Toronto Maple Leafs Offence: Believe

 

The Leafs are expecting big things from Tyler Bozak this season

 

Gone are the days of Mats Sundin, Alex Mogilny and Darryl Sittler, the days when the Maple Leafs offence wasn’t worst in the entire league and the days when fans league-wide weren’t counting out the Maple Leafs when it came to the playoffs.

Instead, it’s become the complete opposite. Now a days, people are expecting the Leafs to finish in the bottom ten in the league, and the Stanley Cup seems as far away as ever.

However, that doesn’t mean that fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have reason to cheer. That’s not to say the Maple Leafs are going to make the playoffs for the first time since the lockout, but what it does say is that with strong play from the back-end, things could get interesting.

We all know how good the Toronto Maple Leafs defence is, at least on paper, so I’m not going to sit here and talk about their defensive play.

Instead, it’s time for people to start believing that this Maple Leafs team can put the puck in the back of the net, if they can put their minds to it and get creative.

With the likes of Phil Kessel, Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak leading the offence and Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin right behind them, things are starting to look up for the Leafs when it comes to scoring goals.

Phil Kessel, a two-time 30+ goal scorer, knows exactly how to find the back of the net. Still, people say that if he’s going to continue scoring 30+ goals a season, he needs a play making centre like Marc Savard to play with—but what about Tyler Bozak?

Bozak played in 37 games last season, scoring 27 points, including eight goals. If he can live up to expectations, he could become just as good as Marc Savard, leading to more production from Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg as well.

After playing third line minutes in Chicago due to being a victim of the Blackhawks’ tremendous depth, Kris Versteeg should see top-line minutes with the Maple Leafs, at least until a sixth offensive threat is added. When it comes to Versteeg’s production this season, things are looking great. With a total of 44 goals in his first two NHL seasons, Versteeg should thrive on a line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.

The trio of Kessel, Bozak and Versteeg won’t be relied on too heavily in the latter part of the season if Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski can prove to be the players everyone is hoping for.

Grabovski, who was acquired by the Maple Leafs in July of 2008 from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2010 second round pick and the rights to Greg Pateryn, scored 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in just 59 games last season. Although those stats seem impressive, he still has yet to prove that he can be a solid top-six centre.

If he does become the top-six centre the Maple Leafs had hoped for, Grabovski should be able to put up 50-60+ points, which could mean big things for the Leafs.

Just imagine what it will be like if Nikolai Kulemin can drastically improve upon in 2009-2010 statistics. Unfortunately, a drastic improvement is unlikely.

After scoring 16 goals and 20 assists while posting an even +/- rating in 78 games during his sophomore season, Kulemin is expected to put up even better numbers this season. If the 24-year-old can score at least 40 points in 2010-2011, combined with a 50 point seasons from Grabovski, the Maple Leafs will have a solid duo skating on the top-two lines. Still, general manager Brian Burke needs to find someone to round out the top-six, preferably a winger.

Little offence will come from the Maple Leafs’ bottom-two lines. Made up of Colton Orr, Mike Brown, John Mitchell, Tim Brent, Fredrik Sjostrom and Colby Armstrong/Clarke MacArthur, as well as extras Mike Zigomanis and Jay Rosehill, not much more than 130 points should be expected from the bottom-six.

The Maple Leafs combined to score a total of 576 total points last season.

Let’s not forget, though, that not all offence comes from the forwards.

Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle are all expected to be highly involved offensively, at least as far as defencemen go.

Phaneuf, the team’s new captain and a former 60 point, 50 point, 49 point and two-time 20 goal scorer isn’t expected to contribute the same amount of offence as he did to Calgary in his first two seasons, but he should be somewhere around the 40 point mark after all 82 games.

Beauchemin, who has never scored more than 34 points or eight goals in a season, has a cannon for a shot. He will be a large part of any success the Maple Leafs have on the power play.

His setup man, Tomas Kaberle, was left out of all captaincy. The former 67 point man will once again use his passing expertise on the power play and five-on-five.

Carl Gunnarsson, Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek will all be minor contributors to the offensive side of things, but will, just like any other player, be expected to score a decent amount of points.

