directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Players For Sale: Toronto Maple Leafs

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Players For Sale: Toronto Maple Leafs

Lots of trade rumors out there circulating with Columbus as a focal point. Most of which either involve the New York Islanders , Ottawa Senators or the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For this post I'm going to focus on the Maple Leafs and will hit the Islanders, Sens and other squads in a series of "Players For Sale" posts over the next few days.

On to Toronto.

Puck-rakers reported that the Jackets had two scouts at a recent Leafs game while the Toronto Sun has reported that the Jackets have interest in Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina.

Toronto is in full blown rebuild mode. They have a new GM in Brian Burke who isn't afraid to pull the trigger on any deal...they have a fanbase that knows this is the year to tank to grab a key building block in Tavares or Hedman and they have plenty of juicy pieces to hang for sale signs on as they look to jumpstart their rebuild process. Basically everyone is writing this year off in Toronto for the good of the "big picture" which is to build a team the right way and forget the shortcuts which have falied them the past 3 seasons.

Columbus on the other hand is going the opposite direction. They've had years of drafting and I think its safe to say they are on their second "rebuild".....they have their fair share of young talent stocked up and are looking to get over that proverbial playoff hump. Their fanbase is growing more impatient by the hour and management has a directive to "win now". They have just won 3 of 4 on the road during their most critical stretch of the season and can afford to sacrifice some future for the sake of now.

Seems like a match made in hockey heaven right? It would seem that way.

First lets take a look at whom the Jackets may be interested in on the Toronto roster:

Tomas Kaberle
Age: 30
Contract: Signed for 2 more years at 4.25 per
ASSETS: 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.
FLAWS: Still makes occasional mistakes when pinching in. Could use more strength to better handle big NHL forwards. Doesn't shoot enough on the power play.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top pairing defenseman.
Trade value: At minimum a first round pick + top 6 NHL ready forward under the age of 25 or blue chip prospect
Note: Player has No Trade Clause in his contract

Nik Antropov
Age: 28
Contract: UFA after this season
ASSETS: Can line up at all three forward positions. Plays with poise and patience. Owns good vision and two-way smarts. Has impressive size and reach.
FLAWS: Could still stand to play more of a power game at the NHL level. Is prone to mental lapses on the ice. Lacks natural goal-scoring ability.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six forward.
Trade Value: 2nd round pick + middle to high prospect

Pavel Kubina
Age: 31
Contract: One more year left at 5 mil
ASSETS: Has good size and knows how to use it. Possesses a terrific low shot from the point and is a solid point producer. Can log plenty of minutes.
FLAWS: Is starting to become more prone to injury over time. Struggles against speedy wingers and occasionally makes critical mistakes in the defensive zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.
Trade value: Late first or high end prospect plus 2nd round pick
Note: Player has No Trade Clause in his contract

Matt Stajan
Age: 25
Contract: 1 more year at 1.75 mil
ASSETS: Is very heady with or without the puck. Has the versatility to line up at all three forward positions. Owns some offensive upside.
FLAWS: Doesn't have natural goal-scoring instincts and relies heavily on his linemates to put up points at the NHL level. Lacks strength.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Two-way center.
Trade value: 2nd round pick or 4th plus middle tier prospect or bottom line NHLer

Now what does Columbus have to offer that could obtain these players?

Columbus can't afford to give up many if any roster players..outside of a salary dump (Backman anyone?). They need to add not subtract. Howson has already come out and said players like Brassard, Voracek, Filatov and Mason won't be going anywhere and that is a good thing -- it shows he is sticking by his strategy of building the core from within as he is very aware that is how long term success is achieved in this league. He won't sacrafice those blocks for a short term fix and probable first round exit.

That pretty much leaves prospects and picks which it appears are what Burke is after in Toronto.

Howson has said he will only consider trading the first round pick now for a talented young player who can become part of the Columbus nucleus for years to come -- unless its Luke Schenn Toronto does not have that piece to offer. Now of course if come the deadline and it looks like that first may be in that 15-20 range it becomes a lot more expendable.

I think picks 2nd through 7th are certainly on the table.

As far as propsects the Jackets need to deal from their position of strength which is wing. Their most marketable asset that I believe they'd be willing to part with is Maksim Mayorov. If you recall this was a first round talent that slid all the way down to the 4th round b/c of the uncertainly with Russian players. Now that Mayorov is over and contributing in the minors he has some solid value. There are also players such as Pineault, Legein, Hansen, Sestito & Calvert who also have value.

There are some roster players the Jackets could move... for instance from a salary perspective Backman could certainly be headed back in the other direction as a salary dump which a team like Toronto could stomach for the remainder of the year. Players like Tollefsen and Novotny could also be throw ins to give the receiving team a low cost NHL body to fill out their roster the remainder of the year. Malhotra and Peca are also on the final years of their deals but I think the Jackets would hang onto both of those pieces for depth, leadership and their face off and PK abilities.

A few other players that might have value to Toronto are Rusty Klesla, Marc Methot and Pascal Leclaire.

Rusty is a guy I could see the Jackets parting with *if* they get a guy who back is more than a 1 year solution. Maybe he is available for a guy like Kubina.

Lots of trade chatter about Leclaire out there but IMO he's not going anywhere. Mason has been unbelievable but remember he is just a rookie...and as he's clearly shown goaltending is the single most important position on the ice thus if the Jackets have playoff aspiractions you cannot weaken that position... yes Leclaire has struggled but I think Mase will hit a rough patch or two along the way here and we will need Leclaire as insurance. Now if Mase proves he's the guy the rest of the year then maybe you consider dealing Leclaire in the offseason -- but not now.

Some have suggested moving Russell but I can't see that happening when he's our only puck-moving d-man and quite frankly we need more than one of those to take us where we need to go.
So all that said lets take a look at some potential deals:

Proposal: Scratch him off the list folks as Howson will not give up the pieces required to get him. The rumored deal on the table last year was Philly sending a 1st + Jeff Carter for Kaberle but Kaberle would not waive his NTC if that gives you an idea of the value here.

Proposal: 2nd round pick + Legein or 3rd round pick + Methot

Proposal: 2nd round pick + choice of Mayorov/Methot + Backman (salary dump the other way)

Proposal: 3rd + 5th round picks

Now of course Toronto will have their eyes on the guys they like in the Jackets system so a Legein could be replaced by a Calvert or Ruth for instance. Bottom line though is I think picks and prospects for the most part could get it done for each of these 3 guys.

Now if the Jackets want a package deal of say Kubina and Antropov maybe the 1st enters the dicussion....if that were to happen though I think it happens much closer to the deadline when the Jackets have a real good idea where that first will be.

Out of the 3 I'm most intersted in Kubina. He's a right handed shot the Jackets desperately need and has a helluva shot from the point. He's got 20 points in 39 games for Toronto already this season. The catch -- he'd have to waive his NTC to come here.

The question is not "if" in my opinion its "when". With the way injuried are piling up (Klelsa is the latest to go to the IR) how long can Howson afford to wait? The team is keeping them in it and you know Howson is not going to be pressured into a bad "quick fix" deal but at some point you have to pull the trigger before you find yourself on the outside looking in.



JAL said...

Nice analysis, LTL. I couldn't agree with you more, and expressed similar views on my blog.

Burke is the perfect trading partner for Howson right now. Antropov and Kubina would be the ideal package from our perspective, and creates some downstream flexibility as we get nearer the deadline.

A Shot From The Point

Now is the time. Sure, we might give up a bit more for these guys now than later, but we also need the help more now. Could be an interesting week!

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
roadman said...

Definitely agree that the time is now. Maybe value would be better later but don't think we can afford to wait.

Question Antropov or Vermette ?

Rick said...

If there was ever a time for Howson to "pull the trigger", this is it. As I said elsewhere... it's "put up or shut up" time.

LTL said...

Antropov is putting up the better numbers now but Vermette is signed for an additional year at good value.

I'd be okay with Antropov at the right price but he has always been Toronto's whipping boy. He reminds me of more developed Svitov.

I just think Vermette would be the better fit here... so all things being relatively equal I move on Vermette in Ottawa over Antropov and make a big pitch to get Kubina out of Toronto.


chunx said...

UGH dont say SVITOV... that makes me cringe... what a loser he was... constantly taking hooking penalties cause he was too lazy to skate and play defense at any level... never produced...

i would love to see ANTROPOV but i fear he will fly away after the season ...

i have full faith that something will be done soon...

Hitch Rules said...

Totally agree with LTL - I think we should go after Vermette and/or Kelly.

I'd be really wary of dealing with Burke - while Scott Howson isn't a dufus, a la former GMDM (Prez/GM/Coach Emeritus), Burke is VERY shrewd - I think he's still snickering over getting Beauchamin and Marchant (OK, a throw in, of sorts, on the later) for Feds.

Just VEWWW-Y (very) careful with this dude...

The Sens are a bigger mess, so they are more ripe for such a trade.

Just a thought, from my end...

Hitch Rules said...

As for trading with the Sens, how about Vermette and Brian Lee, instead of (Vermette and) Chris Kelly?

Lee's 21, has some size, and, get this, he's a RH shot!!!

There HAS to be a sucker out there (i.e. former GMDM)...

Just another thought...

Gotta go! Supposed to be some college football game going on...