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Pittsburgh

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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A former Leaf is about to sign with Los Angeles, as Alexei Ponikarovsky has agreed to join the Kings (although a deal has not yet been signed).  This ends some speculation that “Poni” would have to take his games overseas, as this summers UFA market has seen a lot of viable NHL players still without a job.  Ponikarovsky was shipped to the Penguins by Toronto at this year’s trade deadline, bringing back Luca Caputi in what was a very fair exchange of players.  However, Pittsburgh was expecting the Ukrainian to contribute at the level that saw him pour out 61 points for the Leafs in 2008-2009.  With a disappointing 9 points down the stretch for the recent champs and an awful showing in the playoffs, teams weren’t exactly lining up to sign the 30-year old.

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Maybe it was indicative of how fragile the Leafs psyche had become after relinquishing such an unexpectedly high draft pick to the Bruins, or maybe it was just a reaction to the mid-summer boredom brought upon as the Kovalchuk saga stop-gaped the NHL trade wires, but the recent trade rumours surrounding Luke Schenn suggests a seismic shift has taken place in Leafs Nation with regards to the future and how to obtain long sought after success.

One that seems to have embraced a cap defiant means of rebuilding in an age of tank-to-win.

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A pair of MLHS readers have kindly submitted FanPosts for your reading enjoyment. Logan Macneil makes the case for converting Tomas Kaberle into a top six forward while Steve Hitchins previews some of the highly anticipated fisticuffs match-ups for the upcoming season. A big pat on the back for both these gentlemen for taking the time.

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When Brian Burke added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin to an established Leafs cast of Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White and Jeff Finger it looked to all that the Toronto GM had built himself an enviable problem. A premium blueline, arguably one of the finest in the Eastern Conference, that also came with a premium price tag.

Of course, what began an enviable problem on paper quickly devolved into an actual problem when the new additions failed to mesh into a cohesive unit with defensive and special team frailties more apparent than those of an comparatively budget offense.

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Flyers officially kick off July 1st festivities by acquiring Andrej Mezaros from the Lightning in exchange for a 2nd round pick. Rumors of Boston centre Marc Savard potentially heading out west to Calgary as well.

As for the Maple Leafs, they will have $10.5 million in cap space to play with today, though that figure does not include the possible removal of Kaberle’s $4.25 million via trade or Finger’s $3.5 million as a potential waiver candidate.

The Leafs have been linked to defenseman Dan Hamhuis, forwards Raffi Torres and Colby Armstrong, and will also kick the tires on sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Darren Dreger believes the club will look at adding a 3rd line forward along with a defenseman to “stockpile for later deals”. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on signings throughout the day.

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The Leafs will start and end with Montreal as to be expected. The schedule includes nine back-to-backs, an increase over the seven they played last season. The Leafs will head northwest March 22-24 to play Minnesota and Colorado after hosting them last season. The most taxing travel appears to be a four game stretch from January 7 – 13 when the Buds will make stops in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. The Leafs will also conduct a potentially critical division tour from February 12 – 19 when they face off consecutively with each Northeast rival. From December 14-18, the Blue and White will go on a Western Canada road trip where they can visit Taylor Hall, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood. The full sched after the jump:

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    Though the news in Leaf Nation has been relatively quiet of late, there have been a few intriguing storylines making the rounds. Joel Champagne will re-enter the draft, Nik Kulemin and the Maple Leafs have hit a contract impasse, Tomas Kaberle is reportedly gathering interest from a number of teams, and a member of the Toronto media raised a few eyebrows with a blog post regarding the relationship between Dion Phaneuf and Ron Wilson.

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      Pension Plan Puppets’ Chemmy has the details on why turn-coating for the Habs for the sake of returning the Cup to Canada is staggeringly ludicrous. Here’s why, if you must cheer for someone (a better alternative: perusing Down Goes Brown‘s youtube Wendel collection for your spring-time fix), the Hawks are your safest bandwagon to board while maintaining some sense of pride and loyalty:

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      While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.

