With an abundance of salary and injuries plaguing the league all at once, the Leafs have quickly become friendly territory for other franchises to seek out.
The Leafs are currently sitting with arguably 3 top six forwards on the club (Antropov, Blake and Hagman) and just under $10 Million in cap space. With the young roster and a few notable veterans that could be moved by the trade deadline, it seems the Leafs are attracting some attention from teams who are sitting on the salary cap bubble.
The Chicago Blackhawks today have moved goaltender Antti Niemi (who performed better than both Khabibulin and Huet during preseason), Aaron Johnson and believe it or not Cam Barker to their AHL affiliate in order to get under the cap. Rumors circulated late last season on quite a few major sporting networks that defenseman Pavel Kubina was being shopped to Chicago in return for a package including Cam Barker. The Blackhawks have claimed the current demotion to Barker wonâ€™t be for long and that answers will be coming concerning their team and their finances in the very near future.
As for Florida, They are near the maximum in salary and are watching players like Karlis Skrastins find himself on the injured reserve. The club is looking to sign camp invitee Jassen Cullimore while Skrastins sits on the sidelines but if he returns the Panthers are also looking to make some moves. With the announcement coming of Cory Stillman receiving captaincy, the team is looking to add more depth around the veteran to try and make a push for the playoffs this season. After trades involving Belak, Kilger and McCabe with the Leafs, there is a chance more could be coming between the two Eastern clubs.
The Leafs sit in a much more comfortable situation. They have their club down to 22 players â€“ a move GM Fletcher claimed to be â€œjust in case we find someone on waivers weâ€™d like to snagâ€ â€“ with loads of talent on the back end for teams looking for that extra edge. They also have a player named Ian White who has been gaining quite a bit of attention lately after showcasing his ability to play well no matter where the team sticks him. Unfortunately for White, a blue and white jersey wonâ€™t be wearing his name for much longer as there are too many players with higher price tags that will be stealing his spot in the lineup this season and a move could come as soon as this weekend for the young speedster.
There is some speculation that Oâ€™Sullivan will be moved from Los Angeles (with Toronto on the short list in landing him) and that the recent announcement of him signing a 3 year deal with the club was made in order to trade him, but the Kings would need to bring in salary in order to meet the floor as well as enough talent to move the young sniper to any team willing to fork it out for him.
The club could easily take on salary in order to continue plucking away younger talent elsewhere in the league â€“ as Cliff Fletcher has claimed this to be the Maple Leafs â€œplanâ€ in early September. The same approach could be made to grab a young player like Barker from Chicago, regardless of the Leafs abundance of defensemen, or moving out a young gun like White for some picks. There are far more options for the Leafs this season than last now that the majority of the team no longer has the three letters NTC beside their names.
The question that lingers is whether or not Leaf fans remain open to all decisions on behalf of the organization and if so, for how long?
Micheal A. Aldred
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