Saturday, January 23, 2010

What the Maple Leafs should do at the deadline

The NHL trade line is set for March 3rd 2010 and the Toronto Maple Leafs continue their spiral through the NHL this season. The deadline is closer then many might think with the NHL ready to close shop for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver in three weeks then when it starts up again there is only three days for the deadline. 

This will be Brian Burke's time to put his biggest stamp on the club roster, as the Leafs will have nine unrestricted free agents when the season concludes and four restricted that could be a total of thirteen new faces on the Leafs squad a complete overhaul is not out of the question for this sorry bunch. 

Ron Wilson's face on many nights speaks volumes of how he feels about this team without coming out and telling the media. The trade deadline could see the club clean house instead of waiting for the off season and gathering some young prospects or draft picks to continue the rebuild of this hockey team.

Taking a look at what the team should be looking to do come deadline time with all the players who's contracts are done at the end of the season.

Alexei Ponikarovsky- He is one of the Leafs UFAs that would fetch the most for the club. Poni is on pace for 28 goals this season which would be a career high and with a hot streak could net 30 for the club. Has been great with youngsters Kulemin and Grabovski. The 29 year old would be looking for a raise from his current salary and could be seeking between 3.5 to 4 million a season.

Possible return in trade: a mid range prospect and 2nd Round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to a new contract 5 years is not out of the question.

Matt Stajan- Stajan has picked up his game this season but for all the ice time he gets he would be on pace for only 60 points this season. This would place him 60th in scoring last season not where a team looking to move forward wants their number one center on most nights to be. The 25 year old would be a key third line player on a good team and age would play a key role in trade value.

Possible return in trade: a mid range prospect and 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Verdict: Trade Him

Lee Stempniak- Stempniak is a hard working player who already has scored more goals then he did all last season. Stempniak is on pace to score more then 20 goals this season and has performed well at times on the point of the teams lousy powerplay. The club could be interested in resigning him but at a lot less then the 2.5 million a season cap hit.

Possible return in trade: a mid range prospect and 3rd to 4th round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to lesser contract possible two years if not then Trade Him

Wayne Primeau- Primeau has been the teams better defensive forwards this season and performed well as the teams third line center until he was injured. The often injured Primeau has stayed relatively healthy this season and could play in over 60 games a point he has not reached since the 2006-07 season. Veteran player could prove to be a key 4th cog on a contending team.

Possible return in trade: 4th or 5th round pick.

Verdict: Trade Him

Jamal Mayers- Mayers has been a hard working forward and sticks up for his teammates when the occasion arises but with Orr signed long term and Rosehill in the wings team does not really need this gifted face off taker.

Possible return in trade: 5th to 7th round pick.

Verdict: Trade Him

Nikolai Kulemin- Kulemin is one of the teams restricted free agents, his play has improved as the season has worn on and looks to be a key player in the teams future. The players two way game has gotten so much better that he is one of the few Leafs to be a threat to score while the team is shorthanded. The club would be wise to lock up this rising 22 year old player to long term deal he could be commanding between 1.5 to 2.5 million.

Possible return in a trade: mid range prospect or 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to a long term contract 5 years would not be unreasonable.

John Mitchell- Mitchell has come along way from being the clubs fifth round pick in 2003. The players play has degressed a little bit this season and was recently a healthy scratch after returned from an injury. Mitchell can not be seen to be more then a third of fourth line player with the club.

Possible return in a trade: mid range prospect or 4th round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to a 1 year contract

Rikard Wallin- Wallin's return to the NHL after leading the Swedish League in scoring last season has been nothing short of a complete disaster. Wallin has yet to score and the experiment looks to be concluding as it is only a matter of time before he heads back to Sweden.

Possible return in a trade: 7th Round pick (if anything)

Verdict: Trade Him or Release Him

Garnet Exelby- Exelby was nothing more then a stop gap with the club but now with the emergence of Gunnarsson, Exelby has become expandable and along with Finger will be fighting to get into the lineup with the club when all defensemen are healthy.

Possible return in a trade: low range prospect or 5th Round pick

Verdict: Trade Him

Mike Van Ryn- Van Ryn has been unable to play all season with the club due to an injury but his hefty salary would be welcome when it comes off the the clubs books after the season. Van Ryn did perform well when healthy with the club last season but the club would be best to part ways with the often injured defender.

Possible return in a trade: Unable to trade

Verdict: N/A

Ian White- White has progressed to the point where on some nights he is the clubs best defensemen, the restricted 25 year old free agent has earned his ice time this season as he now plays Top 4 defensemen minutes. White could be signed for a long term deal or a two year deal to give him the option to test the UFA market. He has slowly becoming Leafs Nations favourite player, might be looking for an average salary of $2.5 to 3.5 million a season.

Possible return in a trade: a mid range prospect and 2nd round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to a 2 or 5 year contract.

Vesa Toskala- Toskala has been the most frustrating player on the clubs roster the last few seasons, his game goes from stellar to abysmal and usually the latter. He has a knack for letting in a soft goal when the team least needs it. Toskala would be hard to move at the deadline even if the team gave him away.

Possible return in a trade: 5th round pick.

Verdict: Trade Him (if possible)

Jonas Gustavsson- Gustavsson's first season in the NHL has been an up and down rollercoaster, he has been on the shelf a twice to correct an abnormal heart rhythm. He at times has looked confident and steady and others a tad erractic but the 25 year old has promise and should get the brunt of the workload the rest of the season. Gustavsson is like most European goalies in their first seasons, he will need time to adjust to smaller ice surface and shots and angles that are different then he was use to in the bigger rink. The Monster's play the rest of the way will determine the teams direction with him. The team offering a 1 or 2 year contract would not be unreasonable at between $1 to $2 million a season.

Possible return in a trade: mid range prospect or 2nd to 3rd round pick.

Verdict: Sign him to a 1 to 2 year contract to soon to give up on him.

Brian Burke continues his Maple Leafs rebuild this trade deadline and upcoming off season will be when Burke can finally call this his club and until then we hope the media and fans can stop the hysteria as he continues on his work of bringing this team back to where it belongs...."Respectability".

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