NHL Trade Talk: 3 Trades the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Make Before the Deadline

Torrin Batchelor@TdawgBatchelorContributor IIIDecember 5, 2011

NHL Trade Talk: 3 Trades the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Make Before the Deadline

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    Let me start off by saying that this is all speculation—based on team needs, salary cap restrictions, internal salary cap limits and rumours and murmurs of player movement from various corners of the hockey world—but I am not an insider, I do not have access to any personnel inside any of the teams involved and I don't know a guy, who knows a guy, whose wife's brother knows a GM or head scout for any of the teams, either. I'm just an avid hockey fan with a penchant for hockey, writing and stats—sometimes all three.

    On that note, this is one of those articles that I will almost always choose not to write, because like many of you, I'm sure, I hate reading articles that get my hopes up for my team and the moves they could/should/would make only to see nothing happen and have those dreams of instant dynasties thwarted before they really even had a chance to plan a few parades through my brain.

    But, like many of you—scratch that, most of you hockey/sport fans—I, too am prone to dreaming of the big trade that kicks my team over the top to greatness, and that's what this article is going to be about: how the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks can all make trades that benefit each other and get them back to where everyone thought they were going to be in the standings during the pre-season, or in the Leafs' case, make this new found success turn from being a possible playoff spot to a locked down one.

    I'll break down each team's current roster and their strengths/weaknesses first and then get into the 3 trades that should/could happen to benefit the four teams. Then you guys can tell me how smart and/or stupid I am and how accurate or completely delusional this article and it's trades are.

    As always I love talking hockey and wanna hear what you think, whether you agree or disagree with me, I'm always up for a good hockey debate. Feel free to comment, I will almost always respond.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Roster, Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Toronto Maple Leafs Current Roster:

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    Kulemin - Connolly - MacArthur

    Frattin - Colbourne - Crabb

    Rosehill - Grabovski - Dupuis


    Injured: Brown, Steckel, Lombardi, Armstrong* ( * = Long Term Injury)

    Next Farm Recalls: Kadri, Boyce


    Liles - Phaneuf

    Gardiner - Schenn

    Aulie - Franson

    Injured: Gunnarsson, Komisarek*

    Next Farm Recalls: Holzner, Lashoff, Blacker




    Injuries: Reimer*

    Next Farm Recalls: Rynaas, Owuya

    Strengths: Team Speed, Offense, Kessel + Lupul, Spread out scoring, Power play

    Weaknesses: Goaltending, Bottom 6 grit, Penalty Kill, Defensive Zone Breakdowns


    The Leafs have been one of the league's best teams of late, having won three of four on a great road trip through the South, thanks a lot to their Power play (third overall in the League) and balanced secondary scoring attack. Their weaknesses are hard to peg sometimes because goaltending has been great on the road trip with Gustavsson turning in three brilliant performances and really looking like the equivalent of his nickname "The Monster."

    Their Penalty Kill has been steadily improving, moving from a 30th spot before the trip to a 27th ranking and looking better every game. The bottom six has been markedly improved with the third line of Fratin, Colbourne and Crabb looking dangerous every shift and often hemming the opposition into the offensive zone for minutes at a time, statistically they are looking great as well.

    The defensive zone breakdowns are still a consistent problem, especially against a strong fore-checking team (like, oh say, the Boston Bruins, who the Leafs play this week). Once a team is able to stymie the Leafs breakout of their own zone, it's like the panic button is automatically pressed and everyone on the blue and white collectively forget their positioning and defensive systems at the same time.

    The Leafs could use a forward with some size in the top six, but primarily the need is in net as Ben "You can drive a bus through my five hole" Scrivens and Jonas "I refuse to use my glove hand to make a save" Gustavsson have been consistently inconsistent and on a team as aggressive as the Leafs system allows them to be. That's unacceptable from the team's most important position. Gustavsson's play of late lends hope to the idea he can fill in comfortably the rest of the way until Reimer is ready to play again, and then continue his success in the backup role, although he may just be improving his trade value for the Leafs.

