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Here are the Maple Leafs who may be gone in two weeks…

Logic dictates the Maple Leafs want to improve the current roster this summer. We’ve discussed recently in this space who the organization may try to acquire in the next couple of weeks (Staal, Luongo, Getzlaf, Parick Kane, etc.) via trade, but the flip side of that coin is that is means something has to go the other way in any trade.

So whose name is in play right now, when it comes to what other teams are looking for?  Let’s look at a list of Maple Leafs I think could be wearing a different-colored jersey by training camp in mid-September:

(Please note:  the names on the list do not imply I am suggesting that the Leafs should trade these players; simply that these are players I believe the Leafs will have to consider letting go if they hope to get something really worthwhile in return.  Opposing GM’s have their wish lists, too…)

  • A year ago, I opined here that Nazem Kadri’s name was out there and I still believe that is the case.  Now, does this mean that the Leafs are actively shopping him?  I don’t know.  Burke would deny it, but that means precious little, of course.  If the Leafs are looking to land difference-makers, guys who can come in and create an immediate impact, someone appealing to other clubs has to be on the take-away list.  You may think, well, that’s crazy, Kadri’s exactly the kind of young, homegrown player we need to keep and build with.  And that’s true.  But my point is, you have to give up a player that another team thinks will be somebody, in order to to get a player or players who will transform your roster.
  • Carl Gunnarsson is a Leaf that I have said here many times that should not be moved, but given certain roster realities (Gardiner and Phaneuf aren’t going anywhere…) Gunner may have to be the guy who gets sacrificed to bring in something of value in return.
  • If Gunner doesn’t go, Luke Schenn is the other d-man that I sense could be on the move.  This is not an indictment of Schenn’s ability or potential, simply a matter that he is a young guy who would bring something substantial back in return.  He’s only 22 and already has four years in the league in the rear-view mirror.  While some will see his potential as limited because of foot speed and perceptions about how well he sees the game, you have to believe other GM’s would like to get their hands on the rugged defender, to see if he might thrive with a different coaching staff.  If we believe (and I do) that he was almost a Flyer late last summer, then it should not be a shock that he be on the move this summer.
  • Phil Kessel.  Why?  I just spent time on the weekend looking at the Leaf roster and assessing who other teams could possibly want.  I went through the farm system, the big team’s roster, and the truth is, there are precious few guys that are marketable, in the sense that other clubs would be jumping at the chance to land them.  So in part by the process of elimination, Kessel’s name bubbles to the top if the Leafs are planning to "go big" this summer.

I’ve said here before that, if I was a rival GM and Burke came to me with a proposal to trade for one of my top players, the first name out of my mouth would be Jake Gardiner’s.  Since I assume Gardiner is an untouchable, if the Leafs hope to land a big fish, someone else will have to go.

Here's a key question:  do you think the Leafs can manage to attract what they want/need without giving up key guys from the current roster?  But if they have to give up quality, who goes?

And does anyone believe that the Leafs may just stand pat this summer—stay in the five-slot in the draft, not make any major trades (because the price tag is indeed too high) and maybe just add some interesting under-the-radar third-liners in free agency?  Could their feeling be that they have built the team slowly and carefully and that there’s no need to accelerate the process and lose what they have?

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts….


  1. "Could their feeling be that they have built the team slowly and carefully and that there’s no need to accelerate the process and lose what they have?"
    That's my greatest fear! And the kind of mindset we've seen confirmed over and over in Burketopia. I can't believe anyone thinks we're in a position to stand pat after last year (particularly), including the Leafs brain trust. I'm not sold on Kadri, and wold part with him in a heartbeat if i thought it would improve the team. If Schenn doesn't bounce back under Carlyle, he'll be gone by the trading deadline, but I'd hate to see him go - or Gunnarsson, for that matter. Kessel's 40 goals would be very difficult to replace.
    So... based on the disarray we saw at the end of last season, I won't be surprised if one or more of Phaneuf, Kulemin, Franson, Komisarek, MacArthur, Connolly, Armstrong, Lombardi, Schenn or Gunnarsson are gone. In some cases, I'm hoping they are! I'd be surprised to see Kessel, Lupul or Gardiner go - they'd be the only three untouchables for me. But, as you say, if changes are going to be made through trades, opposing GM's will want quality, so who knows?
    One thing is for sure - there isn't a saviour on the Marlies.
    This coming year will be the make or break year for Brian Burke. So far, he's failed to deliver at the major league level, and the team doesn't seem much improved since he took the reins. I'm eagerly awaiting his next moves!

  2. The next couple of weeks should be telling, Gerund O'.

    I wonder how many fellow Leaf observers feel as you do about Kadri?

    I'd be blown away if Phaneuf was moved!

  3. I don't want Kadri or Gunnarson to go.

    If it got us the right assets I could part with Schenn, Franson and Liles.

    The acquisition of Justin Schultz could make some of those guys expendable.

