Toronto Maple Leafs: Fire Wilson, Fire Burke, Make a Trade, or Keep It The Same?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have played 25 games this season and sit 13th in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. For a team that many people though could finally make the playoffs, the Maple Leafs have been a complete dissapointment this season.

There are many people that could take the fall for that and normally the players and coaches are the first to be considered. However, Leafs general manager Brian Burke has even admitted himself that he hasn’t done a good job since joining the team just over two years ago, basically calling it a complete failure.

There is no doubt a change needs to be made in Toronto. Whether it’s a trade, a coaching change or something else, Maple Leafs fans would be more than willing to welcome anything that could change the direction of this sputtering franchise.

But should it actually be Burke who takes the fall?

Since coming to Toronto, the Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs twice, although the first time certainly wasn’t Burke’s fault.

Here is a look at some of the moves Burke has made since joining the Maple Leafs:

  • Traded Pavel Kubina and Tim Stapleton to Atlanta for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.
  • Traded Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and Ian White to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrick Sjostrom.
  • Traded Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to Anaheim for Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
  • Traded two first round draft picks and a second round draft pick to Boston for Phil Kessel.
  • Traded Viktor Stalberg, Philippe Paradis and Chris DiDomenico to Chicago for Kris Versteeg and Billy Sweatt.
  • Drafted Nazem Kadri.
  • Signed Tyler Bozak, Jonas Gustavsson, Colby Armstrong, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Clarke MacArthur, Colton Orr and Brett Lebda.

Only about half of those moves have actually worked out and the other half either started off well and have tailed off or have not worked out at all. However, if you see the Maple Leafs’ roster as it looks on paper, the Maple Leafs are a good team without a good offence.

With that being said, can the blame be placed on the coaching staff, most noteably head coach Ron Wilson? The answer is simple: yes. But just because blame can be placed on Wilson, that doesn’t mean all of it can be. Professional hockey players need to be able to play in just about any system and when over half of a team’s roster cannot, that team has a serious problem.

Right now, that is the problem the Maple Leafs are having.

But let’s not forget that we’re also talking about the NHL’s youngest team here.

The oldest player on Toronto’s roster is J.S. Giguere at 33. Tomas Kaberle (32) and Francois Beauchemin (30) are the only other players 30 or older.

What does this mean? It means mistakes will be made, and patience are needed to be successful. Still yet, one has to think that with the tremendous skill young players like Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Carl Gunnarsson, and veteran players like Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Mikhail Grabovski have, why are the Maple Leafs struggling so much?

Well, maybe it is Ron Wilson after all. Is Wilson the right man to work with such young players? Is he too hard on his players? Neither of those questions can really be answered by anyone either than players and management, but after two seasons of not making it anywhere near the playoffs, his tactics clearly are not working.

That’s not to say fire Wilson, but what it does say is if this team doesn’t start to improve within the next month or so and everyone is still serious about making the playoffs, a change needs to be made.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

Richards to Maple Leafs Becoming More Likely Each Day; Ribeiro Also a Possibility

For months now, people have been talking about a potential trade between the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs that would see Stars’ centre Brad Richards become a Maple Leaf, possibly in return for Tomas Kaberle.

However, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has yet to speak publicly about a trade involving the two teams, and has not yet been spotted at a Stars game, not that it really matters anyways.

But even though Burke hasn’t been speaking of a trade, does that mean it won’t happen? Of course not. As everyone knows, Burke is the kind of general manager who likes to keep his mouth shut, and give very little information involving transactions.

With that being said, the chances of Richards becoming a Maple Leaf could be increasing each day, given the way he has been playing, his contract situation, and the Stars’ ownership/revenue situation.

Richards, 30, is off to a blazing start this season. In 18 games, the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward has nine goals and 15 assists, a total of 24 points, to go along with a plus-10 rating. He is earning $7.8 million in this, the final year of his contract with the Stars.

Also well-documented has been the Stars’ current ownership situation, which will make it extremely hard for general manager Joe Nieuwendyk to re-sign Richards. Stars owner Tom Hicks has reportedly set an internal budget that is well below the league mandated $59.4 million salary cap, meaning it will be next to impossible since Richards will likely want about $8 million per season.