    If the injury to Komisarek has shown anything to Burkie it's that one of Schenn and Komisarek has to go. They play the same kind of game (note: Schenn actually has some offensive and puck handling upside) and require the same kind of minutes to be successful.

    Komisarek was playing great before he was injured but Schenn looked lost. Meanwhile, Sunday's game against Anaheim was one of the best games Schenn has ever had for the Blue and White with 22 minutes of ice time and two points and several fantastic defensive, transitional and offensive plays.

    Phaneuf looked a little lost a times during the same Sunday game without his regular dance partner Gunnarsson, but still was a force on the ice. Jake Gardiner however excelled with all the additional ice time he was given in Gunnarsson's absence and made a real case for consistently getting that kind of TOI (Time On Ice).

Anaheim Ducks: Roster, Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Anaheim Ducks Current Roster:

    Ryan - Getzlaf - Perry

    Cogliano - Koivu - Selanne

    Hagman - McMillan - Gordon

    Beleskey - Macenauer - Smith Pelly


    Injuries: Blake*, Parros

    Next Farm Recalls: Holland, Maroon, Bonino


    Beauchemin - Fowler

    Sbisa - Lydman

    Foster - Brookbank


    Injuries: Visnovsky, Smaby

    Next Farm Recalls: Cumiskey




    Injuries: Ellis

    Next Farm Recalls: Pielmeier


    Strengths: The Best 1st Line in the NHL (Debatable), All-Star Goaltending, Selanne, Puck-Moving "D"

    Weaknesses: 3rd pair "D", No secondary scoring not named Teemu


    The only big thing for the Ducks is the fact that the team is playing far too poorly for the level of talent they have on the roster. The complete black hole of secondary scoring after the "Big 4" (Ryan, Perry, Getzlaf and Selanne) is disgusting, frankly, and is really the only thing holding them back from competing with other elite teams in the Western Conference.

    The D could use just a little bit of a stabilizing force, once Visnovsky comes back that will help, but an additional Defense men with passable puck handling skills who can act as a utility type player and be inserted anywhere in the D-core and play well would be very good for both the Ducks transition game and for Jonas Hiller.

    This ones gonna be short just because the Ducks problems are based almost SOLELY around the lack of secondary scoring.

Vancouver Canucks: Roster, Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Vancouver Canucks Current Roster:

    D.Sedin - H.Sedin - Burrows

    Booth - Kesler - Higgins

    Hansen - Hodgson - Raymond

    Lapierre - Malholtra - Wiese


    Injuries: Ebbett, Bitz

    Next Farm Recalls: Oreskovich

    Edler - Salo

    Hamhuis - Bieksa

    Alberts - Ballard



    Injuries: None

    Next Farm Recalls: Tanev, Baumgartner



    Injuries: None

    Next Farm Recalls: Lack


    Strengths: Power Play, Penalty Kill, Offence, Defence, Balanced Secondary Scoring, Shots For, Shots Against, Hits, Puck Control

    Weaknesses: Blocked Shots, Missed Shots On Net, Shootouts, Slow Starts, Mentally Fragile


    The Canucks are still very much the same team as last year's President Trophy winning club despite their slow start. They have the league's best power play and are proving they didn't need Christian Ehrhoff to keep it successful after all. They also have the 11th best penalty kill in the league and a very enviable goalie tandem of Roberto Luongo and the promising (slowly turning proven) Cory Schneider manning the blue paint.

    Eddie Lack is also stewing in the minors and is looking more and more NHL ready every day, leaving the door open for the possibility for a goaltender being moved out. They are one of the top offenses in the league and have one of the best team defences as well. All four lines can score and play the game at a high tempo and their top four "D" are all capable of logging 20 plus minutes a game against the top talent in the league. They play a traditionally European type puck-possesion based game but aren't afraid to throw their weight around—mostly.

