Burke Not Showing His Cards
With just 8 games to go before the trade deadline, another disappointing loss last night has all but solidified the Leafs as sellers on deadline day. The Leafs find themselves 11 points out of 8th place in the east. While they have a 5 point lead over the 29th place Hurricanes and a 6 point lead over the last place Oilers, both of those teams have three games in hand.
There is a lot of speculation as to who will not be apart of this team come March 4th and a lot of that has to do with the large amount of expiring contracts on this team. However, Brian Burke hasn't mentioned the names of players he wants to trade, just the ones he doesn't.
Leaf fans now have to accept that the Leafs will be a bottom 5 team and there's nothing that the fans themselves can do about it. Just take a breather. Yes we gave up a very good pick, but at least it wasn't just thrown away. They got a young goal scorer in return who is struggling as of late, but has shown brilliance in earlier games this season. More talent on this team will create more space for Phil Kessel. Right now the guy is being double teamed in every game because the opposition knows that he's the only true offensive threat.
Darren Dreger listed two Leafs among what he believes to be the 10 players most likely to be dealt by the trade deadline in his blog yesterday on TSN.ca. He listed Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky. I have to agree with him here, Stajan and Ponikarovsky are as good as gone if another team is interested. Both of these players are pending UFA's and I can't see Burke tendering these two an offer anyways.
But there is a more interesting expiring contract on this team. His name is Ian White. Yes I know he is going to be a restricted free agent, but if Burke decides to keep Kaberle, Ian White could be an interesting option.
Anyone whose read my blogs on here knows that I am a huge supporter of Ian White and that he is one of my favourite current Leafs. He's hard working and effective. Oh yeah, and he's a valuable asset.
Ian White is just entering the prime of his career. His production this season has dropped off just a bit since my last blog about him. He is currently on pace to finish the season with 40 points. But what's interesting is that of his current 26 points, only 3 of those have come on the powerplay. I truly believe that if Ian White took over Kaberle's role on the team, he would be just as effective.
So now you're thinking what's the logic in trading him then? Well there is one scenario where it would make sense to trade White. Burke has shown he is a fan of Tomas Kaberle. If Burke decides to re-sign Kaberle, then Ian White becomes expendable. There is no point in waisting Ian White's talent anywhere other than the top pairing. Carl Gunnarsson has been quite impressive in his rookie season with the Leafs and has shown that he would be able to handle Ian White's current role on the team. So you have Gunnarsson ready to take White's role and White ready to take Kaberle's role, which means that one of Kaberle or White has got to go. Both of these players are the teams most valuable trade bait.
With that said, I don't believe Kaberle is safe either. While Burke has said that he will not ask Kaberle to waive his NTC, he also stated that he would accept a list of 10 teams from Kaberle that he is willing to go to. Keep in mind that Kaberle did give Burke a list last season, but Burke said he doesn't think Kaberle will do that this season. I'm not sure I buy that. Kaberle knows full well that his NTC is lifted in the summer and Burke can trade him anywhere he wants and I don't think Kaberle feels that safe, considering that he was nearly moved at the draft last season along with the Leafs' first round pick for Phil Kessel. (Man how much better that deal would have been, but hindsight is 20/20)
With all that said, this is all speculation. Brian Burke has kept his intentions close to his chest. He says the right things to the media, but we'll see what happens March 3rd.