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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jackets should take advantage of Leafs house cleaning

Now let me start this off by saying that (unfortunately) I do not have any inside information but I just came across this article from interim Leafs' GM Cliff Fletcher:

Fletcher is engaged in trade talks, possible buyouts and has wrapped up pro and amateur scouting meetings pertaining to the June 20 draft and July free agency.

"I'm starting to prepare to move forward," Fletcher said. "My stamp is going to be on this, whenever my tenure ends. I'm operating under the goal of making this team the top in the league."

Now we know Howson is going to try at least to be a mover and a shaker this offseason in Columbus. He's got the money and the assets available to do it. So when I read about a team like the Leafs who are certainly in a rebuild mode saying they are engaged in trade talks I take notice. Why? Because they have a number of pieces on the block that could really help the Jackets.

Lets take a look.

First we have what Leaf fans are calling the "Frozen Five" of Matts Sudin, Tomas Kaberle, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina and Bryan McCabe. All five of these players have an NTC (No Trade Clause) and if Cliff Fletcher and the Leafs had their way, just about every one of them would have been moved at the trade deadline to get a jump start on the rebuild -- to pull a "Flyers" as a quick turnaround has been labeled of late.

Unfortunately for the Leafs' brass these players liked Toronto to much as none of them would waive their NTCs. Its started with franchise player and captain Matts Sundin and then the rest followed hence the term "Frozen Five".

That was then and this is now. All of these players are in a different situations now so lets take a look:

Matt Sundin - this guy has spent 15+ years with the Leafs' organization and obviously by his decision to not waive his NTC he has no interest in moving elsewhere. His contract however has expired and he is a UFA but the thought is if he and the Leafs don't reach an agreement he will just retire.

Would the Jackets be interested? Hell yes. Even at age 37 he's still a very productive player in this league notching 32g, 46a for 78p last season. He's a big center and we know how desperate the Jackets would be to fill the center of their ice. He would only be a year or two stop gap though and the Jackets would need to find a younger center as well until Brassard is ready. Bottom line though is Sundin has never won a cup, is loyal to Toronto and the chances of him becoming a Jacket are next to none.

Tomas Kaberle - a 30 year old d-man who excels at both ends of the ice. Perhaps even a top 10 d-man in this league...at least top 15. He's notched 53, 58 & 67 points the past 3 years. He's also signed for 3 more at a very reasonable 4.25 mil per. His NTC is still active but he may waive it if Sundin isn't brought back and veterans are either 1. traded or 2. bought out.

Would the Jackets be interested? Howson and Hitch would salivate at the chance to get a player like Kaberle. He is the exact type of players the Jackets covet this offseason on their blueline. Here is what sportsnet.ca says about him:

"Possesses tremendous hockey smarts and the ability to find his teammates with excellent passes. A swift skater, he loves to join the attack. Defends well."

Uhhh..yeah, I think we could use that. Again though I just don't see him waiving his NTC to come to Columbus but I think the Jackets would make a hellofa run at him including that #6 overall for his services.

Darcy Tucker - a rugged 33 year old 3rd line winger. In the past the Jackets could have really used a guy like Tucker but after his career season of 28g, 33a for 61p his game has started to fade. His legs aren't that good and his production has dropped. He'll still play that agitation role and chip in 15 - 20g but he's signed for 3 more years at 3.3 mil which could make him hard to move.

Would the Jackets be interested? If you'd asked me that two years ago I'd say he was exactly what we needed but with Jared Boll, Jason Chimera and guys like Dorsett and Sestito on their way I think that money and assets it would take to get him can be better utilized elsewhere. That and I don't see Tucker waiving his NTC to come here.

Pavel Kubina - a 30 year old 6'4" 244 lb who is just a solid all around NHL defensemen who gets it done in all 3 zones. One of his best assets is a low point shot and he gets it through. He's had 40, 21 & 38 points the past 3 years playing behind guys like Kaberle and McCabe on the powerplay. He'll also kill penalties and won a cup with the Lightning (yes the same team Modin played on).

Would the Jackets be interested? He's somewhat expensive at 5 mil with two seasons remaining on his contract but he could really really help solidify the Jackets top 4. With money to spend and assets to move I could certainly see Howson making a run at this player with the intention of grabbing another UFA defensemen on the open market to really shore up that group. Look for perhaps that 19th overall pick to be in play for a player like Kubina.

The great thing about Kubina is that there is a clause in his contract that calls for the NTC in his deal to void from mid-June to mid- July. That means he could be dealt to any team including the Jackets.

Bryan McCabe - a 32 year old 6' 2" defensemen who has 3 years remaining on his deal at 6.15, 4.15 and 4.15 mil respectively. McCabe is probably the most 1 dimensional of the 3 defensemen I have listed here. He can bring it offensively as he had 27, 57 and 68 points the past 3 years (he was injured a lot last season) but he's not so good in the defensive zone. Byran Berard comes a bit to mind when thinkin of McCabe but he's not Berard bad defensively. Of the 3 defensemen I'm sure Toronto would like to move him the most but he holds the least amount of value.

Would the Jackets be interested? If all else fails they may turn to McCabe but I think there are a lot of other options they would explore first. McCabe is pretty expensive next year but more reasonable the following two years. He would of course have to waive his NTC which he may refuse to do. The other problem with McCabe was his horrible year last year and if anyone will take a chance on him considering his salary regardless of the NTC. If the Jackets were to make a move they would give up next to nothing for him which is the one positive. Of course if he's a bust we would have a boat anchor of a salary around our necks for the next 3 years.

There are some other players as well that the could be on the block in guys like Jason Blake, who just signed a 5 year deal last offseason as a UFA and is said to already want out, or Andrew Raycroft who has been the Leafs version of Marc Denis since their trade to acquire him 2 years ago. They also have some players I don't see them Leafs moving like Tlusty, Toskala or Antropov.

The "Frozen Five" are the most likely to be moved though and if I had to rank them this would be the Jackets interest:

1. Kaberle
2. Sudin
3. Kubina
4. McCabe
5. Tucker

The most realistic target out of that group is Kubina and for Toronto to move any of those players they are going to want draft picks and young players - both of which the Jackets have to spend.

Only time will tell if any of those trade discussions are going on the Howson and the Jackets though. If the Leafs make a move it should be right at or before the 1st round of the draft on June 20th.

Tick toc.

-LTL

2 comments:

Matt said...

Talking to a lot of Toronto fans, they're -very- interested in the idea of moving Kubina for the 19th pick. I wouldn't be shocked at all to find out that Howson at least raised the idea to Fletcher.

Neil/JF said...

Kubina didn't live up to his contract which the dumb leafs overpaid for. Still, I wanted him when he came out of Tampa and would think he might have a few good years left. Would rather OVERPAY for a younger guy, however.