    Now despite all their accomplishments and the statistics that say they are a premiere team in this league—which they are. The Canucks are not without their own share of issues. They have a tendency to have slow starts during both the season (this can be forgiven this year after their long offseason and because they had to start the year without both Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler) and during games. As proven by the Predators and the Bruins during last years playoffs, if you play a grind it out, in your face, up tempo and traditionally "North American" game you can wear them down and beat them. The Sedins tend to shy away and even shutdown when pressured physically. Now I'm not saying they can't take a hit, because they can and they can dish them, too, but if you hound them and keep hitting them, they tend to shut down.

    Also, Luongo has proven to be mentally fragile in terms of confidence. Once a team gets in his head (Hello Blackhawks and Bruins) he turns from a Gold Medal-winning All-Star goaltender into a sieve. But just as Luongo has a fragile psyche, so it seems does the team as a whole. The defense breaks down, the forwards stop back checking and they can't seem to stay on the puck. Some of Luongo's breakdowns can be attributed to the horrendous defensive play he gets in front of him, and although the Canucks have good team defence and aren't afraid to throw hits, they lack size on the blue line.

    Alex Edler is great with the first pass and the open ice body work but he can't clear the front of the net. Kevin Bieksa is a pit bull both offensively and defensively but also lacks the size to clear Luongo's crease. The same goes for Salo, Hamhuis and Alberts, all three of whom can hit but prefer to block shots and do their physical work along the boards and in the corners.

    Keith Ballard was supposed to be the answer for clearing the front of the net but has so far been unable to justify his $4.4 million a year contract with net clearing skills. But the team as a whole needed to find a way to break out of their apparent self doubt. In reality they needed another two top six forwards to play the "North-American" game the way Kesler and Burrows do... and they got them with the acquisition of David Booth from Florida and the promotion of Chris Higgins to the second line. They also need a minimum of one big bodied defence man who can at least partially clear the net more effectively than Bieksa, Edler, Hamhuis and Ballard have currently proven able to do.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Roster, Strengths and Weaknesses

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    Columbus Blue Jackets Current Roster:

    Prospal - Carter - Nash

    Huselius - Letestu - Johansen

    Umberger - Pahlsson - Vermette

    Bass - MacKenzie - Dorsett



    Next Farm Recalls: Calvert, Atkinson, Mayorov 

    Tyutin - Nikitin

    Wisniewski - Methot

    Clitsome - Moore


    Injuries: Martinek

    Next Farm Recalls: Savard 



    Injuries: Dekanich

    Next Farm Recalls: York


    Strengths: Nash, Prospal, Johansen, Tyutin, Shots Per Game, Shots Against Per Game, Face-Offs 

    Weaknesses: Power Play, Penalty Kill, Offense, Defense, Goaltending


    The Blue Jackets are a whole lot of suck right now, Steve Mason (once the wonder kid) hasn't been much better than a sieve and the Jackets have suffered injury after injury to his backups that have prevented any kind of real consistency between the pipes. The defence isn't horrible but it also hasn't been good enough, or good at all, really. The offense has been pop-gun at best with Carter and Nash taking their sweet time finding any kind of chemistry and Carter supposedly being unhappy in Columbus and wanting out. Ryan Johansen has been lights out and looks more and more like the real deal (which is rare from a Columbus draft pick) and Vinny Prospal has looked like one of GM Scott Howson's few good moves over the past few years.

    On Defence Fedor Tyutin has been stellar so far, as has Marc Methot and (now that he's not missing games due to suspension) James Wisniewski is looking solid as well. The Blue Jackets look solid defensively most nights but besides Wisniewski, they don't have anyone capable of getting the puck out of the zone with a good first pass. So many games we see a Jackets defenseman pass it up the boards only to be intercepted and then the Jackets are hemmed into their own end for minutes at a time.

    The Jackets need some more balanced scoring up top as well as a bit more size and some additional puck skills on the back end ... but most importantly they need some kind of goaltending help.

Trade Number One: Toronto + Anaheim

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    In this tread we see Toronto and Anaheim make a deal to help Toronto secure a playoff berth and to help Anaheim reclaim one.


