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Toronto Sun

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The Leafs should've foreseen Luongo's availability, anticipated Tampa's interest in Luongo, and offer sheeted Stamkos last year to win the Luongo sweepstakes. Burke is an idiot.Â
-Steve Simmons

Like most Leaf fans, I have a strong distaste for the writing of Steve Simmons, and I will never understand how someone paid to write about sports for a living becomes so jaded and has such a sense of entitlement. What perplexes me the most is how he is regularly allowed to get away with these half-though-out articles that most people would be embarrassed to post on HFBoards.

Take Saturdays offering: “The Leafs Coulda, Shoulda Signed Stamkos.” (click at your own peril; actually, don’t click).

The title is already somewhat misleading as the premise is based in signing Stamkos to an offer sheet, and it would result in Tampa Bay matching the offer damaging their cap situation not actually adding Stamkos to the Leafs. Of course, the headline is purposely this way to sucker in people like myself who normally don’t give Simmons the time of day.

While the title of the article indicates that in some way he is writing about a Stamkos situation from a year ago, Simmons is actually writing about the present day belief that the Lightning, the Leafs, and the Blackhawks are the front runners for landing Roberto Luongo, and that if Stamkos had a higher cap hit Tampa Bay would not be able to pursue him.

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In part eight of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the past year that has been for Tomas Kaberle, and whether he can put it all behind him and play at the top of his game.

Yes, I know.  Yet another article dissecting the recent events that have surrounded Tomas Kaberle.  I will pause briefly and let everyone get out that large groan now.

There, now that’s out of the way.

Easily the longest serving member of the Toronto Maple Leafs on this current incarnation of the team, Tomas Kaberle has more or less seen it all in Toronto.  Over the past eight years he has seen highs and lows, heroes and heartbreak, and has been entrenched as a constant on the Leafs blueline.

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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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The Toronto Sun reports whispers around the league of the San Jose Sharks offering defensive prospect Derek Joslin along with a first round pick in exchange for Tomas Kaberle. This would be consistent with Burke’s Friday morning comments to the FAN 590 that offers for his premium puck moving defenseman have been primarily “futures oriented”, generally involving a quality young player and a high draft pick. Joslin is a 23 year old puck moving defenseman who has spent parts of the past three seasons posting increasingly impressive point totals in the American Hockey League and was named an AHL All-Star last season. He possesses an absolute bomb of a point shot, taking home the award for the hardest shot in the AHL Skills Competition.

Just under 26 hours left in the Kaberle countdown…

[email protected]

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- If the TSN reports that Frolov could sign a 1 year deal comparable to that of Afinogenov last season ($800,000) are true, then why weren’t the Maple Leafs heavily involved in discussions with Frolov’s agent? He’s a big guy who can win some pucks, plays a well-rounded game and would fit perfectly in the top line left wing role at a bargain basement price. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about a deteriorating market? This potential signing may just be the beginning.

- The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs’ Rookie tournament will take place at the John Labatt Centre in London from September 11th-14th this year.

- The Hockey News makes the case for the Maple Leafs as a surprise playoff team this coming season.

- On to the FanPosts. Andrew Edwards (AKA Crazyaces) proposes a solution for these ridiculous long-term contracts, while Michael Cuttell continues his preseason synopsis by evaluating the Leafs’ current forward group.

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In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.

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It’s been a hot topic, and a touchy one at that for the better part of almost a year, since the day the trade was consummated.  The Toronto Maple Leafs, toward the end of the pre-season, announced that they had traded two firsts and a second round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel, a young American born sniper who the B’s were having issues resigning.

It was a steep price to pay, but you have to give to receive, and in Kessel the Leafs got a bona fide goal scorer who looks like he could be a perennial 30 goal scorer (more on that later.)

And yet some people have cast Kessel to fail, no matter what impact he has on the Leafs, attaching him forever to the trade that brought him here.

This past week, Bill Watters took that to the extreme, and took a piece of integrity written journalism and turned into something sensational and downright wrong, all in the name of making Phil Kessel look as bad as possible because he doesn’t agree with the trade.

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The Toronto Star continues to shine a light on the Kaberle front. According to Brian Burke, he has “four concrete offers” on the table and seems to be rather confident he can land a first round pick. That said, the Toronto Sun suggest that of the six teams interested in Kaberle’s services, the Ducks have expressed the strongest interest.

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Less than 36 hours to go until start of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, so here are some links to start your day:

- The Toronto Sun explains that Burke is very tempted to trade his way into Friday’s first round party if the price is right. He’s already turned down an offer of a late first round pick for a roster player (Kulemin?) and another team has also brought up Schenn’s name in trade talks but was quickly rebuffed. The Leafs were also kicking the tires on Horton and Byfuglien before they were dealt over the last couple days. Burke did stress that his trade options are not limited to simply draft weekend, unless it involves draft picks, so it’s quite possible that nothing major goes down in Los Angeles.

- The Toronto Star provides a quick update on the Kaberle trade talks, citing that the Leafs have received four “concrete” offers for the blueliner thus far with eight other teams expressing interest. Burke again reiterated that he could quite confidently get a first round pick back for Kaberle, but that he’s looking for different kind of assets in return because he wants to get better now.

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From the Toronto Sun:

“What he is asking for is not what we are prepared to pay,” the Leafs general manager said Thursday, when asked why he and Kulemin’s agent, Gary Greenstin, keep giving identical terse quotes on the subject. “I think his agent is a good guy. But we will grind on and see what happens.”

