The consensus in the media is that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke will not make a big splash before this year’s trade deadline.
The veteran GM told Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun during the Winter Classic announcement in Detroit that part of the problem is that the trade market is — and has been for the entire season — cold.
It’s very quiet.
Burke has always tried to avoid deadline day shopping because of his belief that prices are always too high, as he reiterated to Kevin Allen of USA Today several days ago.
Do a graphic for any year — the math doesn’t work. Fourteen to 16 teams add players. Prices are inflated, and there is one Stanley Cup parade at the end of the season. The trade deadline is a pit of quicksand.
While Burke may not go without tinkering with his roster this trade deadline, he may shy away from making bigger deals if he feels the cost is too much. As Doug MacLean noted, Burke doesn’t want to sell the farm and deplete his farm system for short-term gains.
Because the trade market is dead, Burke tells Craig Custance of ESPN he may have to wait for deadline day to make his moves.
I think people know I’m not a deadline guy, but we might have to do our stuff at the deadline because there’s [expletive]-all happening now.
So, what type of players would Burke want to add?
Aside from desperately wanting to add a top-six forward with size who can score — which, as Bob McKenzie of TSN points out, aren’t widely available — SportsNet’s Patrick Hoffman has Burke also wanting to add a two-way forward.
Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk, a Burke trade target in mid-January, is currently still out of action with a concussion. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Maple Leafs have interest in Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter, but Burke isn’t too keen on taking on his long-term contract. The Anaheim Ducks aren’t trading Bobby Ryan or Ryan Getzlaf. And the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t as keen on dealing Ryan Malone, another former Burke target.
With news that Rick Nash has handed a list of teams — with the Maple Leafs being one of them — where the Columbus Blue Jackets are allowed to trade him to, it would make sense that Burke will explore the possibility of landing the big power-forward. However, there are some challenges on that front, as we already discussed.
Bob Mitchell of the Toronto Star has an in-depth analysis of a trade for Edmonton Oilers’ Sam Gagner, and a similar breakdown of a potential deal for Carolina Hurricanes pending unrestricted free agent forward Tuomo Ruutu.
Any of these players would come at a high cost. So, which players and assets might Burke be willing to make available?
Hoffman lists current roster players Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur, Cody Franson, and Luke Schenn as potential trade bait, while McKenzie adds Carl Gunnarson.
Burke may also put pending unrestricted free agent forward Mikhail Grabovski in play. Word from TSN’ Darren Dreger is that the Maple Leafs have been offered “a second-round pick and a prospect” that Burke believes can upgrade to a first round draft pick.
Garrioch reported on February 4th that the Maple Leafs are also willing to part with prospects Joe Colborne or Nazem Kadri (specifically for Ruutu).
While Burke may not feel the same way yet, Colborne told Koshan a couple of days ago that he would like a shot to be the type of player for the Maple Leafs that the club is looking to bring in from outside the organization.
I want to be the one the Leafs look (upon) to be their No. 1 go-to guy. It’s something I’m striving for. When I wake up every day and come to the rink, that’s the goal I have.
As for the rumors, Colborne says that he would prefer to remain in Toronto if it were up to him.
It’s old hat for me. I know Nazem (Kadri) has been in a bunch of (rumours) and we joke about it. People make it seem like we are so worried about it, but it’s really a relaxed atmosphere. I love being in Toronto and that’s where my focus is.