    Toronto Sends: (6.575M)

    Nikolai Kulemin (2.35M), Mikhail Grabovski (2.9M), Carl Gunnarsson (1.325M)

    to Anaheim for: (5.850M) 

    Bobby Ryan (5.1M), Sheldon Brookbank (0.750M), 5th 2012 and a conditional 2nd/3rd/4th 2012 (2nd if both forwards are re-signed, 3rd if only one is re-signed, 4th if neither are retained).


    Toronto Updated Roster:

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    Ryan - Connolly - MacArthur

    Frattin - Colbourne - Crabb

    Rosehill - Dupuis - Orr


    Liles - Phaneuf

    Gardiner - Schenn

    Brookbank - Franson





    Pros and Cons:

    Toronto loses two of their best forwards from last year, but with the roster changes this offseason and internal improvement shown by many of the players, the trade off between them and Ryan is negligible. Bozak has been fantastic between Lupul and Kessel, Connolly has gotten more out of MacArthur and Kulemin than Grabovski was getting and Joe Colbourne has created some fantastic chemistry between Frattin, Crabb and himself that Wilson shouldn't risk breaking up.

    Where does that leave Grabovski? As the fourth line center, which is a position due to Steckel, but besides that Grabovski is a) too talented for the fourth line and b) not what Burke considers a 4th line player, therefore he's very much expendable. Nikolai Kulemin is a former 30-goal scorer who can go into the corners and play a solid two-way game, so is Bobby Ryan, except Ryan has far more upside and star potential, so that's a definite improvement there. Gunnarsson is playing top minutes for the Leafs with Phaneuf, plays both the penalty kill and power play and is what you would call a utility defence men for his ability to fit anywhere on the roster.

    Brookbank is a definite downgrade here as he does't have any of Gunnarsson's puck or skating skills. But he does bring an element of nasty that the defence (especially in the recent series against the Bruins) has been proven to lack. Also, when Gunnarsson was recently injured; Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn got a lot more ice time and responded very positively, lending proof to my belief that Gunnarsson is expendable. The picks are great for Burke's continued development of the Leaf's prospect pipeline and as it stands right now would be very high picks, however if this trade works for Anaheim as it should they will be mid-to-late round selections, but still two more picks than they had previously.

    This trade gives the Leafs some added top 6 size, creates a dynamic presence on the second line that could open up ice for Kessel and the 1st line and gives the back end a boost of nasty while also adding valuable draft picks. 


    Anaheim Updated Roster:

    Cogliano/McMillan - Getzlaf - Perry

    Kulemin - Grabovski - Selanne

    Hagman - Koivu - Coglaino/McMillan

    Beleskey - Macenauer - Gordon


    Gunnarson - Fowler

    Beauchemin - Lydman

    Sbisa - Foster





    Pros & Cons:

    The general rule with trades is that the team getting the best player wins. That's not necessarily the case here as the Ducks biggest flaw this season has been an absolute black hole where the secondary scoring should be. They give up a future star in Ryan and a solid, warrior type defence men but get back two legitimate top six forwards that will give them the kind of offensive depth the Ducks haven't seen since they won the cup in 2006-07.

    With Kulemin and Grabovski flanking him, Selanne is finally going to have some help in the offensive zone and more importantly with a legitimate second line, other teams are not going to be able to just put their top shut down defensive pairing and checking lines against Perry and Getzlaf, opening up more ice for them and hopefully giving them the kick they need to break out of their respective funks. Gunnarsson brings some stability to the Ducks defensive corps he can move the puck with crisp first passes, has solid skating and blocks shots like a fiend. He'll be able to play on any pairing and in any situation for the Ducks and will help to dampen the loss of Visnovsky while he's injured. It will be hard to move Ryan, but with this kind of deal coming back the Ducks would almost immediately jump back into the playoff discussion, which is where a talented team like them belongs.