That’s not to say the Maple Leafs will want to pay him that much, although their salary cap room next season may allow them to.

Richards would be a nice addition to a team that does not currently have a top-six centre.

The addition of Richards could also mean good things for the development of Nazem Kadri, who, with three assists in four games, appears to be becoming more of a play maker than a goal scorer, although his career is only five games old.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported on Saturday not only that the Maple Leafs are interested in Richards, but Mike Ribeiro as well.

Ribeiro, a three-time 20+ goal scorer, is currently the Stars’ second line centre. He is earning $5 million per season, but still has two more years left on his contract following this season. With that and the fact that the Stars would get a greater return for Richards in mind, Nieuwendyk would likely rather trade Richards over Ribeiro.

However, Garroich said the New York Rangers are also interested in both Richards and Ribeiro. Both have a no-trade clause, meaning they can block any trade they’re involved in. Unfortunately, for the Maple Leafs, that could be a problem, as the Rangers have four more wins in two more games this season.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

They Did it Again: Maple Leafs Loose to Canucks; Moves Coming?

Another day, another loss.

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their eighth straight game on Saturday night, losing 5-3 to the Vancouver Canucks. The game was defenceman Keith Aulie’s first of his career, and the second of Nazem Kadri’s after the two were called up from the Toronto Marlies to give the team a spark.

The move seemed to work at first, as the Maple Leafs quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Fredrick Sjostrom and Phil Kessel. They held that lead for two minutes before Daniel Sedin scored on the power play and Ryan Kesler followed up with his eighth of the season.

Each team scored a goal in the second frame, as Kesler netted his second and Mikhail Grabovski picked up his third of the season with a beauty over the shoulder of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

Mason Raymond’s fourth of the season came 13:36 into the third, giving the Canucks a 4-3 lead on shot in which Maple Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere should have been able to save. Dan Hamhuis iced the victory with an empty netter from the opposite end of the ice.

Kadri and Aulie both looking impressive, more so the latter. Kadri, as expected, made some mistakes passing the puck, but never looked bad enough to send him back to the American Hockey League after the game.

Aulie, meanwhile, looked very strong against the Canucks’ attackers, including the Sedin twins. He also proved why so many believe he is one of the best skating defensive prospects in hockey.

However, even with the additions of Kadri and Aulie, the Maple Leafs were not able to pull off a victory, although the game was relatively even.

So, with that and the Maple Leafs’ eight game losing streak being put into consideration, is it time to make a trade?

No.

Last season, the Maple Leafs lost to the Canucks on January 30th. The morning after, general manager Brian Burke traded Vesa Toskala, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan, and acquired Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and others.

From that day, January 31st, 2010, on, the Maple Leafs were the seventh best team in the Eastern Conference.

Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs cannot begin making trades out of desperation. Grabovski and Kessel looked very impressive tonight, each scoring a goal, while Grabovski also had an assists and an even plus/minus rating.

Kadri, who also had an even plus/minus rating, will also build on what was a good first game with Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak. The three should be able to gain more confidence and chemistry skating together over the next week or so.

With the exception of the fourth goal, Giguere had a good game, making 27 saves. In 11 games this season, Giguere owns a goals against average of 2.62 and a save percentage of .899. Sophomore Jonas Gustavsson has been having another inconsistent but good season, meaning the Maple Leafs are set in goal.

With that being said, all the Maple Leafs need to do is build on a good game against a team that is one of, if not the hottest in the NHL right now.

Notes and stats:

Shots on goal were dead even at 32…announced attendance was 19,534…Kesler, Luongo, Grabovski named three stars…Kesler, Raymond, Edler, Samuelsson, D Sedin, H Sedin, Beauchemin, Grabovski all had two point nights…Giguere made 27 saves, Luong made 29 saves.

The Maple Leafs’ next game is on Tuesday when the host the Nashville Predators.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

Three Reasons Why Luke Schenn Will Earn A Big Raise

Luke Schenn is in line for a big raise

He has been tagged as the franchise player by many, and it may be just about time to give him the contract that fits that label.

With two full National Hockey League seasons under his belt, 20-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn is no longer short on experience, and with the way he has been playing, it may be about time that he earns a hefty raise, whether it’s with the Maple Leafs or not.

