Brian Burke Looking To Deal: Are The Flyers Interested In Luke Schenn?

January 11th, 2012 16 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was a guest on the Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports on Wednesday night. Interviewed by long-time host Bob McCowan, Burke addressed a number of issues, including the teams depth (which Burke believes to be strong), the odds of the Maple Leafs adding a veteran goaltender (not likely) and the likelihood of Burke making a deal before the trade deadline.

On the topic of trades, Burke lamented that he was currently “in conversation with clubs” and felt that, with “something on the burner” a deal should be able to get done.

Make no mistake about it, Burke was not commenting on making a deal for a depth player, what he was referring to was a deal of significance, which has the Leaf Nation wondering what teams Burke has been talking to?

With so many teams still in the playoff picture, there are few teams willing to make a major deal at this junction. However, if Burke could find a team that was willing to deal a player of need to the Maple Leafs (top-six forward) in return for a player that came from a position of depth for Toronto (defense), then you’d have to think Burke would pull the trigger.

While all NHL general managers do their best not to lose a deal, Burke has always said he is a fan of making deals that benefit both teams. With that in mind, one team that could benefit from the addition of a defenseman would be the Philadelphia Flyers, who, coincidentally, have recently had scouts at a number of Maple Leafs games.

The recent return of defenseman Mike Komisarek to the lineup has forced Gardiner out of the lineup. Should Burke be able to move one of his defensemen, Gardiner could return to the lineup, while likely bringing in a top-six forward.

Should Burke pull off such a deal it would be a win-win for his club, which is in desperate need of a defensive froward and some additional scoring depth up front.

While some rumors suggest the Maple Leafs would like to deal off-season acquisition Cody Franson, there is the belief that the Flyers, while marginally interested in Franson, would love to add Luke Schenn to their mix.

The Flyers are looking to make a long run in the playoffs. Recent history tells us that the Flyers will need plenty of depth on the backend to make a run at the Stanley Cup, as learned in the past two playoffs where injuries have taken their toll on the Orange and Black. The loss of defenseman Chris Pronger for the rest of the season has left a huge hole on the Flyers backend. Pronger is one of the most physical defensemen in the league—an element the Flyers rely on and sorely miss since Pronger went down with a concussion.

During his tenure with the Maple Leafs Burke has had nothing but good things to say about Schenn. With that in mind, it is tough to imagine Burke trading Schenn, but when you consider the return a player like Schenn could garner, it makes ssense on some level.

While no Chris Pronger, when Schenn is on his game, he too is an intimidating force and a player that is capable of shutting down opposing forwards.

While not playoff tested, Schenn could be a great fit for the Flyers. At just 22 years of age, Schenn already has 272 NHL games under his belt, is under contract for five years at $3.6 million per (good value) and is thought to possess great leadership skills.

Schenn led all NHL defensemen with 251 hits last season, while ranking 12th overall with 168 blocked shots. This season, Schenn is on-pace for 260 hits and 128 blocked shots.

While Schenn’s hits and blocked shots totals should mirror last season’s totals, he has seen his minutes played drop significantly from an average of 22:22 in 2010-11 to 16:35 this season.

Part of the reason for Schenn’s reduction in icetime has been his questionable play in his own end, while the addition of Gardiner and Franson to the lineup have also eaten up some of his minutes.

Sure, Schenn’s game has dropped off a bit, but he is still a great talent with huge upside and a valuable asset who should fetch a very nice return, should Burke decide to make him expendable.

So, what would it take to get Schenn out of Toronto?

A quick look at the Flyers roster reveals a few players that may be the apple of Burke’s eye.

Burke has long liked Luke’s brother Brayden Schenn, but when you consider the price the Flyers paid for Schenn (Mike Richards) and the upside that he is felt to have, it is unlikely the Flyers would part with Brayden for Luke, at least not straight up.

James Van Riemsdyk has long been rumored to be a player of interest for Burke. With 21 goals and 40 points in 2010-11, JVR was thought to be on track for a huge season in 2011-12. Instead, JVR is on-pace for another 40 point season, which, while not a huge disappointment, would fall short of expectations.

Wayne Simmonds and Maxime Talbot (a defensive specialist) could also be on Burke’s radar, but not with the price tag of Schenn going to other way. Besides, Talbot and Simmonds have done a nice job for the Flyers this season and their skill sets are tough to find, so why would the Flyers want to trade them?

Of course, there is the potential for a lesser deal, say involving Cody Franson. Which player comes the other way would be a mystery to me as it is tough to gage Franson’s (who will be a RFA at season’s end) value on the trade market.

Which brings us back to JVR.

Signed through 2018, James Van Riemsdyk carries the type of contract Burke loathes. And, at an average of $4.25 million per starting in 2012-13, there are questions about the monies owed to JVR and whether or not he will live up to those expectations.