The Maple Leafs forward group is one of the youngest and most inexperienced in the league. With that in mind, be patient. There will be growing pains, and there will be dry spells. If this group of young NHLers can gel, produce and remain fairly consistent, Bozak, Grabovski, Kulemin and Versteeg will all be top NHL players and point producers one day, while Phil Kessel should reach the 40 goal mark.

Let’s just hope it all happens while they’re still playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking hockey news and rumors. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

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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.

Kaberle’s Father Speaks Out

Tomas Kaberle

Tomas Kaberle may be staying quiet about his situation with the Maple Leafs and coach Ron Wilson, but his father certainly isn’t.

In an interview with Czech hockey magazine Hokej (via Toronto Sun), the elder Kaberle, Frantisek Senior, said he’s surprised that his son is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I cannot image how he will get along with coach Wilson, who relies primarily on aggression and stress. That’s not Tomas, he’s a technical type of defender,” said the former member of the Czech national team. “I think that during the course of the year he will be traded to another club. There is only one chance for Toronto to get something back in return for Tomas now. In my opinion, I can’t see Tomas entering a new contract with the Toronto. Not if Ron Wilson continues to be employed there.”

Tomas Kaberle was not traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke before his no-trade clause was reinstated on Sunday, August 15th.

Frantisek Sr. also talked to the magazine about the possibility of Marc Savard becoming a Maple Leaf.

“The problem is his health. He suffered a concussion last season and there is the possibility of a similar blow to his head and it could even end his hockey career. In this regard, such a trade for Toronto would have been very risky,” said Kaberle Sr., who also believes that NHL superstars no longer want to play for the Maple Leafs.

“I have been following Toronto for a long time,” he said.  “I didn’t believe it much in the beginning, but it seems that the best players don’t want to go to this club. The reason is because of the huge pressure from the fans, and especially the media. Not every hockey player is able to deal with it.”

He does, however, believe that his son can put up with the large amount of pressure put on Maple Leaf players.

“I think that Tomas won’t even comment on (trade possibilities) anymore,” he said. “He is content in Toronto with both the club and the city. I still think though that some change would be welcomed.”

Frantisek Kaberle Senior has a lot of hockey experience. Not only did he play for the Czech national team, but he also coached in the elite league in the Czech Republic.

The 32-year-old Tomas has spent his entire career with Toronto, scoring 80 goals and 402 assists. He is known as one of the best defenceman in the National Hockey League but has been listening to trade rumors about himself for the last two years.

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.

Tomas Kaberle Remains a Maple Leaf

Tomas Kaberle is staying with the Maple Leafs, at least for now.

The veteran defenceman was not traded between the draft and August first, meaning that he will now need to waive his no-trade clause in order for the Maple Leafs to trade him to another team.

Brian Burke said that he is not at all disappointed. He had this to say in a statement:

“The hockey club confirms this evening that Tomas Kaberle remains a Leaf. While a number of Clubs made offers to trade for Tomas, none of them reflected Tomas’s value to our team. I understand a period like this is stressful to the player, and we are pleased that there is a resolution, and we can all continue to prepare for the coming season.”

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.

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.

Report: Kaberle to Columbus a Possibility

Tomas Kaberle

According to a report by Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, it is possible Tomas Kaberle could be on his way to Columbus.

Reed says that the Blue Jackets have “kicked the tires” in regards to Kaberle, but unless the Maple Leafs lower their asking price of a top-six forward it is unlikely the veteran defenceman will land in Columbus. Reed says that he cannot see general manager Scott Howson giving a top-six forward for a defenceman who only has one year remaining on his contract at $4.25 million.

Kaberle, who has been rumored in trade talks for the last two years or so, scored seven goals and 42 assists last season in all 82 games. The 32-year-old native of Rakovnik, Czech Republic has played for the Maple Leafs his entire career, scoring 80 goals while adding 402 assists and posting a +/- rating of +27 in 820 regular-season games.

He has also appeared in 77 playoff games, scoring six goals with 22 assists.

Kaberle’s contract consists of a window in which the Maple Leafs can trade him between the 2010 draft and August 15th, meaning that Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has little time left to trade him.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. You can also 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.