Picking up on the “defenseman for a forward” trade offer that Burke received the other day, ESPN’s Al Cimaglia speculated on a possible fit with the Chicago Blackhawks. After accomodating the acquisition of Hossa and the significant raises to Versteeg, Bolland and Barker, the Hawks find themselves pressed right up against the cap and still requiring a tough, stay at home defender. With Burke having up to six NHL defensive defensemen on his roster right now, Cimaglia suggested the newly acquired Garnet Exelby as a possible fit since he’s young, cheap and would fit the mold of what GM Dave Tallon is looking for to round out his defense core.
The speculated trade would send Exelby along with a pick and a prospect going to Chicago in exchange for 27 year old winger Patrick Sharp. The Thunder Bay native is a skilled, two-way winger coming off an injury-shortened 26 goal season, following a 36 goal breakout campaign the year prior. He’s under contract for a hefty $3.9M cap hit over the next 3 seasons, and so such a swap would involve Toronto taking on an additional $2.5M in salary. The Team Canada Olympic Camp invitee would be a welcome addition to a developing young core.
Considering Sharp’s age, goal scoring ability, and versatility, this is something the Leafs should definitely pounce on if given the opportunity. I’d imagine the organization would be very reluctant in surrendering its first round pick, and the Blackhawks already own Toronto’s 2010 second round pick, acquired from Montreal via the Lang and Grabovski trades, so the prospect would have to be a significant one. Lacking scoring forwards in their system, Toronto could offer Quebec sniper Mikhail Stefanovich in addition to Exelby and a 3rd round pick. Even that doesn’t seem like enough, and Chicago would likely counter by asking for AHL star Jiri Tlusty, who could step right in to replace some of Sharp’s production.
In other news, you can cross Travis Moen off the list of potential fits for the Leafs’ penalty kill unit, as the versatile two-way forward inked a three year contract with the Montreal Canadiens this afternoon.
Update: The new head coach of the Toronto Marlies will be Dallas Eakins, who was the Maple Leaf’s Director of Player Development last season. The 42 year old has experience as an NHL assistant coach with Paul Maurice two years ago.