Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
If Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is serious about making a splash this week with a big trade, he is going to have to think long and hard about parting with defenceman Jake Gardiner.
That’s the feeling of several National Hockey League scouts who have had more than a few looks at the Leafs’ group of prospects, whether it’s with the big club, the Marlies, or at the junior or collegiate level.
And if the Leafs put a lot of stock in their young group, it’s clear that not every one agrees that Toronto is brimming with bluechip youngsters.
“Gardiner would be the top guy,” a Western Conference scout said. “Two or three years ago, I would have said Luke Schenn. But he has not made that next step.
“For me, Joe Colborne would be the next guy after Gardiner, but to a lesser degree. Nazem Kadri still hasn’t shown he can play with men yet.
“To do something significant, the guy he would probably have to give up is Gardiner.”
If the Leafs have concrete designs on Rick Nash or Jordan Staal, Gardiner almost certainly would have to be part of the package. Burke might get away with not using Gardiner in a swap with the Vancouver Canucks to acquire goaltender Roberto Luongo, but he still would have to attempt to find a No. 1 centre.
Gardiner surprised all with his NHL rookie season in 2011-12, playing in 75 games and recording 30 points (seven goals and 23 assists). No other freshman defenceman had as many points as Gardiner.
The Senators have apparently made a strong pitch for Rick Nash.
Multiple solid sources have confirmed rumblings of Ottawa’s interest, saying GM Bryan Murray has indeed talked with the Columbus Blue Jackets about acquiring the two-time 40-goal scorer.
One insider went a step further by telling Sun Media the players the Senators proposed to send back in the deal for the left winger, a scenario confirmed by another source.
For the just-turned 28-year-old Nash, it appears the Senators are prepared to trade 2011 first-round pick Mika Zibanejad, winger Nick Foligno and goalie Ben Bishop.
It’s not known whether any other moving parts or draft picks would be involved..
While Zibanejad is poised to start his entry-level contract, Foligno, a former first-rounder himself, is a pending restricted free agent in need of a new deal. At the very least, he’ll get a 10% raise on the $1.55 million he made during the 2011-12 season.
Bishop, acquired from the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick when No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson suffered a hand injury in February, has a one-way deal next season that will pay him $650,000.
Nash, the first overall pick in 2002, has six years left on a contract that carries a cap hit of $7.8 million.
For hockey people, sometimes it’s very helpful when tough choices are taken away.
Perhaps that’s the case for the Maple Leafs when it comes to Rick Nash, a player they once coveted. Nobody seems quite certain where the Columbus Blue Jackets sniper will end up if he is indeed traded this week, but the Leafs are convinced that if they ever were on Nash’s short-list of teams for which he would waive his no-movement clause, they aren’t now.
So, apparently, they don’t have to be one of the teams trying to figure out just how much they should give up for a 28-year-old forward who had 59 points last year and comes with a massive contract and cap hit. They aren’t one of the teams chatting with the Jackets as we speak, although that could always change.
On the other hand, another really tricky choice could end up on Brian Burke’s platter in three days.
The Leafs, we’d all agree, need to somehow acquire a big, point-gathering centre, and neither the trade market nor free agency seems to have offered one up. That leaves the draft, and what will the Leafs do if it comes to their pick at No. 5 and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts is sitting there, still available?
Hearing ANA’s Bobby Ryan is “available” again after being taken off trade market after Randy Carlyle’s Duck departure
Of all of the uncertainties that are bound to spill out of the National Hockey League draft in Pittsburgh this weekend, there are a couple of storylines that might have a little more solidity.
One, if Rick Nash finally is traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s unlikely that it will be to the Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are thought to be in the thick of the Roberto Luongo race, and if so, good for them. Goaltending is where it starts, and starting next season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens would be selling themselves short. A duel involving the two for the starter’s role might make for a juicy story during training camp, but the Leafs need experience in net. Luongo would provide that, and, if he could prove that last season with Vancouver was a blip, it would allow either Reimer or Scrivens to develop at a pace that doesn’t feel rushed.
For all of the names that have been connected to the Leafs in various rumours, whether it has been Nash or Luongo or Jordan Staal or just about any other skilled player who is on the market, it will be difficult for Burke to acquire more than one.
Burke simply does not have the assets at his disposal to complete a couple of significant trades.