WARNING: Contains Trade Proposal Ridiculousness
I remember my first “End of The World”. I was a young man of eighteen, living in Toronto at the time. Gotta admit; I was a tad nervous, it being my first apocalyptic experience. As far as ends of the world go, this latest one was kind of cool as I spent it in Africa, where I’ve been for the last few months.
Although as a species we may have dodged the apocalyptic bullet once again, for hockey fans, the end could certainly be near. Unless the current series of negotiations between Fehr and Bettman yield immediate results, the abomination known as the lockout will soon spell another season lost.
Word is, mum’s the word out of New York regarding any sort of leakage of information. To be honest, I’d rather hear nothing, and know there is meaningful private dialogue between sides as opposed to more media manipulation from either party. The less said publicly, the better at this point. It makes me think the powers that be are finally taking this seriously.
What we do know is that the NHL offer which featured a 300-million dollar make whole provision and a 2013-14 60-million dollar cap was countered. The PA’s subsequent counter proposal has been countered, and we wait for a response from Fehr, expected some time Wednesday.
Let’s hope the end of this plague known as the lockout comes within the next few days. For Bettman, another entire missed season spells disaster, and could result in his ultimate demise as commissioner. For the game, it certainly will result in the erosion of any ground gained in smaller American markets, and possibly, relocation or contraction of a number of struggling teams, starting with the one the league has bankrolled for a couple years (Phoenix).
For Brian Burke and his Maple Leafs, the doomsday clock continues to tick with a number of assets soon to be confronted with the option of moving on. Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, and Clarke MacArthur, among others, will all be thinking about new deals and possibly new hometowns within the next 12-18 months. Their respective value to Burke, in relation to his personnel management strategy changes drastically, and this is no time to be sentimental or squeamish if we want to move the needle on the team’s progress.
What the Leafs need are more deals like JVR’s. He’s young, he’s got a hell of a pedigree, and he’s locked up long term for really respectable money. He just needs to produce, and stay healthy. Let’s hope he’s taken full advantage of this downtime to rehab fully. What the Leafs don’t need is more placeholder-variety, 2-year deals to the likes of Connolly, MacArthur, Bozak, etc., while our best and brightest put it together in junior. At this point, the kids need to either do their business, or vacate the facilities.
On that note, I have decided to temporarily lift a self-imposed ban on trade proposals to hear how you, the fans, feel Burke dodges a bullet aimed directly at his employment contract and turns a potential nightmare into something you, as a Leaf fan can get behind.
Phil Kessel has just one full year and whatever is salvaged of this season before he has every right and opportunity to take his business elsewhere. Lupul is looking for a new home or a new deal after this season. There’s the lion’s share of your scoring, poised to walk out the door. What do you do about it? Roll the dice that they believe in Carlyle’s systems enough to re-up? Do you strike sooner than later and cash in your chips?
Seriously, I HATE trade proposals. They are usually stupid, and utterly useless. So why am I proposing that we entertain them here, you may ask.
Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes. And I am desperate for a distraction from the doldrums of the lockout, which has been perpetuated by ego far more than a desire to strike a meaningful and sustainable accord. My opinion, anyway. Besides, if the NHL and the PA can be stupid, why can’t we enjoy a momentary lapse of our own, right?
On that note, I’ll go first.
Here’s the list of players I am looking to either re-sign, or flip for other assets:
Of the group listed above, only Grabo, Lupul and Phil Kessel have any kind of no-movement clause. Kessel has a limited no-trade, and Lupul must list six teams he will not consider moving to, unless the Leafs miss the playoffs, in which case, Burke can deal Lupul’s rights as he sees fit. There’s a loophole in Kessel’s contract, as his NMC doesn’t kick in until 2013-14, making it possible to leverage the asset, should doing so offer any tangible advantage. Grabo has a 10 team list he won’t accept a trade to.
My primary proposal features three pretty high-profile players; Kessel, Lupul, and Gardiner.
Given the gravity of the Kessel situation, if moving him for a piece more likely to fit the mould of a Carlyle-Burke team presented itself, I can’t personally see the logic in saying no.
To that end, my primary objective would be to build a future top line tandem with enough term and sex-appeal to make the masses forget about the price paid for the first 80-point Leaf to emerge in ten years. It is accomplished in two separate phases…
We eat some cap long-term to make this go. Horcoff is no game breaker, but I’d personally take two of him over Connolly and Lombardi, thank you very much. Edmonton’s captain is a reliable, if un-spectacular 2nd line centre and a character player who makes other assets down the middle replaceable. Assets like Bozak, who, while pretty, good, certainly look a lot better with Kessel on his wing. With his value likely diminished, I think I’ll Flip him for a 2nd…COL seems like a good fit.
Next, I (TRY TO) do this:
…What VAN does with Kesler, in light of the Grabo acquisition is neither my problem nor yours. It won’t be difficult to find him a new home with Grabo coming over. Trading Grabo sorta sucks, even for a game –changer like Bobby Lou, so I’m getting them out of the conference once and for all. Toronto lands a big bargaining chip in Burrows, and a pretty skilled badass power forward in Kassian. Love me some Frattin, but you don’t pay for Porches with pocket change.
