Well it is about that time of year again when trade rumor’s abound and Leaf fans proverbially lose their minds while concocting up every potential free agent acquisition, upcoming UFA signing and college kid to the Maple Leafs scenario. Of course we all know that about 99.9% of this speculation ever comes to fruition but it is all in good fun and definitely doesn’t stop us all from day dreaming up the perfect trades, yours truly included. So with that being said here is my wild speculation, based on nothing but my sports gut…because well, it’s fun to think about.
What about the D?:
The Maple Leafs as an organization are neck deep in defensive prospects and one has to wonder if they have recently bolstered up with the AHL acquisition of Kevin Marshall (to the Toronto Marlies) and the recent call up of Jesse Blacker (to get his name mentioned on major media outlets and into the minds of other team GM’s) as they quite possibly prepare to make a move to bolster their own defensive core. I wouldn’t put it past the Leafs to at least consider making a transaction to either a budget conscious team looking to shed salary or to a cap strapped team looking to get under the newly proposed $64 million dollar ceiling next season; offering up a budget friendly player like Mark Fraser or Carl Gunnarson with prospects/picks going the other way for an established albeit more expensive veteran player in return. Teams that are not currently performing all that well and have low cap space come immediately to mind such as the Philadelphia Flyers and the San Jose Shark (apologies to fans of those teams in advance).
The Flyers are having noticeable problems with their defensive core and we definitely feel their pain as Leafs fans. For all their defensive woes perhaps the Flyers consider parting with Kimmo Timonen, who has a $6 million dollar cap hit for the next two years (although a little doubtful given that he is an perennial all-star and in my mind one of the best defenseman in the league right now plus they would definitely want a roster player or two and a prospect/pick going back the other way) or perhaps the Sharks part ways with Dan Boyle who has a $6.7 million dollar cap hit for the next two years. Perhaps the Phoenix Coyotes could be convinced to part ways with Keith Yandle who would command a pretty solid return but at the age of 26 and signed to a digestible $5.25 million dollar cap hit for the next couple of years, would definitely make the most sense for the Maple Leafs in terms of long term acquisition target. Whatever way you look at it, those are bucket loads of dollars being shed that would allow those mentioned teams to put their cap issues at ease and there are some pretty serviceable UFA defenseman coming up this summer (that even the Leafs could consider) such as Streit, Zidlicky, Visnovsky, Smid and even Ference but to name but a few that could be signed to more palatable multi-year contracts while filing the skill void left by the aforementioned players above.
Goalies for Sale:
So with all the rumors surrounding Iginla being shopped by the Calgary Flames and being asked to submit a list of four teams he accept a trade to (any guess that it would be any less than Pittsburg, Chicago, LA or Anaheim/Boston) and the mentioning that Babchuk and Glencross are being shopped the internet has quite literally blown up with speculation that the Flames are about to enter into full blown rebuild mode. Kiprusoff was just mentioned this morning as a potential trade target but you have to wonder if the Flames would even entertain a discussion with the Maple Leafs after how badly they were burned by then GM Brian Burke in the Dion Phaneuf trade. Kiprusoff is 36 but unfortunately as much as I attempt to wrap my head around it I just cannot see the Flames taking James Reimer in return unless (and that is a big but) it included a high value prospect and a first round pick.
Perhaps Ryan Millers days in Buffalo are numbered, in recent interviews he appears…well agitated in all honesty… with his team and the current situation and you have to wonder if this is the time the Sabres should attempt to maximize their return for Miller. Unfortunately Miller hasn’t exactly posted the greatest stats so far this season but you have to wonder if internal team strife is having an effect on his game. Once again, Buffalo aren’t idiots and they know the player they are sitting on but it will take plenty to pry him away regardless of the scenario.
Finally, with Brendan Morrow heading to the Penguins and the Dallas Stars saying goodbye to their captain you have to wonder if they would consider a trade for their current goalie Kari Lehtonen. He is 29, posted some decent numbers this year and might be worth the risk but again, there is not a whole lot of decent goalies floating around the NHL who are available and without a decent up and coming replacement, teams would be left incredibly exposed and you have to wonder if perhaps just continued NHL experience will strengthen the games of both Reimer and Scrivens enough.
Forward core ok?:
I would talk about forwards but in all honesty I don’t think the Maple Leafs really need to make any changes. Perhaps I am the only one that would say this but I would like to see them attempt to resign Tyler Bozak (if they can) to something long term and semi-reasonable. A couple reasons why. The Leafs appear to be internally growing their own number one center in Nazem Kadri and moving Bozak down to the third line appears to make sense. His skill level meets those minutes and he would still be playing with the likes of Kulemin and MacArthur who are no slouches themselves. He is quite effective on the penalty kill, a solid face-off man and also appears to have a pretty solid friendship with Kessel. I understand it is a business but having a tight knit locker room definitely brings out the best in players; just see Buffalo for the adverse effects. If he does decide to walk on the other hand in negotiations over the summer or sign with another team, in all honesty picking up Weiss as a stop gap wouldn’t be such a bad consolation prize while you wait for O’Reilly to become available.
Of course the possibility of any of the above happening is pretty darn slim but it was fun to think about and hopefully whatever the Leafs do it is for the long term success of the club and not a veteran rental like the days of old. Food for thought.