I have always said that even if the leafs were losing or being their regular inconsisent selves, i always could look forward to watching some of their young players play and, over the past 2.25 seasons, i have:
Wellwood, Steen, Poni and Antropov, White, Coliacovo, Stralman, Stajan, Tlusty.
One day we’ll be able to add Pogge, Kulemin and maybe Earl and Williams to that list.
but there is another thing to hope for admist all this supposed despair: watching some players who are regularly maligned by others and are deemed to be ‘untradeable’ actually INCREASE their trade value through solid play. this is ESPECIALLY important during a season/off-season (2008) in which it looks like some significant changes will be coming to the leafs.
Sundin is probably at the top of the list and would be a deadline day deal (barring injuries and him not waiving his NTC) that would bring in quite a bit – especially considering his production and the fact that he is the perfect playoff rental (not too mention an awesome guy to have in a dressing room for a playoff run).
but there are others as well:
– Nik Antropov: i love this guy playing for the leafs and i’ve defended him quite a bit here. but now would be the perfect time to trade Antropov. barring injuries, he would bring in an OK return for a guy many believe isn’t worth ‘a bag of pucks’ (what a dumb expression anyways).
– Pavel Kubina: i’ve ripped this guy a part the past season or so but i’ll be the first to admit that he has improved his play somewhat – still nowhere near where it needs to be, but somewhat. 3.5 years left on his contract – one that no longer looks as bad as it once did considering the recent UFA defenceman contract signings. However, the leafs would likely have to take on some salary in return.
– Hal Gill: another guy i’ve been critical of, but this year he is playing some pretty good hockey. still frustrating to watch people beat him in terms of speed, but in other areas of the game he’s done pretty well (i.e. PK, shot blocking). trading his $2.1 million with another year left on his contract won’t be that difficult.
– Alexei Ponikorovsky: He’s still pretty young, he’s big, can skate, has a hard shot (not always accurate though), and he is good at recovering pucks in the offensive end and using his size. Plus, he’s pretty affordable and has proven he can effectively play on the top 2 lines. a solid depth acquisition for any contender and his youth means that some teams that are thinking longer-term trade option wouldnt mind him.
– Chad Kilger: yes, Kilger is a tradeable commodity. you won’t see much in return (look at what Anaheim got for Sutherby, now look at Kilger – who has averaged 15/16 goals per season with the leafs). a solid fourth liner who can contribute offensively and hits hard and often.
– Tomas Kaberle: absolutely NO WAY i would trade Kaberle … … … unless it was for a significant first-tier prospect in return AND a couple of first round picks. i won’t even go any further than that… Kaberle just shouldnt be traded, unfortunately, he is the most likely one to go because of his value. hopefully he’ll use his NTC to stay in toronto and form the core the next incarnation of the leafs.
– Andrew Raycroft: right now the goalie market is jammed pack with medicore-goalie options. that being said, if Raycroft goes on a hot streak for a few games around the trade deadline (and he did go on a few of these last seasons), some GMs may ignore his inconsistencies especially considering that he would provide a solid and not-as-expensive-as-you-think back-up option for a playoff-run. the problem with this scenario is: some GMs DO think his contract is too rich even though there is only one year left on it, and most goalie tandems are pretty much set in stone for those true contenders in the NHL. the only conceivable trade for Raycroft is one that is part of a larger deal that would see the other team dumping an unwanted contract on the leafs as well.
of course, this all has to occur when JFJ is OUT of the front office.
Excluding Kaberle, the line-up without these players should look like this heading into next season.
of the above group, Pohl and Belak are UFAs this offseason, and Devereaux, Battaglia are UFAs next offseason. Stajan, Steen, and Wellwood are all RFAs this offseason. a lot of the holes you see above should not necessarily be filled by expensive UFA signings – but mostly by what toronto receives in return for these players (including prospects – both theirs [Kulemin, Pogge] and other teams’).
so, what do you think should be some of the projected returns for these players?