    As for Schenn...Mark Fraser for the Marlies has almost 100 games in the NHL and is big and very mean:

    Our big guys, Schenn and Komisarek aren't that tough. If they can get Schultz, ship out some defencemen and have Fraser as the 6th one. No need to have Schenn in the 3rd paring.

    A combination of a few of these...Schenn, Franson, Liles, Armstrong, Lombardi plus a prospect or draft choice should get us a good top six player.

    I still don't think we fully know how well Kadri can do in the NHL. I think the AHL playoff run might have done wonders for his game. Let's keep him for at least the first part of the season.

    I am reluctant to move Gunnarson, just because I don't think we will get full value for him. Teams tend to overpay for recognizable names... Gunnarson is little known.

  4. I would feel Burke doesn't want to part with Kessel, Phaneuf, Gardiner, and Lupul. Of the three I believe Phanuef could be movable due to his $6.7M cap hit coming off the books but I'd be shocked. I would have to think any deal that makes the team better long and short term will be considered.

    I think some Leafs fans think it is all doom and gloom. Lets say Burke's plan doesn't pan out, do you think it is just mere happenstance everyone is essentially off the roster by the 13/14 or 14/15 season aside from the new extensions.

    And mere happenstance guys like Iginla, Getzlaf, Perry, Backstrom, Hartnell, Staal, Horton, Clowe, Enstrom, Edler, Vlasic, Clarkson, Burrows, Howard, Smid, Vanek, Thornton, Marleau, Lundqvist, Stastny, Sedins, Bergeron, Hiller, Callahan, Orpik, Halak, Brown, Girardi are potential UFAs. Toronto could very well just reset and have money to build through FA guys. Very good names out there and players that can change a franchise.

  5. Gerund O did you watch the marlies this playoffs and notice that when Kadri and Frattin got injured the team had no offense no push. This is what you have to look for in players. How they make there linemates and team better.

    Besides that I do believe the leafs need to acquire an impact player and a goalie.(kipper from Calgary) take care everyone and enjoy the draft!!

  6. Moving Kessel may be the only way we get a big name, game breaking pivot. You have to admit, Pittsburg would find it tempting knowing that they couldn't keep three, top fish guys at centre for ever. I'd hate to see a pure goal scorer like Kessel go but he may the ticket to the #1 centre we desperately need. Like the old adage goes, "Build the team up the middle"

  7. Great post DP...all good points. You've mentioned Schultz before and it will be interesting to see if he picks Toronto to play with his old pal, Gardiner...

  8. I know where you are going with this post, Skill2Envy, and you make a very good point.

    I just wonder how many of that very strong list of soon-to-be-available players will want to come to a team with not much of a roster- and will want to come specifically to a Toronto franchise that won't have made the playoffs in (by then) 9 seasons...?

    I guess we'll see! Money talks, for sure, and we'll have money...

  9. Wendels Moustache- Strength up the middle is the old adage, for sure. I hadn't thought in terms of Kessel going for Staal, but that's another interesting scenario. Both young, talented guys.

    Good stuff. Thanks.

  10. Good points made about all those guys - I have a hard time picturing Phaneuf, Gardiner, and Kessel being moved at all but the rest I'm sure are open at the right price.

    Given Burke's slow progression in his first 4 years on the job, and in his own contract year, I have to believe that if he hasn't felt the pressure yet, he should be now. To be stagnant this off-season and not at least showing the fan base that he is being active might be his demise. Sometimes the smartest move is no move at all, but seeing how this squad fell apart in the back-end of last year screams for change. Even staying with the 5th overall pick is fine with me, but to not be active in getting one of the aforementioned big names like Nash, Luongo, etc. is to say to the fan base that there is a lot of confidence in the squad that had a meltdown to end the year.

    With the Draft coming up this week, now is when we see things really heat up...

  11. Agreed, dizzard. It's hard to contemplate a scenario where Burke does nothing. I guess we'll see if the asking prices are too high for what the Leafs want to pay...

  12. Gardiner is or should be untouchable, I would regret seeing Gunnarsson go. Really like his game.

    Kessel is an interesting possibility. If he were to be traded Burke would have to pull off something very impressive indeed or things could get ugly. However, if he could make a move that turned out to be a game changer then perhaps we could stop talking about Seguin.

    Other than that, I don't see a lot of options for the Leafs. Not many pieces to bargain with.

  13. I know that a lot of Leaf supporters really don't want to see Kessel dealt, and I understand that perspective.

    It's a fascinating time for the Leafs. I have to believe they are in serious talks about a number of players, but do they walk away empty-handed because the price tags are simply too high?

    Always enjoy your posts- thanks cbh747...

  14. Winning teams have star players, a supporting cast and a rigid system that everyone plays by. The leafs are very close on all those levels. The only thing we need now is to replace all the suits in the seats at the ACC with true blue fans in the stands and we will all get to enjoy a winning maple leaf hockey season.

