For What It’s Worth (A Collection of Leafs Rumors)

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    There are a ton of rumors flying around on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some a downright ridiculous and some may very well have merit. This is a close outlook on a few of those rumors and speculation. We’re under 2 months away from Hockey Christmas, where all the wonderful surprises of wanted and undesired gifts are passed around. A shopping list is what we all hope the Leafs are after, but sometimes there’s other plans that could be in place which may not seem so attractive at first. Consider that the following is merely speculation and rumors.

    Rumor Number 1: Looking For Defense

    Yes, after the abundance of signings and a pre-season total of roughly 10 potential NHL ready players, the Leafs are apparently shopping for a defenseman. I’d like to believe it is because Kaberle or Kubina are on their way out, but sometimes you just never know. One of those rumored players seems to be Jordan Leopold of the Colorado Avalanche. The 28 year old was dealt in a deal that brought the Flames Alex Tanguay at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft (the same day the Leafs acquired Raycroft from Rask). In his three seasons with Colorado, he’s only played a total of 94 games, or just over a full season, due to injury. What was once a promising defensive gem coming out of Calgary (as was Tanguay as a playmaker leaving Colorado) he’s failed to reach his full potential with just 34 points in those 94 games, and a combined -2. While he may play a decent 2 way game, the Leafs require a bigger and stronger force on defense and not an overpaid Ian White. Speculation leads to a return of Stralman and a mid level draft choice or possibly Ponikarovsky. While it would be decent to have another White, or perhaps a closer comparison to Van Ryn on defense, both are injury prone and I’d rather have more confidence in the health of the back end core. Right now, this isn’t what the Leafs should be chasing down when rebuilding – unless the Leafs are back to “retooling” rather than “rebuilding”. A change of management could cause a change of attitude.

    Rumor Number 2: NMC – Size for Skill

    Nick Antropov is speculated everywhere to be on the move and fans are dreaming of 1st round picks and top level prospects. Well, this trade provides neither but isn’t exactly a bad idea – unless you hate small statured Canadians, in which case you can skip this one because you’ll hate it. Last year, Calgary was one of the teams who were really sticking it out there for Sundin at the deadline, but there was no way Sundin would ever want to play for anyone other than the Leafs, let alone join a team mid way through the year (or so the story goes; all legends have their myths). Now, Calgary is looking across the division of Conferences and noticing another big European leading the pack in one Nik Antropov. The Flames acquired Mike Cammalleri in a 3 way trade at the 2008 Entry Draft, and he’s been great this season. Last season, before his injury, he was leading the league in goals at the start of the year but fell off after getting hurt and realizing he was playing for the LA Kings (a team who conspires each season to suck no matter what). This year, he’s netted 20 goals (one more than last season) and 42 points (5 shy of last season’s total) in just 43 games. To put that into perspective, he’s on pace for nearly 40 goals at the end of his contract and the Flames fear a demand of $5M per season. To put that cost into perspective, just $1M more than Jason Blake. He’s also chasing down an 80 point season, which is not too shabby considering the last time any Leaf had an 80 point season was in the 2001-02 season in which Sundin hit an enormous 80 points (though I will give him credit on his 41 goals as it would be nice to see any Leaf snipe home 40 in the next decade). What is a setback, for the few who judge a player’s size over talent, is Cammalleri’s 5’9” 185lbs stature. Considering he’s 26 and the Flames want Antropov for him, it’s a judgment call on whether or not Antropov would even net a return of a 1st round pick. I’d sincerely consider a deal for Cammalleri to solidify a number one line player rather than a “top six”. Cammy is a guy you can build around, and that isn’t to take anything away from Antropov, but Nik will never have the potential that Mike has as a top point producer. Despite him not being under the age of 24, to get this kid right at the start of his prime is a pretty decent return. Dominic Moore is also rumored to the Flames, perhaps in the same deal, but it is unclear if the trade is a request of both Moore and Antropov for Cammalleri alone of if a draft pick is included.

    Rumor Number 3: Jokinen? You must be Jokin’!

    It was reported by Eklund and, for what it’s worth, there is some merit to it. Burke loves brotherly duos and name similarities on his club. He had Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver, Scott and Rob Niedermayer in Anaheim, and now there’s a firm belief he will be trying to pull out Jussi from Tampa Bay and Olli from Phoenix. The return is quite high though and since the Coyotes have been in a constant rebuild since day one in Arizona, it comes as no surprise that they are looking to trade away the veteran contracts to teams with cap space – also because while some teams can afford a $50M dollar team, the Coyotes can only support about a $35M dollar roster. Consider the arguments made pre-lock out when the “hard cap” was presented at $42M and teams were still complaining that if it were to ever rise they would no longer be able to afford their franchise. Well, the Coyotes are one of them and their only logic is to trade away the bigger contracts rather than to, you know, move the team where it can be supported, or at least to where ice could logically exist because a team in Arizona, logically, cannot (logic is apparently another thing Arizona lacks and is likely why gambling is so popular). The problem is that not only is Olli 30 years of age, he’ll cost a boat load of picks and prospects that the Leafs cannot (rather, MUST not) trade away. Tampa has been scouting the Leafs recently and a return is discussed as Ian White or Jeff Finger since teams now trust that his contract evaluation was somewhat accurate, but not in the least expensive compared to first thoughts. Jussi Jokinen, for those that do not know, is an absolute shootout specialist. In Dallas, he managed to single handedly win the extra point in the shootout by constantly tricking goaltenders out of their pants and making it look easy in the process. The setback on Jokinen – he can’t seem to provide those goals in the regular season and he’s a bit of a one dimensional player. He goes up the ice, he stays up the ice, he remains up the ice, he circles around up the ice, and he gets off the ice provided he doesn’t have to skate back down the ice. This, which should already be abundantly clear, is rather pathetic considering he doesn’t have the offensive stats to be a one dimensional player (there’s a reason why no one cares that Kovalchuk is cherry picking). I only wonder if he will contact Steve Moore to join Dominic, or Frantisek in Carolina, next.

    I would hope that Brian Burke is not looking at shuffling a few players around to “retool” the team. I would hope that he is planning to land some good draft picks. But when your coach is constantly in the media bashing the players on their lack of talent and mediocrity, it’s difficult to not only get the right price on a return for these players but to motivate them in playing well enough to raise their value when their own coach has no problem in throwing them under the bus in order to make himself look better. I mean, the Maple Leafs are an incredible team, thanks solely to Ron Wilson. It’s just too bad they all suck. Is that really what Brian Burke wants the world to be hearing when negotiating trades? And should the Leafs be looking at retooling and building the team with only the draft picks they currently have? The fact is, all of this is out of our hands and it’s not as if fans are going to rise up except to pay for more season tickets.

    The best part about it is they are all just rumors and speculation. Enjoy it, for what it’s worth.

    Micheal A. Aldred
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