Here are three reasons why Luke Schenn has a good shot at receiving a lucrative contract come July 1, 2011:

Development

Both of those years, he has been learning from a coach with a great reputation in Ron Wilson. Not to mention the likes of Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Dion Phaneuf.

When Phaneuf came to Toronto, he made everyone around him better. Now that he is captain, he will be expected to continue doing exactly what he was, which means great things for the development of Schenn.

Supporting cast

The Maple Leafs log jam on defence has been well documented by the media, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, especially for Schenn. As long as he makes the team, which seems more than likely to happen, he will have a great supporting cast to work with, only helping him to play better and become a better defenceman, both on the defensive side of things and the offensive side.

Leafs forwards, meanwhile, should help the normally stay-at-home defenceman rack up the points and assists. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should expect Schenn to put up 30+ points, but with the likes of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Kris Versteeg and possibly Nazem Kadri up front, the 6-foot-2, 215 pound Schenn shouldn’t lack offensive numbers this season.

Contract season

The native of Saskatoon will be entering his contract year in 2010-2011, which could mean either great or bad news. Sometimes players thrive when they are in the final year of their contract, knowing that a big season could earn them a hefty raise come July 1. Some, however, are the exact opposite, as they try to do too much, ultimately forcing them to make poor decisions on and off the ice.

Schenn has had two good seasons in the league, one of them was outstanding considering that he was a rookie in a hockey mad Toronto market. In 2009-10, his statistics improved drastically. Scoring five goals, three more than his previous total of two, and 12 assists for a total of 17 points, three more points than his previous total of 14, his second season was nothing short of impressive.

Schenn’s gritty and tough style of play has made players all over the league aware of when he’s on the ice, something that every team wants from every single one of its players.

With the way he has played in his first two seasons, all signs point towards a good, if not great, contract season for Schenn.

So just how much money and how many years should he receive? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see how this season goes for the young NHLer.

**You can contact Lukas by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com and follow him on Twitter @lukas_nhl.

Five Free Agents the Maple Leafs Should Consider

Owen Nolan

It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs offence isn’t exactly the best in the league. Sure the Maple Leafs roster consists of two-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, two-time 20-goal scorer Kris Versteeg and (likely) rookie Nazem Kadri, who is expected to be a large part of the Maple Leafs offence, but the offensive talent level drops significantly after those three.

Many people wanted and expected Tomas Kaberle to be traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke by August 15th, in return for a top-six forward, preferably a top-line centre. With Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri or even Mikhail Grabovski playing the centre ice position however, Tomas Kaberle remaining a Maple Leaf may not be such a bad thing. 

The trade route is not always the way to go when looking to acquire offence, defence or a goalie, even now that Evgeni Nabokov, Sergei Gonchar and Matthew Lombardi have all be signed. In fact, there are still players with offensive talent and/or potential available.

While there are some free agents still available that could no doubt help the Maple Leafs, Brian Burke can’t go out into the free agent market and sign a couple of players who used to be big time point producers, hoping that they can become the surprise-of-the-year.

What it does mean is invite about five players to training camp and see if anyone impresses. If someone does, sign them to a one-year contract that won’t be too hard to move if needed.

Here is a look at some free agents still searching for a team that the Maple Leafs should think about inviting to training camp:

Owen Nolan

Although he is considered by many to be injury-prone, don’t let Nolan’s 38-year-old age fool you. The 6’1″, 214 lbs big man netted 16 goals and 17 assists in 73 games with Minnesota last season, after scoring 45 points in 59 games in 2008-2009.

The Belfast, Ireland born forward spent parts of two seasons with the Maple Leafs between 2002 and 2004 before sitting out for 2005-2006 season after loosing a season of hockey due to the 2004-2005 lockout. Over that two-year span with the Maple Leafs, Nolan scored 60 points in 79 games (26 goals, 34 assists).

Should the Maple Leafs sign Owen Nolan before training camp even begins? No.

Should the Maple Leafs invite him to training camp? Yes.

Will be need to impress? Oh, you bet he will.

It is unlikely that the Maple Leafs would sign Nolan to a contract out of camp if he doesn’t crack the top-six, or even the top-nine. With the Maple Leafs’ youth and speed on the top two lines, its unlikely that Nolan will receive a contract offer contract, but he should get his chance.

Patrick O’Sullivan

After being a massive disappointment last season with Edmonton (11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points), Patrick O’Sullivan was placed on waivers, cleared them and was traded to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer, where his contract was bought out.

O’Sullivan, now a free agent, was a cap hit of $2.95 last season, according to CapGeek.com and would likely take a significant drop in salary if a team were to offer him a contract, giving him a chance to play. At age 24, he would be more likely to make the Maple Leafs if invited to training camp than Owen Nolan. The 5’11”, 190 lbs O’Sullivan is a former 22 goal scorer and could match that total again if given the chance.

Much like Nolan, however, he would have to impress everyone at training camp.

Todd Fedoruk

Many people want, or are expecting the Maple Leafs to sign Raffi Torres by the time the regular-season begins, however there may be a more affordable fit. Although Todd Fedoruk does not quite put up the same offensive numbers that Torres does, he can still provide the same, if not more, amount of grit.

A fighter, Fedoruk put up 54 penalty minutes last season in 50 games. The 31-year-old has posted 1050 PIMs in 545-career regular-season games.  

Marek Svatos

A two-time 25+ goal scorer (32 in 2005-06, 26 in 2007-08), Svatos has never played more than 69 games in a season.

With the Maple Leafs lacking another top-six winger and Colby Armstrong best fitted for the third line, Marek Svatos could fit in very well on the right side of the second line. If Svatos can turn in a healthy season, the native of Slovakia has the potential to put up 50+ points.

A cap hit of $2.05 million last season, Svatos would come in nicely somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million.  Had it not have been for his struggles last season (seven goals, four assists, 54 games), Svatos would likely come in at a much more expensive price, something that would be unaffordable.

Ryan Johnson

Johnson, an exceptional penalty killer, would bring nothing but good to the Maple Leafs. One of the most underrated players in the League, Johnson is one of the most fearless forwards around.

The 34-year-old is a great shot blocker, and was a staple on the penalty kill in Vancouver. For a team that finished dead least in the League on the penalty kill last season with a 74.6 percent rate, the former Panther, Lightning, Blue and Canuck would be more than welcomed in Toronto.

At a cap hit of $1.10 million last season, Johnson is not getting any younger and this could be his last chance at playing in the National Hockey League. With that being said, he would more than likely be willing to sign a contract worth somewhere around $875 000. 

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors. Information from HockeyDB.com and CapGeek.com was used in this post.

Can the Maple Leafs Make the Playoffs in 2010-2011?

Francois Beauchemin

Before I begin, I want to say that I am not like a lot of other Leafs fans. In other words, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the Maple Leafs are going to make the playoffs and maybe even win the Stanley Cup just because they haven’t for so long now. With that being said, if you disagree with what I am about to say than don’t comment saying that I am just someone who thinks that their team is better than every other.

Moving on.

It is no secret that the Maple Leafs have not made the playoffs since the lockout. In 2004, the last time they made the playoffs, the Maple Leafs beat out the Ottawa Senators in seven games before being eliminated in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers in six games.

It has been five on-ice seasons since we have experienced one of those seasons with legitimate hope. Hope that we experience a Stanley Cup victory.

Although it’s highly unlikely the Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup this season, they may be one step closer to breaking the forty year slump.

Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg will be the likely leaders of the Maple Leafs offence, and possibly the most loved by fans.

Kessel managed to score 30 goals in 70 games last season with the Leafs which is six less than what he scored in the same amount of games with the Bruins in 2008-2009. Kessel seemed to be the leader of the Maple Leafs’ offence last season, scoring more than once in a game on six different occasions.

He also knows how to persevere. Kessel, who suffered from testicular cancer in 2006, is now cancer free. He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance during the 2006-2007 season.

Kris Versteeg, who is fresh off a Stanley Cup victory with Chicago, scored 20 goals and 44 points last season after netting 22 goals and 53 points in his rookie season.

