure they expected more. His minus-10 is worst on the club and at 34-years old, he won't be around to see this club win a cup. I don't think he will be on the roster by the end of the year.
44- Ryan Hollweg- Got in trouble early for being too "overzealous" with his bodychecks. However, he seems to have learned to tone that down and has played fairly well over the past few weeks. Seems to hit at least one guy every time he steps on the ice. That should be enough to keep him in Burke's good books.
56- Andre Deveaux- Too early to tell, but seems to be struggling with the faster pace of the NHL. I, personally, do not believe that he will stick, and i think Burke will bring in an experienced enforcer instead.
I don't believe ANYBODY on this roster is "untouchable" by any means. Everyone is available for the right price. There are no Sidney Crosby's, Evgeny Malkin's, or Alexander Ovechkin's to be had on this Maple Leaf roster however.
Nobody knows for sure what Burke's first move will be. Names to think about include Kovalchuk, Gaborik, and Bouwmeester. If history repeats itself then Burke is poised to put his stamp on this club very quickly. Like most of you, I can't wait to see what that will be.
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