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Deadline targets: Top four defencemen

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After doing a great job of gathering up points over the past couple of weeks and pushing themselves well in to the playoff picture, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Leafs hold off on any trades going in to the deadline this Wednesday. But despite the amount of success the team has enjoyed this season, there are some glaring weak areas that could be addressed, and players may become available that could help Nonis bring this club to a higher level.

We’ve seen the Calgary Flames finally give in to a rebuild in the past week with the departure of Jarome Iginla, and the Buffalo Sabres have been known to be in fire sale mode for a little while now. As Wednesday approaches, other teams will have to make a decision on which direction they’re headed, and potentially start putting bodies on planes as well.

The Dallas Stars are perhaps one of the strangest teams to try to gauge in terms of their overall plan going forward. A lot of clubs have this problem to an extent, but the Stars are really, really weird.

This past offseason they signed Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, signs that they were still “going for it.” Once the season started they dealt one of their best goal-scoring threats in Michael Ryder for an aging and expensive Erik Cole, which I guess still fits that plan. Cole isn’t a bad player by any means, but his contract is still a puzzling addition to the Stars’ situation. Now recently they’ve unloaded Brenden Morrow for futures, Derek Roy is rumored to be on the block and questions are swirling about Jagr as well, so I’m not sure what to think.

If the Morrow trade was the start of the Stars getting younger, then we could see a few moves at the deadline and this upcoming offseason.

Stephane Robidas

One player I’d like the Leafs to take a look at is Stephane Robidas. I first noticed Robidas mentioned by birky from Pension Plan Puppets on Twitter, and I think that’s an interesting name to look at.

First off, it’s no secret that the Leafs could use help on the blueline, and Nonis has said a few times that a top four defenceman is something he would like to add at the deadline, along with a veteran goaltender (for some reason). While the vet goalie idea strikes me as totally insane, I’m glad he’s identified the defence as a problem area.

Robidas fits in to the Leafs‘ current lineup as someone who can play a ton of minutes in the top four on the right side. He isn’t really known for putting up a lot of points, but he performs well against top competition and leads Dallas in time on ice. The snag here is that he has a no-trade clause and I’m unsure about the details – whether it’s a “list of x amount of teams” type deal or the full deal. Either way, if Nieuwendyk decides to tear that team down some more at the deadline, Robidas could be asked to move. I’d like the Leafs to be in that conversation.

At 3.3 million until the summer of 2014, he’s a manageable cap hit and not really the type of player you would see in the press box. There’s not a lot of risk here, just a solid veteran for a decent price. His numbers in the past suggest he’s not a slouch with the puck – he’s aging (36), but has has put up seasons of 30 points before in Dallas. He sits in the top 25 in the league in hits with 93 in 33 games and 27th in blocked shots. Take a glance at his google images and you see evidence of a hard-nosed player (literally, it appears to have been broken several times), a lot of hits, some of him down injured after blocking shots, and him adorning a variety of face shields. He could add the experience and ruggedness you look for when adding a piece to a young club destined for the playoffs. The question, as always, is price, and in this case, if he’s even available in the first place.

 

Jay Bouwmeester

Changing gears a little here, another target that has been discussed has been Jay Bouwmeester. While it seems like Toronto is just a throw-in to the rumors surrounding this guy, I hope that Nonis is actually involved if offers are being tabled to the Flames. Robidas basically represents the type of low-risk add I’d like to see the Leafs make, but Bouwmeester is actually available by the sounds of things. Again, a no-trade is involved, but it seems as if that waiving process has already started with Bouwmeester and the Flames.

Bouwmeester is expensive, but much younger than Robidas, and was at one time considered elite. After his point-production seemed to slip off a cliff when arriving in Calgary, fans have been hard on this guy for not playing to expectations, or cap hit for that matter. The Leafs have a barrel of cap space with a few big salaries off the books this summer, as well as two buyouts they can use as well.

I’d take the Bouwmeester cap hit of 6.68 million until 2014 to solidify the blueline – something the Leafs could do to improve the team quite drastically. He’s also picked up the scoring this season under Hartley with six goals and nine assists through just 33 games.

These two players are quite different in age and price, but fit the bill of what Nonis is looking for going in to the deadline. Two different players, and two different ways of addressing the same problem.

These players also represent very different prices in the trade market as well, though I have a hard time speculating on that. The Leafs have pieces and picks they can move, and I don’t really have much worry about Nonis moving a key player so I won’t get in to what he would have to give up for these guys or a comparable. The deal has to be right.

Though he’s definitely higher profile, I think Bouwmeester is more likely to be available because we’ve heard his name in the trade winds a lot recently. The cap hit probably scares fans away, but overpaying for an actual top four guy that can skate is much better than picking up another Komisarek or stopgap centre, things that have burned the Leafs in the past and resulted in big dollars in the press-box.

If Nonis stands pat and lets the deadline roll by, I’ll be fine with it. A deal may not materialize, but I hope when he says that he’s looking to add a top four defenceman, he really means it.

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