These two young veterans will be a large part to any success that Maple Leafs have during the coming season. In fact, Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel will likely be the biggest providers of the Maple Leafs offence aside from Tyler Bozak, who has the potential to put up 50 points this season.

Lets not forget about Nazem Kadri though.

Kadri, the Maple Leafs’ seventh overall draft pick in 2009, scored 92 goals and has helped out on another 166 (258 points) in 242-career regular season games in the Ontario Hockey League. The 19-year-old also has one NHL game under his belt after an emergency call-up last season. He went pointless in that game while going -1.

Although he may not start there, Kadri will end up as the Maple Leafs’ second line centre.

When put together, the four of them could be a large part of the Maple Leafs’ top-six forward group, with two other spots remaining. Those other two spots will be made up Nikolai Kulemin and any forward that Brian Burke might get back in return for Tomas Kaberle.

Nikolai Kulemin will be entering his sophomore season after an impressive rookie season. Playing on the Maple Leafs’ second line with Kris Versteeg (assuming that the Maple Leafs get a top-line winger in return for Tomas Kaberle), Kulemin could score 20 goals and put up 45 points, which is four more goals and nine more points than his production in 2009-2010.

With a group of top-six forwards that will be entering the campaign with more experience and very good potential, the Maple Leafs’ offence will be much more dangerous than last season.

While the top two lines will be putting the puck in the net, the third and fourth lines will be nothing short of intimidating. Boasting the likes of Colton Orr, Mike Brown and (if the Maple Leafs do not acquire a top-six forward by training camp) Colby Armstrong.

Orr and Brown will be used on the fourth to punish the other teams physically, while Fredrick Sjostrom will skate along with them on most nights. Colby Armstrong could find himself skating with Luca Caputi and John Mitchell to try to shut down the top line of the opposing teams while scoring goals when needed.

As you look into the Maple Leafs’ defence, you will notice that Francois Beauchemin had a slightly below average season in 2009-2010, scoring just five goals while adding  25 assists and posting a +/- rating of -13. If Beauchemin, who won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, can have a better season in 2010-2011, then he may find himself being leaned on by Ron Wilson in big moments.

Beauchemin has the potential to reach 10 goals and 40 points. If he can, then the Maple Leafs power play will improve dramatically.

Of course Beauchemin will not be the only defenceman the Maple Leafs need help from if they want to improve their power play. Dion Phaneuf struggled last season before being acquired from the Calgary Flames in late January. The 25-year-old scored two goals in 26 games with the Buds last season, but don’t let the statistics fool you.

Phaneuf was leaned on very often by the Maple Leafs as the guy who could give the team a massive spark.

The former 20-goal-scorer was named captain of the Maple Leafs this off-season after being recognized for his great work ethic and ability to lead a team both on the ice and in the dressing room. Assuming that Phaneuf can balance the duties of captaining the Maple Leafs and being a top defenceman, the entire Maple Leafs defence will be strong for the latter half of the season.

With that being said, don’t be disappointed if Brian Burke elects to keep Tomas Kaberle.

Kaberle, an 11-year veteran of the league, is one of the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. As long as Kaberle is playing for the Maple Leafs, the young players, especially the young defencemen, will follow him. If Kaberle and newly named captain Dion Phaneuf are both playing the for Maple Leafs, the young defence corps will learn a lot.

With the being said, the Maple Leafs could make some big mistakes in their own end for the first couple weeks of the season, but the potential to rebound nicely is there.

However, just because things are looking good so far doesn’t mean that the Leafs will make the playoffs for sure.

For years, the Northeast Division was known as one of the toughest in hockey. Now that the Atlantic Division has taken shape and the Pacific Division is well on its way, the Northeast is not quite as comparable as it used to be.

Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs are still going to have to deal with teams that are tough to play against. Buffalo, Boston, Montreal and maybe even the Senators have the potential for big seasons in 2010-2011.

After loosing Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman and Raffi Torres in the off-season, Buffalo rebounded fairly well with the signings of Jordan Leopold, Rob Niedermayer and Shaone Morrisonn. The Sabres are likely to have a similar season as they did in 2009-2010 (45-27-10, 100 points, 1st in Northeast Division) since they didn’t really improve their team.

