Brian Burke ready to make moves as free agency opens

The Maple Leafs will be front and centre on Thursday when free agency opens up.

“We will be active,” said GM Brian Burke. “I expect plenty of activity despite a shrinking talent pool.”

But who will be a Leaf? If he lasts until then, no question Burke would love to land defenceman Dan Hamhuis, giving him the freedom to deal a blue-liner or two for a top-six forward.

Or how about Matthew Lombardi, the speedy centre from the Phoenix Coyotes who might turn into a cheaper version of Marc Savard, the Bruins forward said to be willing to waive his no-trade deal to come to Toronto.

Perhaps it will be Colby Armstrong of the Thrashers, the gritty former Penguin who might rather be reunited with Sidney Crosby that rebuild with Toronto.

It would be a shocker if Burke tried for Ilya Kovalchuk, the gifted scorer from the New Jersey Devils. Burke has already said he isn’t interested.

It is, for some, almost like Christmas when the clock strikes noon on Thursday as fans wait to see what players their GMs will have wrapped up. Who can forget the year Leaf fans got the Finger?

But it isn’t just fans who look forward to this.

“It can’t come soon enough,” impending free-agent goalie Dan Ellis tweeted to his followers. “Exciting to think of the possibilities! I just want to win!”–brian-burke-ready-to-make-moves-as-free-agency-opens

26 Responses to Brian Burke ready to make moves as free agency opens

  1. TmLeafan says:

    I dont know about you guys but the fact that Hamhuis has had discussions with 2 major contenders and gotten nowhere scares me, his expected salary could be real high.  I think we have enough dollars committed already to defence and we are okay back there, even if Kaberle is traded.  I would rather see more ice time go to Schenn/Gunnarson and call Aulie up.

  2. hockey_lover says:

    From what I have heard, his demands arent so much based on salary as much as on ice conditions.

    He wants, with no exception, top 4 minutes and PP time. In Philly, they told him he couldnt be guaranteed to get that behind Pronger, Timmonen, Carle, Coburn (who are their top 4).

    In Pittsburgh, even if Gonchar signs (which doesnt seem likely), Hamhuis would be the #2 guy behind Orpik. If Gonch signs, Hamuis would still be #3.

    From what I have read, his salary demands are $3.5 – $4mil. Nothing that I have seen mentions term as a sticking point.

  3. TmLeafan says:

    I think that 3.5 to 4 mil would be manageable I would definitely take him if that was the case.

    I think the Canucks are going to be after him hard too so it should be interesting.  I wouldnt be surprised if we missed out on Hamhuis and ended up with Paul Martin.
  4. Kev_Leafs says:

    I would prefer the 4 million that is due Kaberle be used on a forward or two rather than on another defencemen with the same cap number. 

    Paul Martin or Hamhuis would be good additions, but what will we be unable to get upfront as a result?  That's my concern. 

  5. hockey_lover says:

    For sure. If Kaberle leaves, the Leafs could guarantee top 2 behind Phaneuf.

    Yeah Im not concerned about the Canucks at all. They have something like $42mil in cap space already committed for next season and only have something like 6 forwards signed. They also have like 8 dmen already signed. So great .. they got Luongo and the best D in the league .. except they wont score 12 goals all season.

  6. Kev_Leafs says:

    Also, if we sign either Martin or Hamhuis – doesn't that lower the value of Kaberle?  Because after such a signing we would be in a position where we would HAVE to trade Kaberle as opposed to always having the option of keeping him.

    Phaneuf (6.5) – Schenn (2.9)
    Komisarek (4.5) – Kaberle (4.25)
    Beauchemin (3.8) – Hamhuis/Martin (4.5?)
    Gunnarsson (.8)

    That's a defensive core that's worth more than 27 million.  Our leverage in the Kaberle trade would be lowered, in my opinion.

    By the way, I feel sorry for Van Ryn – another year in rehab.

  7. TmLeafan says:

    That is a legitimate concern and I was thinking the same thing.

    However the more I think about it the more I like the idea of adding a defenceman.  I would think that another one of our defence would be traded next year if that is the case.  My guess would be Beauchemin, he could bring in some help at forward or some draft picks.  Right now the options at forward are slim so Burke is loading the defence first and then by the time our forward group comes together some of our defence would have been moved out and the team will take shape.
  8. TmLeafan says:

    In response to your last post about Kaberles value dropping that is a good point I did not consider that.  Im not sure how Burke will juggle that, maybe he deals him to a team that was desperate to sign one of the free agent defenceman but missed out, so it would end up working out for both sides.

  9. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Leafs very much in on Kovalchuk

    I heard fans bashing the notion of signing him on Leafs Lunch, I don't understand how obtuse people can be, Kovalchuk is our one shot at a franchise player at least until we get another first round pick (and even that is a long shot).  Franchise players don't the UFA often, I don't know what team people are watching to suggest we don't need Kovalchuk.  It's Ilya or lottery.

    If anyone has a better idea to fix our top six I'd love to hear it.

  10. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Here a radical idea, let's try to deal Beachemin and have…

    Kaberle-Shenn (they work well together)
    Gunnerson -Aulie

  11. leafy says:

    That's the strategy that works best for Toronto's blue line. But there's a downside. Without dealing Kaberle, we likely won't get a high impact top 6 forward which we badly need if we want to make the playoffs. I doubt we could get that type of forward for Beauchemin.

  12. leafy says:

    Couldn't agree more. Few players have the skill set of Kovalchuk. Our best chance to find a replacement for Sundin.

    However, every Eklund rumor needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

  13. LeafsneedSteen says:

    My idea would be send a decent prospect and late pick for Savard, sign Kovalchuk and then dump Beauchemin to recoup what we lost for Savard.  I think this blueprint not only gets us in the playoffs but we wouldn't be a push over.