  15. I would hate to see Gunnarsson go because right now he's basically the only defender on the roster who is providing great value relative to his cap hit (Gardiner too but we'll see how he does in his sophomore campaign).

    It would sting to see Kadri moved as well just because they've been so careful with him it would be a shame to trade him right when he's on the cusp of finally making it. But if he needs to move in a package to acquire a top centre, so be it I suppose.

    Trading Kessel is completely out of the question in my opinion, unless it's for a similarly prolific young star. I think people get down on him a bit too much for his defensive shortcomings, but those people need to go back and watch a highlight video of this guy in action last season. It's not just that he's electrifying with the puck; there are many guys like that in the league. It's that there are few players as good, as creative, as shifty when it comes to scoring goals as he is, period. And IF Burke can ever figure out how to put a good pivot beside him, he will demoralize opposing goalies nightly.

    I'm generally OK with any defender apart from Gardiner being moved as long as we can land Schultz. He along with the nicely developing group of defensive prospects on the farm lead me to believe that this is our position of strength to deal from, if you can call it that.

    In my mind Burke cannot stand pat this summer. He's been so careful to wait for that one player to shake loose to shore up his centre ice position, but he needs to accept that it's just not coming cheap. He needs to fix that problem now, and if it means paying a little bit more than he's comfortable with in the form of an extra prospect/pick, just get the deal done for the proven pivot. Enough is enough.

  16. Outstanding stuff, Mills. I found myself nodding along as I read your points.

    The Kessel question is an intriguing one. I agree he is fairly unique because he can also makes moves on his off-wing, is shifty and dangerous with what people call a quick release, but it's really more than that. He releases at times - and from angles - that create difficulty for goalies, and can cause rebounds as well. As we wondered with Sundin for many years, what would the right guy next to him mean?

    I hear you about standing pat. While there are some prospects on the way, now would seem to be a time for wise action. Thanks Mills.

  17. I love Kessel as much as all of you. IMO he's the only truly dynamic player on the team right now (like, take you're breath away at times good). But who wouldn't look twice at a Kessel for Tavares trade (even if you have to sweeten the pot a little more)? And with P.A. Parenteau on the open market.......

  18. I found it fascinating, in watching Center Ice out of market broadcasts, how certain Leaf players were admired by opposing analysts for what they bring to the game, in almost inverse proportion to what fan commentators found fault in. What these players did not bring to the game. In light of these opposing subjective views, I am not sure that I have ever seen a better illustration of the adage “familiarity breeds contempt” than Leaf fans vis a vis several Leaf players. Consequently, I am not sure that players on the current roster are viewed quite so harshly elsewhere. That other adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” holds true as well. That 1980s chandelier that is burning a hole in your retina may well compliment someone else’s décor to a tee. However, not only is “beauty in the eye of the beholder,” but each team is viewed as a puzzle, with twenty nine of them with one or more pieces missing.

    My idea is not to wear everyone down with a barrage of adages. I just want to point out that hockey is a team sport and current players are not nincomepoops who got to where they are by accident or some mad diabolical intervention by Brian Burke. A player hampered by injury may well heal and perform to his potential, another surrounded by different players and utilized differently by a different coach may well perform to or beyond expectations. In short, players viewed as disposable here may well find a good fit elsewhere. Recently involved in post season play include Shawn Thornton, Viktor Stalberg, Anton Stralman, Alex Steen, Ian White, Alexei Ponikarovsky, John Mitchell, Carlo Colaiacovo, to name a few. Far from useless assets, these players were viewed by more successful teams like Boston, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Detroit and New Jersey as one “missing piece of the puzzle”.

    Well, maybe I am trying to wear you down with adages. This is the Internet, after all. We are free to waste our time, and that of others, as we see fit. Nothing works better for that endeavour than trade speculation; a way of keeping the game alive in our minds well after the ice has melted. This is particularly important for Leaf fans to keep their minds sharp, having been jaded by several seasons of post-lockout futility. But, let’s not fool ourselves by confusing the trade speculation game with reality. With the advent of the salary cap system, the abstraction of NHL trading defies description. Like Area 51, it lies hidden from view and provides only occasional glimpses of the truth to come. It is hockey’s Dreamland. Back in reality, managers no longer trade players, they trade contracts and futures, a level of abstraction that can only penetrated by hard cold reality of contracts and bottom lines. Are we merely wasting our time then? Sadly, we are not. In the context of last season’s collapse, we are entering the most enjoyable time of the year. Finally, it’s time to sit back and clutch the hint of frost, sipping at hope while contemplating the melted ice. In a nutshell, it is time to dream.

  19. Beautifully said as always, Bobby C.

    I always think of the Lightfoot song, "Summertime Dream" in '76 when we have these kinds of conversations. I know he wasn't talking about the Leafs/hockey, but it's that same sense of letting hopeful vibes send you away into another place, as it were. Leaf fans have every right - and reason - to dream this summer.