The Senators lost two very solid defencemen in the off-season in Anton Volchenkov and Andy Sutton, while also watching Matt Cullen leave the Nation’s capital. They did, however, manage to lure Sergei Gonchar away from Pittsburgh and into the red, black and gold. Gonchar, who scored 11 goals last season, is the puck moving defenceman the Senators were looking for.

Even though they lost Miroslav Satan, Dennis Wideman and Byron Bitz, the Boston Bruins still managed to improve their offence by acquiring Nathan Horton. Horton, who has played his entire six-year career with the Panthers, put up 57 points in just 65 games last season. There is no doubt that the Bruins improved their offensive attack after finishing dead last in the league in goals scored per game and total goals scored last season.

Last but possibly not least, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t exactly improve their team during the 2010 off-season. After losing the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Glen Metropolit and Sergei Kostitsyn, Pierre Gauthier only managed to sign Alex Auld and Dustin Boyd. The Canadiens are taking a massive risk with Carey Price as he has not proven that he can come through when the crowd turns on him while Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to St. Louis, carried the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final.

The Maple Leafs, who went 5-2 last season against Ottawa, will need to start the season series against the Senators the way they finished it in 2009-2010 if they want to prove that they can win in their own division. But of course, they will need to be able to beat the best in the division, and the league, to prove that they are a brand new team.

So, can the Maple Leafs make the playoffs? Yes.

Will it be easy? No. 

As a young team, the Maple Leafs will make a lot of mistakes, especially early in the season. But just like we saw last season, the Maple Leafs have the ability to string some wins together. It won’t take long before the Maple Leafs can start to string multiple wins together with the potential the offence actually has.

There will be a lot of ups and downs during the 2010-2011 season, but in the end the Maple Leafs will make the Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference just three points in.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Potential Tomas Kaberle Trade Options

Tomas Kaberle

Even though there is little time left to trade Tomas Kaberle without his consent, the Maple Leafs options remain the same. Many teams have been involved in rumors stating that they have shown interest in the 32-year-old, including the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks.

They may, however, not be the only teams that Kaberle could go too.

The Edmonton Oilers, although re-building, could be one of those teams. With very little NHL experience on their roster, Tomas Kaberle could add plenty of experience and leadership to help the young players grow into great ones. Not only would he bring that impressive amount of experience and leadership, but he would also bring his outstanding skill set.

Even though all of that sounds positive, it all falls through due to the teams’ situations.

Since both teams are trying to become as young as possible, they would not be willing to give up their younger players, such as Andrew Cogliano, Sam Ganger, Tyler Bozak, Nikolai Kulemin and Luke Schenn, unless it was for another player who is about 26-years-old or less.

What is even more unfortunate is that Tomas Kaberle does not fall into that age group.

Since the majority of non-contending teams have the same mind-set of Oilers management, it is more likely that Kaberle will go to a team such as the LA Kings or Phoenix Coyotes, who have the ability to make the playoffs, but are still trying to get over that hump of becoming a real Stanley Cup threat.

This could lead teams in the same situation to be willing to give up more than others. If Kaberle isn’t traded before August 15th, the day his trade window closes, and agrees to waive his no-trade clause  at the trade deadline, than the Maple Leafs may be able to get even more in return than they would right now. This is because general managers will be even more desperate to improve their teams for the playoffs. However, that is too big of a risk.

Here is some examples of what the Maple Leafs could fetch from three of the teams rumored to be interested in Kaberle:

Los Angeles

To Toronto: Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, 3rd round draft pick

To Los Angeles: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovksi, Jeff Finger

Brian Burke would be more than happy to gain the services of 28-year-old Justin Williams who would fit in well on the third line with Colby Armstrong. Dustin Brown is only 25-years-old and wears the ‘C’ for the Kings. He scored 24 goals and added 32 assists in all 82 games last season and is often compared to Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers as a player who can score goals in clutch moments while not being afraid to get into the dirty areas and fight for the puck.

It seems as though the Kings want to give Drew Doughty full captaincy, but Dustin Brown is already captain, meaning that Los Angeles might be more willing to give Dustin Brown up than you may think.