Couple more deals and we are done. This is where it really gets crazy, but, I hope you’ll hang in there…
…Kadri has the goods, but a fresh start in a town where he always dreamed of playing makes sense for both him, and the Leafs organization. I’m cutting bait and it’s not because I don’t believe in the player; I just like the return I’m looking at better. Subban is probably not the right guy for the Habs to try to build their back end around, and I’m wagering the organization is ready to look elsewhere for that piece. The restricted fee agent defender has not been able to land the kind of contract he had hoped for with the Habs’ new management at this point, and that has everything to do with both the lockout and the reluctance of the Habs to over-pay and subsequently anoint PK as their stud blueliner. A generous return of skill, solid D and needed grit makes the deal palatable enough for the Habs. Skilled French Canadian super-pest Alexandre Burrows will welcome the opportunity to become Brad Marchand’s personal divisional rival, making for some intense Boston-Montreal battles. Montreal will be banking on that EDM pick being strong enough to fetch them a good back-end building block to replace Subban.
And, in one (three, actually) fell swoop(s) we have reunited Nail and his pal Galchenyuk. How’s that for a top line tandem? Sick, right? I’m not done:
…The Blacker-Seguin bromance continues in Beantown, and PK joins baby brother Malcolm, while Team Canada studs Morgan Rielly and Dougie Hamilton man the blue and white back end for the next decade. Suddenly, reuniting Gardiner with Schultz in Edmonton hurts less. Krejci and countryman Hemsky make for a pretty respectable tandem, and the holes left by the departures of Ferrence and Johnson aren’t quite as gaping. Blacker should be an NHL’er by October.
I’ll be the first to admit the above is completely far-fetched, and quite impossible. So, I’ll reign it in a tad and stick with completely far-fetched:
*Bozak, for a 2nd round (COL) pick.
*MacArthur for a 2nd round pick.
JVR – Horcoff – Frattin
Higgins – Galchenyuk – Yakupov
Caron – Colborne – Biggs
Broll – McClement – Brown
Gunnarson – Phaneuf
Liles – Komisarek
Holzer – Franson
? 2nd (MacArthur)
WHAT??? All those big, bold moves and I didn’t address the blueline??? Well, I guess it’s sorta like that. I have no issues with letting Rielly and Hamilton marinate in the A together while Holzer and Ranger graduate to the bigs with 6’5’’ lifelong Leaf fan Cody Franson finally showing that he can hang. And I believe he can. Like Komisarek, he just needs a defined role and a regular shift. Speaking of Big Mike, putting him and longtime pal Chris Higgins in the same locker room does the beleaguered back-ender a world of good. Within Coach Carlyle’s no-nonsense system, I think we see the best of Komisarek anyway.
Liles is likely the next in line to move on and open up a roster spot on the blueline, and that could happen next year around the All-Star Break, depending on his health/performance and interest from around the league. To a contender, he’s a pretty crafty puck-lugging insurance piece who adds solid offensive depth on the back end. Defense is a wear and tear position, and when injuries pile up, contenders could come calling. Hamilton has the height and the skill set, but he needs to add man-muscle before he is expected to hold it down in the bigs. I predict Rielly will emerge before Hamilton, despite his average stature.
Tyler Biggs will be ready to make the leap right out of camp next year, and patrol the third line with Joe Colborne, who should be ready to get it done in the 3-hole. Eventually, Jumbo may prove that he has top 6 upside, but I want to see him with an NHL job next year. A strong AHL playoffs and a good camp are required to make that happen. David Broll will follow suit, and between him, Biggs and Mike Brown, all that truculence Burke once spoke about starts to emerge. Toronto may not be such a fun place to play for the visiting team once Burke’s vision begins to manifest.
Yeah, I gave up your precious potential lottery pick; have a good cry, shake your fist in the air in protest, and try to see the light at the end of the tunnel: I also just gave you Nail and Galy, Dougie Hamilton, a superstar goalie, and two first round picks. One of those picks yields a future starting goaltender, and the other a serviceable upper-mid-level prospect, maybe a future 2nd line centre. Not a bad haul…
Nail and Galy prove to be that sexy, super-skilled tandem we have been pining for since the days of Dougie and Wendel, and we finally get that tried and true top centre piece for the future, while the Rielly-Hamilton combo could prove to be near-unstoppable. Imagine a slick, highly intelligent puck-mover who can break a game wide-open at will and a 6’6’’, 2-way potential number one defender bringing Leaf fans out of their seats for the next decade…you still mad?
My (unrealistic) version of the Leafs features finesse and other-worldly skill in the top-6, size all throughout the lineup (JVR, Biggs, Broll, Franson, Hamilton), and a superstar goalie who, behind a cohesive, defensively responsible team, gets you to the conference final.
Sadly, I have more faith in a 2012-13season and a Leafs playoff appearance than anything of the sort transpiring.
With any luck, the new CBA and the proposed cap rollback makes a handful of talented pieces available, including a top centre and a goalie. Hopefully, Lupul and Kessel stick around. Personally, I don’t see it.
Fire away with your proposals, insults, New Years greetings, predictions, etc.