Saturday, December 10, 2011
Toronto Maple Leafs may be sellers again
Leafs top 40: Keepers, Bubble and Trade Bait
by Joe Trainor, 10DEC11
After the Maple Leafs traded Tomas Kaberle last year, the youth movement was in full swing and the Buds finished the season with a strong winning streak. Certain players that were part of that, including Matt Lashoff, Nazem Kadri, and Darryl Boyce, are currently with the Marlies, while Aulie has just recently re-joined the Leafs.
I posit that the team has not shown too many signs of being a serious Stanley Cup contender, and that the way to a sustained era of Cup-contending teams likely means being sellers again, in advance of and at the trade deadline. I am also suggesting that the Leafs can be sellers, get younger, improve their record and make the playoffs. If true, who should the Leafs regard as Keepers, who is On-the-Bubble, and who looks like valuable Trade Bait?
Toronto Maple Leafs Top 40 Players
15. Lupul (oldest keeper, could be available but at very high price eg. two first rounders and a 2nd rounder)
17. Bozak (his value could be highest now having had 1st line duty)
18. Liles (hate to see him go, however for an offer like we got for Kaberle ...)
19. Kadri (hometown not always the best place to begin NHL career, plus he won't make leafs into Bruins...)
20. Armstrong (at 29 years old, deserves a shot at a Cup)
Best Toronto Maple Leafs trade options:
31. Gustavsson - The oldest goalie in the system at 27, he's unlikely to get better and hasn't shown consistent playoff calibre stretches. Flashes of brilliance, sure, but the leakiness means it may be time to test the Leafs' netminding depth.
32. Rynass - If not the Monster, then Jussi Rynass should be moved to get Mark Owuya back in the AHL. He led the Swedish Elite League in save percentage last year and is the second ranked goalie in the AHL right now. He has little to learn playing for Reading of the ECHL.
33. Connolly - Anything close to what we got for Kabs would see Connolly shipped out, however we'd be best to try him on the top line first, just in case it actually did make sense to bring him here, and to showcase him for buyers. We could trade one of Connolly or Grabovski, but not both.
34. Grabovski - He is the Leafs best center and as he is a free agent at the end of the year, Burke should try and sign him now. I would prefer to see Grabo re-signed than traded, as Bozak doesn't score and Kessel is one of the best passers in the league. Mikhail could easily slide into the top line if Connolly is moved, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Leafs start the playoffs with a top line of Lupul-Grabovski-Kessel even if Tim C is still with Toronto. If he won't re-sign, his 3-month rental should bring the Leafs a young NHL player plus a pick or prospect, and we can still bid on him in the offseason.
35. Boyce - The Leafs have a winning record with Boyce in the lineup, but at 27 the PEI native is languishing in the AHL and looks to have little future with the big club. Darryl could benefit from a move to a team like the Canucks that needs more grit to protect the Sedins.
Other names the Leafs may move:
I see no reason why the Leafs can't get younger and better, at least this year, building assets that can be spun for final pieces during next two to three years of building consistent playoff team. Having written that, if Rynass and Kadri were the price for Zach Parise, I'd be happy with that as long as Parise was signed to a two year extension as a condition of trade.
It all depends on what's on the table, and with Burke being the sharp tack that he is, listening to offers for Leafs up for grabs may reveal some opportunities that can take Toronto to the next level, without mortgaging the future.
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