A few weeks ago, there were quite a few articles circulating around talking about American Thanksgiving and what it means for teams making the playoffs and GMs making changes. Roughly 80 percent of the teams that are in playoff positions come Thanksgiving end up making the playoffs the following April. This is the time when GMs around the league evaluate their teams and decided what types of changes may need to be made.
Since Thanksgiving, the Leafs finished their road trip strong, defeating Dallas and Anaheim before falling out of the division lead with back-to-back losses to Boston. This past week, the Leafs went 1-1-1 against the Rangers, Devils and Capitals, with many ups and downs. This puts their record at 3-3-1 since Thanksgiving, not quite what fans or management was hoping for I would imagine.
After Friday night's loss to the Caps, Brian Burke's self-imposed Christmas trade freeze had already kicked into effect. Burke believes that it is not right for players and their families to be worried about being traded at this time of year, so he started his own personal trade freeze 10 days earlier than than the NHL holiday trade freeze, which runs from December 19 to 27. I expect these next 18 days will consist of Burke taking quite a bit of time to analyze his team.
In fact, I would imagine that has been what Burke has been doing since Thanksgiving. After seeing where the Leafs were standing at that evaluation point, Burke has most likely been testing the waters to see what it might take to bring in a few more elite players. The Leafs might, and I mean might, make the playoffs this year, but if they want to have any success, they are still going to need some help.
Now we all know that Burke has spoken about size and truculence. However, besides a few defensemen, the Leafs don't boast a lot of size and strength up front. They are more of a slightly undersized blend of speed and skill.
The Leafs could definitely use a little bit of extra size on one of their top two lines to add some physicality to their forecheck and that could be what they plan to do shortly. Or perhaps just add more speed and more skill.
Either way, Burke appears to like to get his Christmas shopping out of the way early. I would expect him to have targeted a few players that he thinks will help his squad immediately. So even though there will be no trades coming out of the Leafs GM office for the next 18 days, that doesn't mean that Burke won't be busy.
Setting up a trade is an art. One that require patience, skill and a little bit of luck, especially when it comes to trying to make the kind of trade that I believe Burke will before the deadline. To bring in a high-quality player, it will take a long negotiation between sides. If Burke is looking at multiple guys, he will need to be on the phone with multiple GMs trying to get the most in return while giving up as little as the other side will accept.
There have been a lot of names thrown around the past couple years as to potential top-end talent that Burke might be trying to bring to Toronto. Here are a few that the Leafs GM may have have on his radar to pick up before the deadline:
Jordan Staal, Joe Pavelski, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny, Eric Staal, etc.
Or he may not be trying to land any of those players right now. I'm going to be honest—those are just players that I thought might have a chance of being traded that I would love to see in blue and white.
Whoever it is, I expect a big trade before the deadline this season for the Leafs. In fact, I would expect it to be done about a month before the deadline. I think Burke is in the process of orchestrating a big trade to be pulled off in January. As a trade of this caliber will most likely take one or two key contributors away from the Leafs, an earlier trade allows the team to gel and and work on chemistry as they move into the final month of the season and hopefully secure their playoff position.
Who do you think Burke could lure away from another GM that would help the Leafs?