A Guest Post by: Ryan Fancey
It may not have been the season Leafs fans wished for, but overall the NHL presented one of its best seasons/playoffs to date, unfortunately ended by the most awkward Stanley Cup winning goal in history.
The generic sentence for me to write right now would be “Now that the Hawks are finished, let the trade talks begin to swirl surrounding Chicago and Toronto.”
However, Leafs fans have been hot on that bandwagon for weeks, months even. It’s nothing new to discuss Leafs/Hawks scenarios. But is it overplayed? Yes.
Burke has blatantly expressed interest in bailing teams out of cap issues, and the Hawks are now looking at 14 players signed for 57 million dollars next season. Not to mention Toews’ extra 1.3 million dollar Conn Smythe bonus tacked on for good measure. That’s a teammates’ salary out the window right there. But where are the Leafs getting the pieces to bail out the Blackhawks?
Since the Hawks will have to avoid salary like the plague, they will be looking for one thing primarily; draft picks. What else? Prospects who don’t command major NHL salary.
The Leafs are weak in both areas relative to a lot of other clubs from around the NHL, so envisioning a trade between the Leafs and Hawks falls apart quite quickly.
Why would the Hawks trade Kris Versteeg to the Leafs for zilch when the Los Angeles Kings, for example, have prospects out the wazoo? Why would they send Patrick Sharp our way when 28 other teams are working on packages that easily outmatch the Leafs?
Yes, I’ve heard all of the rumors about the Leafs and Jackets being the prime suitors for Patrick Sharp in recent days. But it’s only for another team to enter the equation with more to offer and both go away in a second.
Instead of dealing directly with the Hawks, it’s more likely that Burke will take a gander at Chicago’s pending free agents, who they surely won’t be re-signing. Paying Ben Eager more than a million dollars to play fourth line minutes isn’t really an option for Chicago. Eager is still hard as nails though, and somewhat psychotic (in a good way).
The Leafs could step in and nab a decent checker who can chip in, but likely on a one or two year deal since they’ll want that money down the road. Adam Burish seemed like a good target to me, but that idea has soured big time since his comments about Pronger after the Cup was won. Classless. Especially from a guy who hasn’t capped 9 points in one season.
It seems like we say this every year, but the Leafs spending year is next summer when 6 million is wiped from the books with Giguere’s expiring contract. Unless they pull a miracle in cap management and sign Ilya Kovalchuk, another scorer may still be a year away.
Burke would like to target teams in cap trouble, like the Hawks, but the stars simply don’t line up. The Buds can’t take back a player like Brian Campbell, since they’re already up to their ears in defencemen. And players like Sharp and Versteeg will be sought after by a number of teams, a lot of which can actually offer up something worthwhile.
If Toronto are going to pull a deal, it will likely be with another club besides the Blackhawks. Obviously I could be wrong, I didn’t expect Burke to land Phaneuf for hockey tape in January, but I really don’t know what the Hawks could see in the Leafs as trading partners.
Truthfully, outside of a Kaberle trade, which could escalate in to a blockbuster (that won’t include Chicago), the Leafs will likely only pull the trigger on one more deal. The chances of the Hawks moving players with a team bare of draft picks like the Leafs doesn’t really add up.
Though that doesn’t mean hope is lost. There’s still 28 other clubs Burke can deal with.