Trade Number Two: Toronto + Vancouver

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    This trade is a minor swap of similar skill set enabled players that just need a change of scenery, also fills a major need for the Canucks while providing a higher draft pick and filling a minor need for the Leafs.

    Trade Number Two:

    Toronto Sends: (5.150M)

    Mike Komisarek, Phillipe Dupuis, 2012 5th round pick ANA

    To Vancouver For: (4.813M)

    Aaron Volpatti, Keith Ballard, 2012 3rd round pick VAN


    Toronto's Updated Roster:

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    Ryan - Connolly - MacArthur

    Frattin - Colbourne - Crabb

    Volpatti - Steckel - Rosehill

    Liles - Phaneuf

    Gardiner - Schenn

    Brookbank - Ballard





    Pros & Cons:

    The Leafs get a legitimate bottom six guy in Volpatti, a big need with the now long term injuries to Brown, Armstrong and Lombardi. Volpatti has dropped the gloves five times already this season so Burke can feel safe in the knowledge he has an enforcer of sorts again (Colton Orr has been a shell of his former self since coming back this year), Volpatti is second among Canucks forwards with 61 hits (Instantly the most hits by a Leaf, easily beating David Steckel's 50) and leads the forward corps with 37 penalty minutes (25 of which are fighting majors) over 23 games.

    While not really useful for the PK, which is a role that Dupuis had filled, Volpati is a much more useful forward for Wilson's type of system as he isn't afraid to forecheck and is actually capable of getting the puck out of dirty areas.

    Ballard is a big guy and supposed big hitter that has lost his way in Vancouver. He'll play any defensive role required of him while being able to clear the front of the net and dropping hits and blocking shots at least on a comparable rate to Komisarek. Many Leaf fans with the hate they have for Komisarek and his bloated contract and poor play will see Ballard as a godsend in many ways. Although Ballard has one more year remaining on his deal than Komisarek does, he also comes in at $300,000 cheaper a year and has a better health record. The Leafs upgrade a fifth round pick into a third round pick which is always good and if Ballard doesn't work out, Burke has just armed himself with two more trade able assets.


    Vancouver's Updated Roster:

    D.Sedin - H.Sedin - Burrows

    Booth - Kesler - Higgins

    Hansen - Hodgson - Raymond

    Lapierre - Malholtra - Wiese



    Edler - Komisarek

    Hamhuis - Bieksa

    Alberts - Salo






    Pros & Cons:

    Komisarek is a very similar player to Ballard, except he has one less year on his contract for about $300,000 more a year. Komi was a force in Montreal and has looked very much the bad guy in Leaf's coach Ron Wilson's up-tempo, heavy fore checking system. A fresh start is exactly what he needs, he also provides every that Ballard was billed at when he arrived from Florida, except having already moved teams once, hopefully Komisarek will be able to continue his good season so far, parked in front of Luongo/Schneider and playing the bad guy still, but for the opposing players instead. Dupuis is a spare part/plug in for Vancouver. They lose the toughness and physicality of Volpatti but gain Dupuis superior positioning, defensive awareness and penalty killing skills. The draft pick is an offset of the slight difference between the play of Komisarek and Ballard. Vancouver gets a mentally tough, aggressive, 6-foot-4 defensive defence man who loves to hit, block shots and make life miserable for opposing forwards. A big need filled, at a minimal cost.

Trade Number Three: Toronto + Columbus

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    This trade is a massive blockbuster involving 10 players changing sides but ends up giving both teams exactly what they need.


