By now, I’m sure many of you have seen ESPN’s report of a significant offer by the Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel: two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick. The general reflex reaction that we’ve been conditioned to by the Toronto media the last few seasons is to avoid moving 1st round selections by any means necessary. The thought of moving two such commodities is beyond horrifying. I’ve seen the name Taylor Hall used as the backbone of many an argument over the last few days, often associated with the “chance” of landing said player. If we’re gonna turn this into a game of chance, let’s at least get all the cards on the table.
After taking a short pause to catch his breath after the Jonas Gustavsson deal was all sewn up, GM Brian Burke got right back down to business, as the Toronto Star is reporting that he placed calls to six free agent forwards. His top two priorities at the moment include a skilled forward for the top six group, and a versatile player for the bottom six group that will contribute to the team’s penalty kill. Briefly skimming through the list of free agent forwards still available, I’m going to toss out the names PJ Axelsson and Tom Kostopoulous into the already rumored group of Manny Malholtra, Blair Betts and Travis Moen. As a 29 year old, 6’3 210 lb player from Western Canada, Betts was the #1 forward on the league’s #1 PK unit last season for the Rangers.
The Leafs have a tad over $3M left to play with this offseason, and Burke mentioned that he had received a significant offer for one of his defenseman not named Kaberle, in a deal that would involve a forward coming back with a greater salary. So he’s going to have to weigh his options over the next few days, as he prioritizes how to allocate the remaining cap space.
Some quick rumour updates entering the final stretch before the free agent spending spree begins.
In the MLSE land of unreasonable expectations, even a superstar troupe like Burke and Wilson will not be afforded another record breaking season; at least not if said record is a fifth consecutive season of playoff free hockey. Subsequently Burke is going to be looking for a catalyst to the rebuilding project come summer and the most obvious route will arrive in early July, not a week earlier in Montreal.
So you’re Brian Burke and it’s July 1st.
Who do you go after? And what is the contract you offer?