Â As the systemic dismantling of this summerâ€™s Stanley Cup champions continues in earnest, league watchers are crying foul. Where detractors of the current, hard revenue based cap once denounced the communistic, unilateral sharing of league revenue as the prime illustration of illogic in the CBA (alongside the long-long term contract loopholes), Mondayâ€™s exit of Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped turn the club into the latest martyrâ€™s of the cap.
According to the Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox, the Maple Leafs have targeted three potential players to bolster their lineup heading into next season.
For starters, the club is poised to make a run at impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis is a good all-around defenseman who plays 21-22 minutes a night, makes a decent first pass, and can contribute a little bit in the offensive zone. His calling card is predominantly solid, if unspectacular even strength play, while eating up a ton of ice-time against the opposing team’s top lines. Still just 27 years of age, Hamhuis ranked 6th among NHL defenseman in takeaways last season. The potential link to Toronto is interesting because you’d think they’d already have enough money tied up on the blueline when Hamhuis could potentially be looking at upwards of $3 million on a long-term deal.
The team is also said to be kicking the tires on wingers Nathan Horton and Patrick Sharp, none of whom are strangers to the trade rumor mill. As mentioned previously, Horton has a no-trade clause that goes into effect on July 1st, which may motivate Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon to move the underachieving youngster at the draft. Meanwhile, Sharp is garnering plenty of interest around the league after an impressive point-a-game Stanley Cup run, but it’s likely that Chicago will exhaust all other possible trade alternatives before deciding to trade their valuable two-way forward.
So let’s get this straight: Burke wants a top six winger with some size who can score. Ideally, that player is young enough to fit into the team’s long-term core and plays with the kind of aggressive, up-tempo forechecking style the Leafs hope to one day employ. What if he were an Ontario kid, a former 3rd overall pick, and figures to be on the trading block? Bonus!
According to the Sun Sentinel, Horton’s agent would “not be surprised” if Nathan were dealt between now and the draft, as his no-trade clause kicks on July 1st. He had spoken with new Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon and has confirmed that while the team does like Nathan as a player, nobody is untouchable. Horton’s contract currently has 3 years left at a very affordable $4 million cap hit, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. He had a forgettable ’08-’09 campaign with just 45 points in 67 games played, but bounced back to score 57 points in 65 games played last season. Still just 25 years of age, Horton still carries that potential to be a 30-40 goal scorer in the right situation and a change of scenery should do him well.
The passing of Pit Martin this past weekend prompted me to look up his hometown, which was reported as Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, a town I most closely associated with my favourite Maple Leaf of all time, Dave Keon.