Schenn on the way out?
As the end of January approaches, so too does a trade from Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke to bolster his team and elude the madness of the trade deadline.
Burke has stated publicly that he has at least one trade on the burner and he's in conversations with one or more teams. If he pulls the trigger on any deal, however, it will have to a) add size to the top-six unit, and b) upgrade the Leafs for this season as they make a push for the post-season. The only exception, Burke said hypothetically, would be to trade "a 22-year-old for another 22-year-old who plays a different position" in order to fill a need---like, for example, a lack of size in the top-six. Subsequently, this fueled the Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk rumours mostly for logistical reasons. "JvR" would add the size the Leafs covet, and the Flyers would acquire a defenseman to at least partially fill the void left by Chris Pronger. That, and both players are 22 years old.
Before yesterday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, however, Burke shot down the rumours by saying there was "no truth." Moreover, van Riemsdyk was declared out indefinitely with a concussion today, so if Burke wants a player to help now, trading your most valuable trading chip in Schenn makes no sense in the short-term. And make no mistake, if Burke is true to his word and the Leafs acquire a top-six forward that adds size, there's a significant chance Schenn will be involved. In fact, Burke made it clear to the media that he could not guarantee to Schenn that he wouldn't be traded.
There's plenty of names in the Leafs' rumour mill, such as Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Shane Doan, etc., and most of them are either fabricated for internet traffic or for the sheer excitement of trade rumours, but if the Leafs were to acquire any of these players, it's hard to imagine Schenn not being included in a deal. For one, the Leafs don't have the luxury of trading away a package of prospects and draft picks to take on a salary upwards of $5-million. Burke would have to send a contract out, and with a cap-hit of $3.6-million, unloading Schenn certainly helps. Sure, Carl Gunnarsson could garner a lot of interest from teams, but his $1.325-million cap-hit would free up little space and he's arguably the Leafs' best all-around defenseman. He's a bargain, and it's unlikely Burke is willing to part with him knowing his impact both on the roster and the salary cap. Schenn has the larger cap-hit and the potential to be a one of the league's best shut-down defenseman, which means he's a valuable trading chip if Burke wants to land a top-line center or a top-six forward with size. The Leafs also have a wealth of defensemen---Cody Franson has been solid of late and Mike Komisarek recently returned from injury---and are willing to part with one to upgrade its top-six unit. Obviously Dion Phaneuf or John-Michael Liles aren't going anywhere, and Komisarek or Franson don't have the same value as Schenn. Keith Aulie could garner some interest, but his cap-hit is under $1-million and he's having a rough season. Again, if the Leafs are serious about upgrading its top-six, I imagine trade negotiations start and end with Schenn.
My prediction is that Schenn will no longer be with the Toronto Maple Leafs by Feb.1. But this is Burke we're talking about, and he could have a number of potential trades in the cards that can hit us all blindsided.
You stay classy, TCL.