If it were not for JVR’s lengthy contract I could see Burke exploring the possibility of making a pitch for him. But, when you consider Burke’s stance on “super contracts”, it is hard to believe he would be interested in JVR, at any price.

Time will tell which player or players Burke deems expendable. A lot will depend on what other teams are willing to give up. That said, Burke’s needs are clear—additional defensive forwards to shore up the penalty kill, scoring depth, a physical defenseman or forward and perhaps a veteran goaltender (although Burke said he was not currently in the market for one).

Is Philadelphia interested in making a deal with Toronto? Perhaps. I suspect if it is Philadelphia that comes knocking that Burke would not want  JVR in return, not when you consider his contract. If it was last season, before JVR signed that huge contract, absolutely Burke would listen, but now??? Don’t forget, Burke has a number of pending free agents to sign over the next few seasons including Jonas Gustavsson, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski.

Perhaps the two teams could be involved in a three-way deal? Perhaps I am missing something? Personally, I just don’t see a good fit here, not with JVR coming the other way…

Until next time,

Peace!

16 Comments

  1. Hudson says:

    Hey Mark. I am a Torontonian stuck stateside here in Michigan since 2001. I am a Center Ice subscriber, of course, to catch my Leaf games. But about half the time on Direct TV we are screwed out of HD feeds for the Leaf’s home broadcasts. So I often am watching the opponent’s broadcasts. This really pisses me off, btw. I can only guess it must be money-hungry Leaf broadcasters, because I always get HD H&A options for every other NHL team. But I angrily digress…

    Anyway, opponent broadcasts are obviously not tuned into things like what scouts might be at the Leafs games, so this is news to me about Philly. You also could have read about it, I guess, which is also easy for me to miss.

    I completely agree that JVR can’t be the guy. I honestly don’t see how Burke could eat a contract like that either, when it’s not been proven that he’s true top-6 material – not at that level contract anyway. I, like you, don’t see at all what they have to offer. Hartnell is the only guy I would dump for. And they’re not trading him. We need a nice C…

    The only thing I have come to know about Burke regarding trades is simply that they will happen. And expect the unexpected. He always surprises me.

    Any other rumours of other teams’ interest or scouts in Leaf land?

  2. Chris says:

    Two corrections.

    1. Cody Franson will NOT be a UFA at season’s end; he will be an RFA.

    2. James Van Riemsdyk’s six year contract extension is not ‘the type of contract Brian Burke loathes’. Burke has gone on record as saying he hates the front loaded contracts that artificially lower the cap hit by signing a player long after he intends on retiring. He has no problem with long contracts given to players that will play them out. Van Riemsdyk will be 29 when his six year extension is up so while Burke doesn’t usually sign guys longer than five years, this contract, like Phaneufs, is acceptable for Burke.

    IF the Flyers and Leafs deal for Schenn the obvious target is Van Riemsdyk. Very good insight as to why in the article too. My points are similar:

    1. Leafs need a big forward, Flyers need a tough d man.
    2. Both Schenn and JVR are similar in age but play different positions. Burke said clearly yesterday that this is the type of deal he’d do.
    3. Both Schenn/JVR are players with a lot of potential that haven’t quite lived up to it yet but as both are still young, both are worth the risk.
    4. With the addition of Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn and Jagr, Van Riemsdyk has become somewhat expendable given his output thus far. The same can be argued for the Leafs and Schenn with the additions of Franson and Liles along with the emergence of Aulie and Gardiner and guys in the system like 2009 2nd rounder Jesse Blacker, 2012 1st rounder Stuart Percy and solid Marlies like Korbinian Holzer.

    I really really like Schenn and would be apprehensive about trading him. That tells me that he has value. Most Leaf fans love to propose ridiculous trades that would allow them to get rid of under performing players for other team’s stars but NHL GMs aren’t stupid. Nobody would trade Mike Komisarek for Zach Parise for example. A Schenn for JVR trade would benefit both teams and makes a LOT of sense. I wonder how much this rumour heats up in the next few weeks.

  3. MarkRitter says:

    Appreciate the correction on the UFA/RFA staus of Franson, noted.

    I still disagree with you about the length of the contract JVR has. I just do not see Burkie being a fan of that. While it is true he took on Phaneuf’s contract, those were extreme circumstances where he picked up a player that is now captain and the face of the franchise in the mionds of many, neither of which JVR would be. At 40 points per year JVR’s salary is deemed high, and when you factor in the length and JVR’s inconsistencies, I cant see Burke touching that contract, unless the Flyers want to get stupid and take the likes of Komisarek in return.

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. Hudson says:

    IMO, it’s not the length or anything to do with the cap. It’s the price given for someone who is still extremely unproven. And that 5 years at that rate is as of this moment, unreasonable – and completely unjustified. Burke was burned by Komi. And I think Philly might be with JVR too. In his brief NHL career, he has not been much above 40 pts, and is on pace for a bit better than 40 actually, based on hid PPG.

