Leafs trade on the horizon?
Josh Rimer, from NHL Home Ice on SiriusXM Radio, tweeted this yesterday: “From what I'm told Gardiner might have a real short stay in minors as Leafs could be making a trade in next 24-48 hrs.”
I don’t normally place much stock in sources outside of Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, because any jackass can fabricate rumours if there’s a logical basis, but Rimer, as far as the “Twitterverse” is concerned, is a legitimate source. Rimer later emphasized that a trade “could” happen, and nothing is set in stone.
We know general manager Brian Burke is working the phones right now. It’s mid-January---when he typically trades---and he’s privy to the Leafs’ strengths and weaknesses. There’s no time like the present, and as soon as Burke can negotiate a trade to his liking, he’ll pull the trigger. If Burke is indeed closing in on a deal, we know one thing for certain: a power forward is coming the Leafs’ way.
Considering the Leafs have around $1.1-million in cap space, a player with a big contract will have to be relinquished in order to acquire a player of significance. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Luke Schenn may be Burke’s best trading chip due to his potential and $3.6-million cap-hit. Trading a player like Carl Gunnarsson, for example, just doesn’t make sense because the Leafs would only clear $1.325-million in cap space, and he’s a top-two defenseman for the team. Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles aren’t going anywhere, and good luck trying to trade Mike Komisarek’s contract. Keith Aulie is having a rough season---although he’s playing a lot of minutes for some strange reason---but makes under a million anyway. Franson also makes under a million and while his play has picked up of late, there’s little logic in trading him unless he’s the clincher for a blockbuster deal (which seems highly unlikely).
There’s a bevy of forwards Burke could potentially deal as well. Nikolai Kulemin ($2.35-million cap-hit), Mikhail Grabovski ($2.9-million), Clarke MacArthur(3.25-million), Tyler Bozak (1.5-million) and Nazem Kadri (850K or 1.72-million if bonuses are accomplished) are all potential trading chips if Burke is to acquire a top-line forward.
To put it simply, Burke has the assets to acquire a significant talent if he finds the right deal, and he had mentioned that first-round draft picks are expendable as well. Personally, I think MacArthur could be the odd-man out if a forward is traded. The 26-year-old is on-pace for 24 goals and 42 points in 75 games, which is lower than his point totals last year, but you can expect him to produce a little more than that considering he had a slow start to the season and has picked up his game since. And it’s not as if he’s a risk with only a year remaining on his contract after this season.
Kulemin and Kadri’s potential could garner interest as well, but I imagine Burke will try to unload MacArthur before relinquishing either of them. Grabovski is having yet another productive season for the Leafs, but his value may not be as high considering he’s a pending unrestricted free agent and could be a short-term investment should he decided to test free agent waters.
Considering the Leafs’ depth upfront, it’s likely one of the forwards mentioned above will be included in a package deal for any top-six forward that adds size to the line-up. While the Leafs have depth on defence, they’re mostly inexperienced and are still mistake-prone. It’s because of this I would rather avoid trading a defenseman altogether. But if the Leafs are serious about acquiring a top-line forward, it’ll take some Burke wizardry to avoid that without damaging the future in other areas.
The Leafs’ rumour mill has Burke’s potential trade targets as Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Shane Doan and Brenden Morrow---longshots include Rick Nash and Eric Staal. I would say most of these players will be extremely difficult to pry from their respective teams, and the asking prices are probably astronomical. But hey, who am I to undermine Burke’s ability to get his man? He wants a power forward, and he’ll probably get one. Who that is is anyone’s guess, but I get the sense Ryan is definitely attainable given a) the past rumours, and b) Burke’s relationship with Bob Murray. Plus, the Ducks could use a Schenn on its blueline (Fowler-Schenn? Sick.) and Ryan has a decent cap-hit at $5.1-million. Obviously there’d be other parts involved to make it work on a salary cap level, but I digress.
A trade is in the works, and it’s only a matter of time before we find out what Burke has been up to.
You stay classy, TCL.
Follow me on Twitter @RonGuillet