  14. leafy says:

    Sounds pretty good if we can stay under the cap with those moves.

  15. Kev_Leafs says:

    Exactly right.  Waiting for the lottery means either : doing whatever in 2010-11 because we don't have our pick, then tanking in 2011-12 or soon thereafter – which could conceivably mean 6 to 8 consecutive years out of the playoffs.  Or the Leafs could trade Phaneuf or Kessel for a 1st round pick to a team that is projected to finish last (like Boston did to us).

    These means of getting a lottery pick are not in Burke's game plan.

    Furthermore, when a player like Hall or Stamkos or Tavares gets drafted to a team – they command a cap hit of 3.75 million due to ELC bonuses.  Then after three years you're going to have to pay them 6.5 – 8.5 million.  Stamkos and Tavares both had poor first seasons in the NHL at near 4 million cap hit, obviously Stamkos turned it around in his second season, and we'll see how Tavares does.

    My point – even for the lottery picks you're hit for roughly half of the salary that Kovalchuk would command, and 1st overalls have to grow into their game, which can take a year or two.  But they soon command a high wage similar to Kovalchuk's UFA contract in 2010-11.  So, paying for Kovalchuk (at 27 years old) would comparably cost the same as what Stamkos is going to make in 2011-12.  It's just getting Kovalchuk at 27 avoids the time it takes for a highly touted prospects to grow into their game.

    Let's say, hypothetically, Tavares never really turns out – then they're going to end up paying him around 5 million after his ELC for the next few seasons until they let him walk at 27 years old.  In this case, he would never have become that impact player everyone thought he was when he was picked number 1, so the lottery pick would have been a bust but would have cost the Islanders 3.75 in cap space for three years, then 5 for a few more years before cutting their ties.

    Whereas with Kovalchuk you know exactly what you're getting = 40-50 goals, and likely a minus 5-10 rating for the next three to five years before a potential decline.  Three to five years is the perfect window based on the Leafs' current contracts with the Phaneuf/Kessel to make a run at the cup.

    Post lock-out, with most of the high-spending teams already up against the cap, a superstar has never been more available to the Leafs (or other suitors) than right now. 

  16. mojo19 says:

    I'll put a different spin on things. Hamhuis got nowhere in talks with two teams that are really pressed cap-wise. Philly and Pittsburgh could have been trying to go cheap with the guy.

    Hamhuis is fast becoming Ron Hainsey of this years UFA pool.

  17. mojo19 says:

    Ilya Kovalchuk is exactly what a 1st overall pick is supposed to turn into, and now he's in his prime (26). Anyone can have him.

    I asked a guy I know who is not interested in Kovalchuk this question: If we already had him, would you let him walk? He answered no. So since he's a completely FREE agent, its almost the same situation, you could have him! So why let him walk?

  18. LeafsneedSteen says:

    I was thinking the same thing while listening to the calls, I can't get my head around fans whining about not being competitive and *****ing about pursuing players that would make us competitive.

    Even if we miss the playoffs and finish 30th overall, I'd rather spend the season watching Kovalchuk and Kessel than Kessel and Asham.

  19. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    AGREED!!!!!!!! TIMES 2904820394823094

  20. LeafsneedSteen says:

    Leafs get Versteeg for Paradis, Stalberg and DiDominco

  21. connsmakebe-leafs says:

    way too expensive……….

  22. Kev_Leafs says:

    The Leafs also get the rights to Bill Sweatt.

    Yeah, it looks expensive.  I'd like a pick coming back our way, but it doesn't look that way.

    The Leafs get the best player in the deal NOW.  Stalberg could go either way – he could get much better or plateau at about a 12 goal scorer.  I'm worried about losing DiDomenico, however, he was coming off a major injury, but that kid can score.  On top of that Paradis…just signed him, but never got a chance.

    With Burke planning on gunning for the playoffs now, he got the best player in the deal to help him reach that goal.  But shit.

  23. LeafsneedSteen says:

    I'm happy with it so long as Burke keeps his foot on the gas.

  24. Kessel_Leafs48 says:

    people saying way too expensive but versteeg is around the same age as stalberg and has a way larger upside.. there was times last year stalberg was on our first line and getting minutes he didnt deserve. Of course he's going to get points! Versteeg was playing on chicago's third line for most of the year and toews and kane and sharp and hossa and bolland and buff were hogging up all the ice time! with versteeg playing first or second line minutes and gaining confidence he's gonna get hott and put up way more points… see those moves and those highlight reel goals he was putting up last year as a third liner?!?!?!!?!    then chicago gets wat..  a late first rounder prospect in paradis who went in the late 20's?  and toronto gets an early second rounder who went late 30's…   and then toronto throws in didi who isnt a burke player and wouldnt have made the team anyways in toronto so good luck making the team in chicago!  So what's everyone talking about giving up too much?  toronto gave up a not as good player with potential for an even better player with better potential and moved down a few spots in the draft picks and threw in like a fifth rounder?  sounds like were the winning team in this deal!!!! WOOH GO BURKE!!!

  25. toronto-cruz says:

    for the love of christ… i agree with your points, BUT… if you refernce Eklund again, take 2 laps and your cut. 

    dont.   reference.     eklund.      he is the ultimate douche, and literally pulls shit out of his a$$ and charges $ so naive people will pay for it

  26. Leaf_Guru12 says:

    I think burke could go after a player like marek svatos UFA. Andrew cogliano is a RFA and is being shopped around. They need another d-man if they move kaberle like a 4th or 5th spot. Bobby Ryan RFA i always pictured as a maple leaf maybe he'll come.

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