The Maple Leafs would relieve themselves of Tomas Kaberle and the very hefty contracts of Mikhail Grabovski and Jeff Finger.

If the Maple Leafs and Kings were to complete this trade, Toronto would have just over $6 million in cap space to work with, about $4 million more than they have now, while the Kings would have about $8.9 million left.

OR

To Toronto: Dustin Brown, Scott Parse, 6th round draft pick

To Los Angeles: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski, Jeff Finger

If Mikhail Grabovski is sent to a smaller market than he may be able to flourish (i.e. Sergei Kostitsyn to Nashville). In his career, Grabovksi has only played for the two biggest markets in the NHL: Montreal and Toronto.

Scott Parse is an outstanding offensive prospect, worsening the draft pick that the Maple Leafs would receive in return. In 59 games last season, he scored 11 goals, put up 13 assists and posted a +/- rating of +13.

With this deal, the Kings would have just over $6.3 million left in cap space, while the Maple Leafs would have just over $8.6 million remaining.

Columbus Blue Jackets

To Toronto: RJ Umberger, Andrew Murray, 3rd round draft pick

 To Columbus: Tomas Kaberle, John Mitchell 

After completing this trade, the Maple Leafs would have about $2.6 million remaining in cap space.

They would be receiving a pair of big bodies, one of which can put the puck in the net. R.J. Umberger scored 23 goals and 32 assists last season with Columbus, playing in all 82 games. He has two more years remaining on his contract and could be very valuable if the Maple Leafs ever need to trade him, making $3.75 million and scoring more than 20 goals per season. 

Andrew Murray isn’t very much of a goal scorer, but he would fit in well on the Maple Leafs’ third or fourth line.

Because Tomas Kaberle is indisputably the best player in this trade, and John Mitchell is the same type of player as Andrew Murray, the Maple Leafs should also receive a third round pick, at the very least.

Dallas Stars

To Toronto: James Neal, Brad Richards, 6th round pick

To Dallas: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski, Jeff Finger, Mike Brown

This trade would require a sign and trade due to the fact that James Neal is a restricted free agent, meaning that the amount of cap space for the teams cannot be calculated accurately.

The Dallas Stars may just be the Maple Leafs’ best chance at significantly improving its offence because the Stars are not very talented on the back-end. If this trade were to be completed, however, Dallas will have vastly improved its defence corps, with the additions of Tomas Kaberle and Jeff Finger.

Mikhail Grabovski could lessen some of the blow of the loss of Brad Richards at the centre ice position as long as he can mature into well-rounded player. Mike Brown meanwhile, helps in bringing a sixth round pick back to Toronto as well as more cap space.

James Neal could be a good fit on the Maple Leafs top line, as well as Brad Richards, with Phil Kessel skating on the right-wing.

Brian Burke claims that the Maple Leafs are not in a rebuilding stage, meaning that the team is more than likely to accept a trade that improves the team now, not down the road. All of the above trades make sense for the Maple Leafs in their own way, but they all have something in common. They all vastly improve the Maple Leafs’ roster now, and down the road.

If you look at the Los Angeles trades, you will notice that the Maple Leafs would receive Dustin Brown in both of them. Brown is just 25-years-old and is a very good player who has five full NHL seasons under his belt. In the first trade, they would also receive a third round draft pick, which although it is not a first or second round pick, it helps. In the second, they would get Dustin Brown and a great young prospect in Scott Parse and a sixth round draft pick.

In the Columbus trade, the Maple Leafs would be receiving a big body goal scorer in R.J. Umberger, Andrew Murray and a third round draft pick. Again, the draft pick could prove to payoff while Umberger is a solid second line player and Andrew Murray could fit in well with the Leafs’ bottom six.

The Dallas trade also proves to be worth it in the long run because the Maple Leafs would be welcoming youngster James Neal, while also getting a draft pick. As for what it does now, it gives them a top-line centre, Brad Richards, who could have some serious chemistry with Neal if placed on the same line.

If Tomas Kaberle is traded, it is most likely going to happen before his no-trade clause kicks back in on Sunday, August 15th based on his past history of rejecting trades.

Buckle up, this crazy ride is about to get even more crazy.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_bib for breaking sports scores, rumours and news.