Time For Changing Faces

It's that time of year again, the heart of the NHL's offseason sandwiched in between the draft and the start of free agency. If there's one thing we know about free agency it's that there will be overpayment. 3rd liners will be payed like 1st liners and 1st liners will be paid like CEO's. The only problem is that there are not that many 1st line players to go around, not nearly enough to fill the voids on many teams.

The Leafs of course are one of those teams and they have more voids to fill than the average team. They have been quiet since the offseason began, but that hasn't kept the Leafs out of the rumour mill. After many Leaf fans sat patiently waiting on Friday night for Brian Burke to pull the trigger on another blockbuster deal, they went to bed disappointed. They were disappointed with the fact that Kaberle was still a member of the blue and white and they were disappointed that they watched three hours of drafting without seeing the Leafs reach the stage once.

On Saturday though, Burke made a move when he traded prospect Jimmy Hayes to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the 43rd overall pick. With that pick, Burke selected forward Brad Ross from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Ross is definitely what they label as a Burke-type player. In 71 games last season, Ross posted 68 points, but in addition to that, he also accumulated 203 penalty minutes. Ross reminds me of Corey Perry with a little less offense. It is also important to note that Burke and company had Ross rated as a 1st round draft pick in their rankings.

So what's next for the blue and white? Your guess is as good as mine, and to be honest with you I'm starting to question whether or not Burke is actually serious about Kaberle sticking with the team. All along I've insisted that Burke's conversations with the media have been a ploy to ensure that Kaberle's value stays right where he wants it, and I'm sure that's a large part of it. But Burke hasn't really been a liar when it comes to making moves, he doesn't usually say one thing and do another. So when Brian Burke says he's not interested in Ilya Kovalchuk that means Leaf fans can stop hoping for Kovalchuk, it's not happening.

So what else is out there? Well there's the rumour of Marc Savard, which Burke has already vaguely shot down. My guess is that Boston's asking price on Savard is still considerably high. Burke and the rest of the NHL know that there's a logjam down the middle on the Bruins and also that they need to get Blake Wheeler under contract. In addition to that, Savard didn't have a stellar season, one which he spent a large portion of time on the IR. So that means that the scale does not tip in favour of the Boston Bruins in a Savard trade right now, and so expect other teams to keep laughing until the asking price comes down.

Expect the Leafs to add a couple of third line players via free agency. Nearly all reports suggest that the Leafs will be pursuing the hard nosed Colby Armstrong. The first Leaf to bid farewell this offseason is John Mitchell, who did not receive a qualifying offer and is set to become a UFA on July 1st. It is important to note however that Burke has not ruled out his return to the team as the Leafs may choose to sign him to a smaller deal. While Mitchell struggled for most of last season, he did find success in the shootout.

One other intriguing scenario that I will touch on is a potential deal with the San Jose Sharks. The Leafs and Sharks are no strangers to each other when it comes to trades over the last decade or so. We have somewhat of a perfect storm brewing here. Rob Blake's retirement has left a gaping hole on defense, especially when it comes to experience. The Sharks are not a cap-friendly team and so when you put two and two together, the cap-friendly and experienced defender, Tomas Kaberle would be a perfect fit. But who could be coming the other way? My guess would be restricted free agent, Devin Setoguchi.

Let me make it clear that this is just a scenario that I am presenting based on logic and analysis, however I have read a couple of other rumours suggesting that Setoguchi could be dealt to the Leafs. What does Setoguchi bring with him? Well he scored 31 goals as a 22 year old in only his second NHL season. He wasn't able to reproduce that last season, netting only 20 goals, but I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the fact that Dany Heatley replaced him on the top line. Playing on the top line with Kessel, Setoguchi could easily score 30 goals a season.

But for now, Kaberle remains a Leaf and July 1st is still 2 days away. It's time to sit tight and hold on because things are about to change.

Patrick Storto