      And so too has Leafs brass.

      Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts.  Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.

      And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.

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        The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.

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        We will do an extended Torontosaurus Rex after preparing for the playoffs is over, later on in the week. But since the regular season is over, it’s time for some numbers. It’s also interesting to note how the two teams Flyers and Rangers with the lowest amount of shootout games with six, decided their playoff fates with a shootout.

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          It’s that time of year again.  The most wonderful time of the year.  No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.

          It’s time for the NHL playoffs.

          The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season.  It’s  triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days.  It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

          And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.

          Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed.  Assignments are left on desks unfinished.  Scheduled are cleared, or built around.  Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.

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            Lost amidst all the drama of today’s Tomas Kaberle situation is the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC (7pm, TSN).

            Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Leafs will look to reverse their fortunes with a better defensive performance against their rivals, who lead the Northeast division.

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              * aka “Operation: Basement Breakout”

              With last night’s loss, the Maple Leafs were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for the 5th straight year. This was not really news – even the most optimistic of Leafs’ fans pretty much knew this to be the case since early into the New Year, if not sooner.

              However, a more prevalent question regarding the season standings remains: is getting out of last place in the Eastern Conference still possible?

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                Unrelated Update: New signing Brayden Irwin to play tomorrow night against Atlanta (link).

                #36 in Blue and White is proving to be everything his number-sake Anton Stralman never became in Toronto. Hear me out, Andrew R.

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                  The Leafs are looking to post their third straight win as they roll into Pittsburgh for this Sunday afternoon tilt.  On the surface, this may seem like a run-of-the-mill Sunday game as there is no obvious importance in a matchup between the defending Stanley cup champs and our basement-dwelling team.  However, there are a multitude of underlying storylines that should make this a very interesting game.

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                    Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a. Baumgartner)

                    The Toronto Maple Leafs have the League’s worst penalty kill, sporting a 73.0% success rate. They have been shorthanded 252 times this season, surrendering 68 goals. Through 71 games this season, they average 3.5 penalties (252ts/71gp) each night.

                    Around January 15th, this vaunted penalty kill was even worse, an abysmal 68.9%. Ron Wilson was smugly talking about how he had to teach his boys how to flip the puck down the ice and out of the zone.

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                      First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence.  As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time.  I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario.  Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.

                      You know, another season of hockey is winding down.  At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.  While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.


                      It has become all to accustomed.  As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs aren’t long for this world.  That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.

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                        Final Deadline Trades:

                        Alexei Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh for Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula
                        Martin Skoula to New Jersey for a fifth round draft selection.
                        Lee Stempniak to PHX for 4th and 7th rounders.
                        Joey MacDonald to ANA for a 7th rounder in 2011.

                        Wrap-Up: That looks to be a wrap on Brian Burke’s trade activity for the 2009-10 season. The Stempniak deal was obviously a form of loss-cutting on a pending UFA, but it’s a bit painful to remember who we sacrificed to acquire him in November of 2008 in two albeit underachieving first rounders in Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The Leafs will not draft until the third round this year, and Burke did not succeed in that sense, however he moved the only piece realistically capable of fetching a second rounder for a semi-established young asset with the potential to replace Poni at an immediately cheaper price in Luca Caputi. It looks as though no takers could be found on either Wayne Primeau or Garnet Exelby, who look sure to now enter the FA market July 1.

                        There seems to be details yet to unfurl surrounding the Tomas Kaberle situation this deadline, as once again Leafs fans were teased into believing a deal was pending (involving Hodgson, as it was reported, or possibly Alzner from Washington) only for what looked to be an imminent deal to be flatly denied by Brian Burke in the end. There are rumblings that Kaberle might have nixed a deal in similar fashion to the Jeff Carter situation at the ’08 deadline.

                        From Garrett Bauman: