Burke : Year One

The acquisition of Phil Kessel puts the stamp on the team that Burke has been looking for, and officially concludes the first year of Burke as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the new season starting very shortly, and no more moves likely to take place between now and then, perhaps it is time to look back at Burke’s work over the last year. Here is the list of major Maple Leaf transactions:

Season:

-Trade a conditional 6th round pick to ANA for Brad May
-Trade Dominic Moore to BUF for a 2nd round pick 2009
-Trade Nik Antropov to NYR for a 2nd round pick 2009, 4th round pick 2010

Post-Season:
-Sign college FA Christian Hanson, 2 years, 1.75 million
-Sign college FA Tyler Bozak, 2 years, 1.75 million (+ Bonuses up to 3.725)

Draft:
-Select Nazem Kadri
-Select Kenny Ryan
-Select Jesse Blacker
-Select Jamie Devane
-Select Eric Knodel
-Select Jerry D’Amigo
-Select Barron Smith

Off-Season:
-Trade Pavel Kubina to ATL for Colin Stuart and Garnet Exelby

-Sign Colton Orr, 4 years, 4 million
-Sign Mike Komisarek, 4 years, 18 million
-Sign Jonas Gustavsson, 1 year, 900k
-Sign Francois Beauchemin, 3 years, 11.4 million

-Trade Anton Stralman and Colin Stuart to CGY for Wayne Primeau and a 2nd round pick 2011
-Trade 2nd round pick (CGY) 2011, 3rd round pick 2011 to CHI for a 2nd round pick in 2010 (TOR)
-Trade 1st round pick 2010, 2nd round pick 2010, 1st round pick 2011 to BOS for Phil Kessel

-Sign Phil Kessel, 5 years, 27 million

In hindsight, virtually everything Burke did was a total win. This list does not even take into account finding some great minor league talent like Mitchell, Greenop, Slaney, and so on. The marks on his record so far would be blabbing about wanting a 1st for Antropov and scaring off any market for him during an already dry trade period, and then again blabbing about how he would move up in the draft to select Brayden Schenn or John Tavares.

As it turned out, the return on Antropov was still pretty solid, and the moving up in the draft was a bluff. Burke has always intended on drafting Kadri, but wanted to outright take a second top 5 pick (from LA). He might have traded the 7th overall if Tavares was available, but even that was hard for him, as he knew he was giving up Luke Schenn to do so. The draft was a bit of a debacle, but basically, it turned out alright. Kadri looks fantastic in a Leafs uniform, and looks like he will grow into the perfect compliment for Phil Kessel.

Of course, everyone on here knows the Boston trade is still up in the air. Certain members of this board believe that Burke was destroyed in this trade, and that those 1st round picks were far too valuable to spend on Phil Kessel. Still, it’s clearly not a trade that has a definite winner just yet. Kessel will be a solid NHL’er at worst. Those 1st round picks may never play in the NHL. Burke took the sure thing over the gamble in a certain sense. It is also my opnion that at least one of those picks, if not all of them, will be used to Boston to acquire big-name talent at the deadline. If that is the case, then that should void any chance of those picks coming back to bite us within our own division.

I give Burke an ‘A+’ for completely remodelling this team in such a short time. He addressed every major issue the Leafs had last year:

Poor Starting Goaltending = surgery for Toskala
Terrible Backup Goaltending = Jonas Gustavsson
Worst Defense in the League = Komisarek, Beauchemin, Exelby
Worst PK in the league = Wallin, Orr, Komisarek, Beauchemin
Unable to score 1st goal of game = Phil Kessel
No Star Power = Phil Kessel
Poor in Shootout = Phil Kessel
Grit either old or untalented = Orr, Exelby, Komisarek, Primeau

So with all that in mind, I pose the question, what is in store for Year Two with Brian Burke. Will it be just as active? Can we expect a second drastic change to the roster by next October? How does he intend to recoup all of those lost picks? If Bozak and Stalberg make this roster, who is on the way out? What does the transaction sheet for the Maple Leafs look like during the 2009/2010 season? I will submit my own in a bit…