Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leaf News and Rumors
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.
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?
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.
Luke Schenn, Toronto
The Maple Leafs love the depth they have on the blue line, and though others might not think it’s that great, Schenn is a guy who would have the best chance of being on the move if Brian Burke can pull off a trade. Schenn has been involved in speculation for months, and wouldn’t be the least surprised if he is traded. Including Schenn in a trade would be a lot easier for Burke to swallow than, say, using Jake Gardiner as a piece of a deal. Toronto is ready to promote Korbinian Holzer to the NHL next season, and there will not be room for everyone on the Leafs blue line. Schenn’s contract is fairly cap-friendly, another factor that could make him attractive.
Patrick Kane, Chicago
As much as the Blackhawks would love to see Kane get his life in order away from the rink (few NHLers are as aware of the power of pictures posted on-line as much as Kane), it’s not a stretch to wonder if the 23-year-old will figure it out. Though he is coming off the least-productive of his five NHL seasons — he had 66 points in 82 games — Kane remains one of the brightest young stars in the league, and every other team could convince itself rather easily that it can be the one to send him on the proper off-ice path. The Hawks should be assured of getting a strong young player in return if they decide to deal Kane.
The Top 5 players the Maple Leafs could pick in the draft:
1. Mikhail Grigorenko
Centre, Quebec Remparts QMJHL
If there is one kid who could fall from the four names kept atop most draft lists all year it’s this 6-foot-3 enigma. The Leafs would have to decide between upgrading at forward, specifically centre, where they obviously need help, or adding another defencemen, which they have in abundance in their system.
2. Filip Forsberg
Right wing, Leksand SEL
No relation to Peter Forsberg and says he’s not likely ready contractually or mentally for North America until 2013-14. But he might be the right fit, one spot higher than his famous namesake in 1991.
3. Matthew Dumba
Defenceman, Red Deer Rebels, WHL
Yes, the Leafs are thick in defencemen, including another former Red Deer rearguard in Dion Phaneuf. That doesn’t mean they can’t pick another, hang on to him, then make a trade for a goalie or forward to maximize assets.
4. Jacob Trouba
Defenceman, US Development Team
Trouba has come up the rankings, despite a relatively quiet world junior tournament for the U.S. But he’s another defender who likes the heavy going, despite his still-developing body. He’s committed to the University of Michigan, but the Kitchener Rangers own his OHL rights.
5. Radek Faksa
Centre, Kitchener Rangers
If defencemen aren’t in the Leafs plan, Toronto’s search for an impact forward might lead to Faksa. He had 67 points in 62 games with Kitchener last year. He is a centre and does have some jam, especially as a checker.
The Leafs are expected to be near the front of the line if former Anaheim Duck first-rounder Justin Schultz becomes a free agent in a couple of weeks.
Schultz, a big defenceman with 44 points in 37 games, is leaving the University of Wisconsin a year early to play pro. But he’s thus far not signed with the Ducks, who could lose him if a deal is not reached by June 24. After that, a number of teams are in the picture, his home province Vancouver Canucks, the needy Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers, Oilers and the Leafs.
Toronto’s connection is that Burke drafted him just prior to leaving the Ducks in 2008, 43rd overall, the round after another Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner. Anaheim was so anxious to get Schultz signed, it was reportedly prepared to burn a year of his entry-level contract just to play him in the final few games of the regular season. The Ducks might also work a trade for his rights before the 24th.
The world of goaltending options is closing in on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Tomas Vokoun signed in Pittsburgh and Anders Lindback acquired by Tampa Bay, the list of available quality goalies has shrunk by two. And while there are many teams interested in inquiring about Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier, at this time the Kings prefer to maintain the status quo with Jonathan Quick as starter and Bernier behind him.
The pro-active trade Steve Yzerman made for Nashville’s Lindback hurts the Leafs in two different ways: 1) It removes a goalie they should have had interest in from the marketplace; 2) It provides one of their opponents in the Eastern Conference with potentially better goaltending than it has had in the past (and you know the Lightning, with Steven Stamkos, can score goals).
With Vokoun and Lindback scratched from the list of the available and the Kings’ Dean Lombardi saying “having only one quarterback is dangerous,” that leaves Roberto Luongo as their best goaltending option moving forward to this week’s NHL draft and trade meet. The good news with Luongo is it won’t cost much to get him. The bad news is it’s a long-term solution for the Leafs and if they still believe in James Reimer and, to a lesser extent, Ben Scrivens, then it isn’t an ideal situation for the development of a youngster.
While there are still run-of-the-mill free agents available such as Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason, there is nothing that would excite Maple Leafs fans here. Luongo remains the most viable option — and that’s not without its pitfalls.
Luongo to Where?
Where will Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo be playing hockey next season? Obviously he’ll need to be moved if the team wants to move forward with Cory Schneider. Tampa bay GM Steve Yzerman has denied interest but sources tell me they aren’t necessarily buying it. Many feel his quick denial is an attempt to deflate the market for the All-Star goaltender.
Multiple people tell me they don’t believe Canucks GM Mike Gillis has interest in moving Luongo to Toronto and seeing him playing on Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night. He wouldn’t want to have that thrown in his face every weekend especially if Luongo is having success. It’s much easier to hide him in a U.S. market.
We saw this years ago with Edmonton and Toronto before Chris Pronger was dealt to Anaheim. The offer then-Oilers GM Kevin Lowe received from Toronto was actually better than the one he accepted from Anaheim. Lowe apparently would rather accept less than move him to the Maple Leafs where the Chris Pronger show would air every Saturday night.
We’ve seen exceptions most recently with Calgary shipping Dion Phaneuf to Toronto.
Expensive accomplished players like Patrick Kane, Nash, Jay Bouwmeester and Roberto Luongo are possibly available for trade. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise appear set to leave Nashville and New Jersey respectively as free agents. Teams are getting set to make moves lockout or no lockout ahead.
Which brings us to the Maple Leafs.
It’s an intriguing time for GM Brian Burke and his staff as they contemplate the future. The expectation among many is that Burke is plotting aggressive ways of making sure the Leafs don’t miss post-season play again next season eyeing a veteran goaltender (Luongo?) in search of quality veterans to bolster Dion Phaneuf and the leadership group in the Toronto dressing room and searching for ways to get the No. 1 pick in next week’s draft.
There’s just not enough there yet even with some promising players with the Marlies to start aggressively thinking short-term like the Kings.
The likeliest scenario then is for something in between:
• A play for Luongo that might cost one good prospect.
• A mid-range NHL free agent.
• An aggressive bid for unsigned Anaheim blueline prospect Justin Schultz.
• No deal for Nash who may have scratched Toronto from his list of preferred destinations anyway.
• No move up from No. 5 in the draft and therefore ending up with a blue-chip youngster who will be back in junior or Europe next season.
The message? Staying the course no short-term fixes or at least none involving players who can only help for one or two years. Luongo, maybe, because he’s a long-term solution in the crease.
It would be a statement that the Leafs aren’t yet in the prospect-rich position L.A. was last summer but also that they believe enough in what they have put in place — Phaneuf as captain, Phil Kessel as the centrepiece up front — that a goaltending upgrade would make everything look better.
The market for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rich Nash is heating up ahead of next week’s NHL Draft.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, as many as seven teams have had ‘significant discussions’ with the club in the last 10 days about acquiring Nash.
The report adds that the New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes are among the teams that have expressed interest.
Blue Jackets’ general manager Scott Howson said that the club had, “significantly more discussions this week,” but would not comment directly on the most recent trade talks regarding the team captain.