NHL Trade Rumors: Can Brian Burke Pull One Off?

December 5th, 2010 1 Comment

Ever get into a fight with an Irishman? How about a drunken Irishman? Well, I have, and I can tell you from experience, regardless of the outcome of the fight one thing is for certain, that Irishman will never admit that he was wrong not matter how much you beat him!

Such is the case with Toronto Maple Leafs Irish general manager Brian Burke.

Fact is, it doesn’t matter how hard the Leafs Nation goes after him for making the Phil Kessel trade, he will never admit that it was a bad move and odds are he will remain loyal to Kessel to a fault.

Recently, I threw an article out there designed to spark some debate over Phil Kessel’s value on the trade market.

Needless to say the answers I got in return ranged from well thought out to ridiculous and all the way down the ladder to the asinine, but at least we got answers.

The consensus seemed to be that Kessel could fetch a relatively solid roster player and a top prospect, with various names emerging.

Now, nobody is suggesting Burke will look to deal Kessel, but it is an avenue that could be considered at some point and that’s why we debated it.

So, if Burke is not going to deal Kessel, what can he possibly do to improve this team?

For the most part, the Maple Leafs have played uninspired hockey, leading to their woeful 9-12-4 record, which is not far off last seasons pace which saw the Buds finish the season in 29th place overall.

The good news is there are several NHL teams out there that are in need of a change and/or salary cap relief, many of which have players that, in the right trade scenario, Burke may be interested in.

The Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and of course the Toronto Maple Leafs have all been rumored to be looking to deal or have already made a move.

Of those teams, it would seem as if the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames would be the most desperate to make a move.

The Devils would like to cut salary, the Senators would like to add scoring and defensemen, the Maple Leafs need a top six forward (preferably a centre), the Flames need just about everything (including some direction), while the Kings are looking to solidify their offense with another forward.

That’s five teams that are looking to deal and yet none of them have been in any substantial trade rumors of late which makes me feel something big is about to happen.

The Kings are 3-7-0 in their past ten games, the Senators are 3-7-0, the Flames are 3-5-2, the Leafs are 3-6-1 while the Devils are 4-5-1.

Clearly, while I gotta believe the long-term future of the Kings is going to be exceptional the rest of the lot need to step it up, which, in the long run, should force a few of those teams to make a move.

In Los Angeles every trade rumor seems to have the name or names of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds attached to them. The Kings are loaded with prospects and have a ton of cap space with which to acquire a large contract or two.

Los Angeles looks to be very close to making a significant Stanley Cup run, an addition up front would only serve to strength them.

Jarome Iginla’s name was briefly linked to the Kings, but that seems to have subsided, especially in light of the Flames insisting they are not looking to trade Iggy (who has been hot of late).

In New Jersey the Devils have also been rumored to be in a number of deals. Veteran forward Patrick Elias’ (who has a no-movement clause) name has surfaced on more than one occasion, as has the likes of Travis Zajac and even the injured Zach Parise- who many feel the Devils will have a tough time signing this off-season.

David Clarkson’s name has also been bandied around, but given the Devils just signed him to a big deal I don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon.

Martin Brodeur has struggled this season leading some NHL pundits to suggest the Devils should look to trade the face of the franchise (sorry Ilya, Brodeur is still “the man” in Jersey).

The trouble is most NHL teams are set between the pipes and while I will agree Brodeur would be a nice pickup at the deadline; I just cannot picture Marty playing for another team. Oh yeah…and he has one of those pesky no-trade clauses!

In Ottawa the Senators would love to make a number of moves, but GM Bryan Murrray has his team right up against the cap ($1,058,557 in space). Boy, could he ever use the extra money he is paying Jonathan Cheechoo ($666,667), Ray Emery ($562,500) and Daniel Alfredsson ($700,000) in buyouts!

Complicating matters for Murray is the fact that there are not too many players that other NHL teams would be interested. The high salaries of Jason Spezza, Alexei Kovalev and Milan Michalek make them all but impossible to move, while the likes of Jarkko Ruutu, Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester will not bring you all that much in return, at least not enough to make significant improvements to your team.

The one player that teams may be interested in is Daniel Alfredsson, but with three years left on his deal at nearly $4.9 million per will likely be enough to discourage teams from acquiring him.

The Sergei Gonchar experiment is looking worse and worse everyday, while Brian Lee (who just cleared waivers), Chris Campoli and others will not bring you what you need in return.

Filip Kuba and Chris Phillips both have no-trade clause, which obviously complicates making a deal.

That said, in the right situation I could see both of them willing to waive those clauses, especially Phillips who will be a UFA at the end of the season.

In Calgary nobody seems untouchable, unless of course you listen to the teams stance on Iginla.

Complicating matters even further is the fact that the Flames currently have 11 players on their roster that have some form of no-trade or no-movement clauses, many of which belong to their most desired players.

Now, anything is possible, we have all seen players waive those clauses in the past, but it makes things difficult for potential suitors as they will inherit those NTC/NMC if they should acquire them from the Flames.

While Burke has a decent amount of salary cap room, the Maple Leafs have few players of interest.

The prospect cupboard is void of any real blue-chips, although the likes of Brad Ross, Greg McKegg, Baryden Irwin and maybe even Tyler Bozak might garner some interest.

Hey, Burke rid himself of a number of undesirables last season, who’s to say he couldn’t pull off another creative deal?

To sum it all up, I think if there was a deal to be had Burke would be all over it. His team currently lacks passion, effort and skill, three areas that are often tough to acquire.

The return of Dion Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong by mid-December should help, but it’s not like the Maple Leafs were world-beaters with those two in the lineup…not that they should be, but you get what I am saying.

For Burke to right this sinking ship he will have to be aggressive and perhaps a little lucky. There are plenty of teams looking to make improvements at this time of year, many of which have far deeper talent pools from which to offer potential trade partners.

Trading for a Jarome Iginla, Jason Speeza or a Patrick Elias- this doesn’t address the bigger problem and that is that the Leafs do not know how to win and they still lack a true culture from which to draw from.

Leadership continues to be an issue, coaching seems to be an issue (have another look at those special teams numbers), the players compete level looks to be void, fact is, nothing is going right.

The bottom line is the players Burke already have in place have to be better. The coaching staff has to be better, everything and everyone has to be better.

Burke is trying to put together a winner, Wilson is trying to work with what the roster of players he has (unsuccessfully) and the players are trying to adjust to all the controversy, movement and scrutiny that is being cast upon them.

Can Burke pull off a deal? God, I hope so!

Until next time,


1 Comment

  1. get wilson out of toronto this will help solve most of the leafs problems hes not he type of coach for the players toronto has . so wilson get out of town fast

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