    But worth that coin? Not yet. Look at the reasonable contracts dished out to the likes of Kulemin and MacArthur. Can you consider JVR’s contract reasonable? I am not saying Burke wouldn’t like to have the guy, but you can bet he wishes he could offer a separate contract – which complicates a deal a bit, imo. But as you and Burke himself says, it might be worth the gamble…

    But it reminds me a bit of someone else who wasn’t an impact player yet, yet who scored fairly well for a couple of years. We gave up more PPG in young Stajan, who has since tanked in Calgary. Back in Stajan’s couple good Toronto years, he was jamming it up and hitting a bit too. He was not that much smaller. Would you take him back? It turned out he was overpaid too…

    It will be interesting to see what happens. As their current contracts are, I would still prefer Schenn. But we’re stacked on D. We have ourselves a conundrum.

    How do we work the deal? Aren’t we really tight on the cap? something else has got to give…

    BTW, I would almost trade Kadri for a bag of pucks. He has had a handful of effective games, but I cringe every time he gets the puck. He gives it up half the time. He makes all these stupid fancy dekes that don’t work at the NHL level…tired of it. Trade him while we still can.

    Schenn & Kadri, for JVR and a 2nd and 3rd round pick. 😀

  5. MarkRitter says:

    Listening to Burkes comments yesterday he still seems a little miffed at Kadri. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kadri moving on. Sure, Burke says all the right things “he’s on an upward tick”, that kinda thing, but I really don’t see Burkes excitment when he talks about Kadri. Kadri is a valuable comodity, I just think his best hockey will be played in another uniform.

    Now to JVR’s contract.

    No, I do not see it as reasonable, I see it as inflated for what he is giving you. To your point, JVR makes more than Grabo and Mac, and both of those players had better numbers last season.

    JVR is a big talent, but there are plenty of holes in his game, and plenty of unknowns where his future is concerned. I am not sure JVR is worth the gamble at this juncture- not with that contract!

    Peace!

  6. Hudson says:

    Agreed.

    I think after over two years, I have seen enough of Kadri that I am more than willing to risk him becoming a little bit successful elsewhere. He is NOT what we need. Package him up with something else and get us something we do need. I would almost put a little bit of money on him leaving. I wound be happy with a 2nd and third for him. I would lay big money down on Burke regretting he ever drafted him. What a bizarre pick for him. He must have been listening too much to someone else.

  7. Mark Ritter says:

    I remember just moments before Burke drafted Kadri Sens GM standing beside Burke and Burke asking which player they wanted. Murray said Kadri, Burkie said “Well, were drafting him”…I think Burke had hoped Murray would stop him and say “wait, let’s make a deal”, but it never materialized. I too feel Kadri is not a great fit here, time will tell…

  8. Hudson says:

    You have a very good memory. I forgot all about that. Not sure what to conclude about it. You may be right, but they really could have intended on it. I think it’s weird either way!

  9. nhl fan says:

    Kadri has only played a few good games. what games are you watching. He has played third and fourth line minutes.Give him Kessel and Lupul plus top end powerplay minutes and see what he does even as young as he is.

  10. Mark Ritter says:

    nhl fan: watched every game he has played and I have been left wanting more the majority of the time. Is Kadri young—yep. Can he improve-yep. Do I think he will be a Maple Leafs in the long term- no. Colborne is a much better fit for a second line centre and I just don’t see enough grit in Kadri’s game to suggest he can handle third line duties throughout his career. Kadri’s skill-set is second line material, too bad Toronto has Grabo or he might get a better shot…it is what it is, and Kadri just doesn’t fit in IMO…

  11. nhl fan says:

    You really think Grabo is in the leafs plans beyond this year. Burke would have signed him by now and he has no intension to.He will be gone by the trade deadline.

  12. Mark Ritter says:

    nhlfan:

    Yes. I see Grabo here next season. Read my piece:

    http://theslapshot.com/mikhail-grabovski-deal-or-no-deal

    Either way, the second line centre job will be Joe Colborne’s not Kadri’s, you can bank on it…

  13. Hudson says:

    I honestly don’t see Grabo going anywhere. I agree with Mark. I want Kadri gone in exchange for someone useful…

  14. nhl fan says:

    Hudson you really think grabo is more useful than Kadri. He is 28 years old, in his prime has had top end minutes on bottom end team the last 4 years and his best season is 50 points. Colborne is a good talent but his skating has to improve or he will have a tough time in league. Thats why he is not in Toronto now and why Boston made him expendable.

  15. leafs1n67 says:

    As Burke always seems to do the unexpected could someone like Courturier be a target. Would Philly give him up for Schenn. Philly has a lot of depth at center. What would other Leaf fans think of this?

  16. MarkRitter says:

    Courturier is an interesting player. I think Philly will hold onto him though…

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