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What would it take for Brian Burke and the Leafs to grab a top five pick this summer?

There will be plenty of speculation between now and the draft in June about who the Edmonton Oilers will pick first overall. Hall or Seguin? Seguin or Hall?

Whoever doesn’t go to the Oilers will certainly be selected by the Bruins second overall.

Brian Burke has been quite public about his willingness to make a move to get a first or second round pick, in order to reward his scouting department and to ensure they won’t be sitting around doing nothing for the first two rounds of the draft.

My question is: what would it take to get into the top three overall? The top five? And who might the Leafs offer to make that happen?

A lot of those who follow this site will know better than I do who are the best 18-year-olds out there after Hall and Seguin. But some are considered “can’t miss” and I wonder if the Leafs are willing to do something dramatic to get back near the top of the draft.

Burke was very public last year about his interest in moving up to try and get John Tavares and that never happened. He was obviously willing to give up something big a year ago, then did give up a lot (two number ones) for Kessel. And he made a stunning move to acquire Phaneuf for relatively little before the deadline this past season. But as much of a stroke of apparent brilliance as that move was, it was possible because of Phaneuf’s supposed issues in Calgary and his massive contract.

I can’t imagine another NHL GM giving up a top four (potentially top two?) defenseman for another decade without acquiring a bona fide star or a high number one pick in return. So Burke can’t make that happen again. He would have to give up something big.

The reality is that, in the cap world, teams just don’t want to give up draft picks, especially top picks that they can get for a reasonable price and then “control” for a number of years.

But let’s talk bottom line. Would Burke do something major to get a shot at a young defenseman like Fowler from the Windsor Spitfires? Could he re-acquire the Bruins second overall pick? Would the Oilers give up the number one if Burke really emptied the cupboard?

I can’t imagine the Oilers would move from the number one slot. Their GM has made a big deal out of the opportunity this presents for the franchise, so that’s not happening. Unless…

And I believe Chiarelli in Boston would never give the Leafs a chance to get that pick back.


Whoever is the new GM in Tampa Bay will surely keep their pick, because an incoming guy isn’t going to start his tenure by giving away blue-chip prospects, right? That said, what if Dave Nonis is the new GM in Tampa Bay? He knows the Leaf personnel better than anyone. Who on the Leaf roster would help him make Tampa better, faster? What if Burke told his long-time friend: Take anyone you want off the Leaf roster (other than Phaneuf) for the number three overall.

I wonder what the Leafs could get for, say, Kaberle and Schenn? One is a veteran, puck-moving defenseman, the other an up and coming d-man who can hit and block shots.

Would the Leafs ever move Kessel? He’s the marquee Burke acquisition, along with Phaneuf, but Phaneuf possesses more of the qualities that Burke seems to love most: toughness and leadership.

What about goaltender Jonas Gustavsson? He’s under contract now for two years at a reasonable price. What would he attract in a trade, now that the Leafs have signed two more young goalies and already have Giguerre for next season?

Would they dare move Kulemin, a restricted free agent, just reaching his prime?

What if Toronto gave Edmonton –who needs help everywhere- their pick of any two guys from the above list (Kaberle, Schenn, Gustavsson, Kulemin, Kessel).

Would Tambellini wobble? Chiarelli? Tampa Bay? It’s not as exciting, but what about the Islanders choice at number 5? They already had the first overall selection last year in Tavares and have all kinds of needs.

Can you imagine the excitement in town if the Leafs acquired a superstar potential center in Seguin, or a gifted winger in Eberle who is hockey smart beyond his years.

You’d still have Phaneuf to anchor you backline. And one of the best 18 year-olds in the world.

Can this happen? Likely not a chance.

But it’s fun to dream.
Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Blog


  1. Kessel is untouchable, I would hate to lose Kulemin or Gustavsson. Schenn is not untouchable and Kaberle is on the block

  2. So you acquire Kessel for two 1sts and a second, then trade him away in return for one 1st. A single first. And one that is a lower pick than one of the firsts you gave up to get him? All after only one season in which he has done about as well as anyone would have expected from him? And then you throw another of your good players into sweeten the deal on top of that? So you want to sell him for maybe 20% of the price you paid to get him for last year?

    This would be officially admitting that your original deal to get him was a complete clusterf&ck of a catastrophe. I don't see that happening. At all. No way. The whole reason we paid the price we did to start with is we thought he was worth more than rolling the dice on an 18 year old. Why would we do a complete 100% reversal in philosophy on him here?

  3. To be clear, I'm not advocating that the Leafs should do any of the above. This post was really an exercise in a fun "what if"? I think most Leaf fans have a degree of satisfaction that some good steps have been and are being taken by current management. But Burke is willing to make big moves, and the team is still a long way from being what it needs to be to compete with the best. So I was just speculating in a light-hearted manner about what is might take to grab one of the top picks. No doubt it's much more than Burke would be prepared to offer, because it would indeed cost him the very pieces that he has acquired.

  4. The best crack at a first round pick might come by trading Kaberle. I could see the Leafs getting a great prospect or roster player along with a late 1st or high 2nd.

    Otherwise, I see zero chance of Schenn or Kulemin or any other young kid going out the door for an unknown 18 year old who the Leafs have to wait to develop. It would make no sense.