With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.
While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.
Will he waive, or will he go the Mats Sundin route? Everyone is aware of the public comments made by both sides about their intentions, but that will not stop teams looking to improve from making their interest known. Â While Burke has been adamant in his stance that he will not ask the player to waive (e.g. he will not actively shop him), Kaberle has been very quiet since the Dion Phaneuf deal. Is that a sign that he is beginning to believe his time in Toronto may be up? Or is he just tired of having to talk about this issue? Only he knows for sure.
In the event that he does decide to waive, the teams said to have the most interest in making a run at him are Washington and NJ. Pittsburgh, Boston and Florida keep popping up in the rumour mill also. Â Although Kaberle is thought to want to remain in the East, there is speculation that there is at least one Western Conference team he would consider … hmm.
It will be interesting to see how his situation plays out. If he does not waive, and decides to play out the season as a Maple Leaf, he would become an immediate candidate to be shopped at the draft. After all, Burke really only has spoken about the current season in regard to Kaberle, and he doesn’t have to ask him to waive in the summer. The question Kaberle must weigh is, does he want to have some control over his destination, or is it worth the risk to enter the summer with the team having the ability to send him anywhere? I suppose it will come down to how strongly he believes the team may move him. Â It will be a fascinating storyline to watch play out, either way.
I received a text earlier today suggesting that no fewer than 15 teams (half the league) are interested in his services. In other words, the odds of him being traded are extremely high, but dissecting where exactly he may go is not an easy task. Pittsburgh, LA and Nashville are teams that have been said to have the most interest, and each could benefit from adding some bulk to their top 6 forward units. But at this point it’s anyone’s guess. Phoenix (need to replace Upshall), Buffalo (looking to add size), and Dallas (may decide to make one last playoff push, they need the revenues) are other teams that keep coming up. Â Might want to watch Boston here, too. Â What’s that, 7 teams I just listed? Like I said, it’s anyone’s guess; with the trade market for top 6 forwards relatively barren, there is a ton of interest … and that can only be of benefit to the Leafs.Â (Update: add Atlanta to the mix, also.)
Given the amount interest there is rumoured to be in the acquisition of Ponikarovsky’s services, it is unlikely he gets dealt before March 3rd … barring an offer that is simply too good to refuse.
Surprisingly, there has been relatively little talk about Stempniak, despite his pending-UFA status. Some have linked him to Buffalo, but that may have more to do with his being a native Western New Yorker than anything else – the Sabres are said to be looking for size. Â Colorado has been mentioned as a possibility, what with Hejduk’s injury status somewhat up in the air. Minnesota is also said to be looking for some help in their top-6.
Exelby, for all his inconsistencies, carries some value as a stay-at-home physical presence who, if surrounded by enough talent, can be effective in a depth role. Teams gunning for a playoff run love to add those types of guys. SJ, LA, and Philadelphia have all been mentioned as possible landing spots.
Although he is not likely to be moved due to his prohibitive contract, the Leafs will make an effort to find him an NHL home where he can have the chance to play a regular shift, as the emergence of Carl Gunnarsson has relegated the expensive stay-at-home defender to a #7 – #8 role in Toronto. Â Similar to Exelby, Finger can be effective in the right situation, but his contract is likely to be the stumbling block which precludes a deal from happening.
Pending UFA, could generate interest from teams looking to add leadership, experience, and faceoff ability to their checking units. Â Colorado, NY Rangers, Vancouver are the teams that seem to come up most often here.
As always, this is just talk – take it for what it is. Given the amount of media coverage dedicated to the team, the Leafs are taking the “Fort Knox” approach to trade discussions, and as a result there is far more speculation than legitimate information passing through the grapevine. Which, in the aftermath of the ultra-secretive Phaneuf trade negotiations, should surprise no one.