    Toronto Sends: (14.75M)

    Keith Ballard, Cody Franson, Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur, Jonas Gustavsson, 2012 2nd round pick TOR 

    To Columbus For: (14.6M)

    Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Marc Methot, Curtis Sanford


    Updated Toronto Roster:

    Lupul - Bozak - Kessel

    Ryan - Connolly - Nash

    Frattin - Colbourne - Crabb

    Volpatti - Steckel - Rosehill


    Liles - Phaneuf

    Gardiner - Schenn

    Brookbank - Methot






    Pros & Cons:

    The Leafs get a hometown boy back in the Blue and White in Rick Nash. He is everything Brian Burke wants his hockey team to be; big, skilled, fast, truculent, full of compete and another legitimate star to add to Toronto's growing list. Nash gives Wilson a plethora of top six combinations as Connolly, Brassard, Ryan, Bozak and Colbourne can all play top six centres and with wingers like Ryan, Kessel, Nash, Lupul and Frattin line combinations and match ups during games will come much easier. Methot brings back some of the lost defensive awareness of Gunnarsson, as he plays big minutes on the PK for Columbus, he's also another bigger, meaner body for the back end. Sanford is a veteran guy who can come in and help coach Reimer along, he's got a much better track record on the health side than Giguere, so it actually has the possibility to work this time around.  

    Brassard is more of a throw-in/salary dump for the Blue Jackets, he provides some residual value for the Leafs as they can turn around and flip him to one of many teams that have been said to be in on him recently or they can use him for insurance for if/when Connolly gets injured again, or if Colbourne falters and shows he isn't quite fully ready yet, or Bozak reverts to his old ways and plays his way off the top line.

    By having Brassard waiting in the Wings, the Leafs have some competent insurance for the "what ifs" that always inevitably happen during the season. When all is said and done, this move brings the Leafs everything they are missing right now and solidifies them as a team with a playoff spot to lose, rather than a team trying to prove they have the right stuff to keep one.


    Updated Columbus Roster:

    Prospal - Carter - MacArthur

    Huselius - Letestu - Johansen

    Umberger - Lombardi - Vermette

    MacKenzie - Pahlsson - Dorsett




    Tyutin - Nikitin

    Wisniewski - Ballard

    Clitsome - Franson







    Pros & Cons:

    The Blue Jackets would officially lose this trade because they are definitely trading awe the best player in the deal. But this is another deal that's not about just one star, it's about the spread out benefits to the entire roster that this deal creates. In Clarke MacArthur they get a gritty winger capable of 20 plus goals and 60 plus points per season, he is also a play-maker first so having him ride shotgun with Jeff Carter is a win-win. Matthew Lombardi is a player with break neck speed who can play anywhere in the top nine, he can play the power play, the penalty kill, he can score and win face offs, he is a gritty, skilled commodity, and one that Columbus doesn't have enough of. Keith Ballard provides a semi-mobile, one man recking ball, while still being a stable presence defensively and in his own zone. Very similar skill set to Marc Methot, except he has better puck skills and has much more of a penchant for the open ice variety of hits.

    Cody Franson provides a secondary PP quarter back besides Wisniewski. He can effectively and efficiently move the puck out of the zone, he's an above average skater and has an absolute bomb from the point. Between Ballard and Franson, Columbus's ability to get out of their own zone just increased exponentially. Jonas Gustavsson provides the Jackets with a high potential goaltender that can step in and immediately take over the number one job from Mason and also because of age similarities he can help to push Mason to get out of his horrendous start to the season. But "The Monster" is fully capable of being a number one goaltender in the NHL, in fact with a change of scenery (away from all the stress and hardships he's had to go through in Toronto) and with far less scrutiny due to the lack of media coverage, Jonas will thrive in Columbus. Jettisoning Brassard's contract is a nice bonus and the second round pick will help the team out if this trade doesn't shake them enough to push them into a playoff berth.


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    In Conclusion...

    Pulling any and/or all of these trades off would exponentially increase the Leafs chances of not just making the playoffs for the first time since the lockout but of being able to do some serious damage once they make it there. The chances of pulling any and/or all of these trades off is of course remote at best, specifically the Columbus trade as such blockbusters with so many players changing sides rarely if ever happen in the modern NHL.

    Well, what do you think? Am i a genius or an idiot? Are Anaheim, Columbus and Vancouver better teams after the deals? Is Toronto?

    Feel free to tell me how cool, stupid, correct, and or idiotic I am below and especially if you feel like starting a good hockey discussion feel free to leave a comment.

    Thanks for reading.