Burke open to dealing top three Leafs picks for one player

After being so far unable to move up in the NHL entry draft, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is trying a different tact.

He’s now put his top three picks on the table, saying he’s willing to trade those selections for a player or players that would help make the Leafs more competitive immediately.

“If we can leave here with our team better, I’ll trade all three of those picks,” Burke said Thursday as his team continued the process of interviewing and testing prospects in advance of the first round of the draft on Friday night. Rounds two through seven follow on Saturday.

That said, Burke also conceded that trade talks are “nowhere” at the moment, and if he can’t deal his top picks — which are 25th, 30th and 39th overall — for veteran help or a move up in the draft order, he’d be quite happy using those selections to stockpile talent.

“If we don’t trade them for established players, we may well do that. I’m not sure if you move up into the teens that you get that much better a player. So we don’t feel under any duress to do anything,” Burke continued.

“If we get a move up scenario that makes sense, we’ll do it. But if we pick three times, that’s fine too. But the picks are in play for established players. I’ll trade them all.”

Burke later conceded that “a move-up scenario at this point looks unlikely.”

It is believed Burke was in on an attempt to land Mike Richards out of Philadelphia on Thursday, perhaps using some of those picks as part of a package or working on something involving Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. He also lost out on Jeff Carter.

Burke, citing potential tampering accusations, doesn’t comment on players under contract to another club. But now, by putting his top three picks “in play” he is clearly trying to see what other players shake free.