There are rumours Kulemin is seeking $3 million US or higher after 36 points in 78 games, though the 23-year-old was one of the team’s most improved players.”

Kulemin’s agent is likely using Grabovski’s $2.9 million x 3 year deal as a base for comparison, which isn’t completely out in left field. Nikolai finished the season very strong down the stretch, putting up 15 points in 16 March games alongside Bozak and Kessel. After the line was split up and Bozak was taken off it, Kulemin would go on to finish scoreless in 5 April games. So…. buyer beware. Kulemin is a great two-way grinder with a bit of offensive flair, but if you’re going to pay him like a top six forward, you better be ready to give him such a role because he’s not going to be creating 20+ goals by himself.

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Brian Burke has picked up yet another wallet. According to a Finnish report, the Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed to terms on a two year deal with Finnish free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnäs. Jussi is still just 22 years of age, and is coming off a stellar year in the Finnish SM-Liiga in which he posted a 2.50 GAA and a 0.929 SV%. Rynnäs is still at least a couple years away from being NHL-ready, and will start next season splitting time with James Reimer for the Toronto Marlies. Jussi was arguably this year’s most coveted free agent goaltender, along with NCAA netminder Ben Scrivens, whom the Leafs had also been linked to over the past couple weeks.

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    - The Toronto Sun has an interesting article up, talking about the future of several Maple Leaf players leading up to this year’s trade deadline. During an informal survey of hockey executives and general managers attending the CHL Top Prospects game, the consensus was that aside from Tomas Kaberle, Ponikarovsky would be the player who would garner the greatest return. It was speculated that he would perhaps net a late 2nd round pick, being comparable to but not as refined as Nik Antropov (who yielded the Rangers’ 50th overall selection last year).

    - The article follows up by noting that players such as Stajan and Stempniak might get “a sniff”, but not to expect a significant return. However, it appears Burke has not been particularly aggressive in dangling any of his players at the present time.

    - In another note, according to the Russian website infox.ru via the Toronto Sun, it appears as if winger Nikolai Kulemin will be named to the Russian Olympic roster for the Vancouver games. It’s nice to see that Kulemin’s solid all-around play this season is getting him some recognition from those outside the organization.

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      - The Toronto Sun explains that Burke came very close to acquiring Brent Sopel in two potential deals that both were believed to have fallen apart on Sunday. Apparently, he is looking to re-acquire 1st and 2nd round picks to compensate for the loss of draft picks from the Kessel trade.

      - ESPN’s John Buccigross presents a great human interest story that about Brian Burke’s gay son provides insight into the close father-son relationship.

      - Nazem Kadri’s been on an absolute tear of late. Click here for highlights of his 3 point night against Kitchener and here for highlights of his beautiful shorthanded marker against Russia in the Subway Series.

      [email protected]

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        - The Globe and Mail explains that thanks to an impressive win over the Capitals, the Leafs’ veterans have bought themselves some more time, and no immediate restructuring with Marlies players will be made. Yeesh.

        - The Toronto Sun reviews a possible Brent Sopel to Toronto swap, stating that the $500K cleared in the waiving of Andrew Ebbett likely stalled trade talks over the weekend as Chicago seemed to gain a bit more leverage.

        - The Marlies came away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Monsters yesterday afternoon, and it was in big part due to the play of first star James Reimer, who turned away 30 shots, including an overtime breakaway and four shootout attempts. Don’t look now but Reimer is quickly doing his best to help us forget Justin Pogge, as the 21 year old boasts a 5-1-1 record with a 2.10 GAA and .928 SV%.

        - Lastly, I’ve still got a pair of last minute purples to tonight’s game against the Islanders that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if you’re interested. Update: Tickets have been sold, thanks for your interest.

        [email protected]

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          Update: Damien Cox is reporting that Burke is currently working on at least two possible trades.

          - The Toronto Sun‘s got a very interesting quote from Ron Wilson. When broached about the possibility of call-ups from the Marlies, the head coach replied: “It would give us a boost, but because we are kind of limited, we can’t send anybody down”. You’re kidding right? What happened to all that preseason talk about burying underperforming veterans in the minors? Where’s the accountability?

          - Darren Dreger offers up some speculation as to what could be a very busy offseason next summer with as many as 17 free agents, 11 of whom will be unrestricted. He mentions that Stajan is a very likely candidate to be traded, and Ponikarovsky seems to be the only one who will be offered an extension.

          - Prospect Notes: Nazem Kadri had a pair of very impressive games this past week, first in the OHL vs. Russia Subway Series, displaying a ton of poise and skill running the powerplay and then notching 3 assists against Erie last night. Jimmy Hayes, the Leafs’ 2008 2nd round selection, is showing signs of breaking out in the NCAA, with a 4 assist game last week and another goal last night.

          - Once again, a pair of purples avaiable at cost for the Monday night’s game against John Tavares and the New York Islanders. First come first serve basis via email please.

          [email protected]

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            - The Toronto Sun has details about a bargain opportunity on November 22nd: the chance to watch both the Leafs and Marlies practice at Ricoh that Sunday, and then attend the Marlies vs. Lake Erie Monsters at 4pm all for as little as $10. I suggest those of you interested in catching a glimpse at the likes of Mikus, Bozak, Stalberg, Hanson and Tlusty make use of this pretty decent deal.

            - Jeff Blair explains that coach Ron Wilson is prepared to bench Schenn if he is unwilling to play a more agressive, physical style of game. Wilson added that he will not hesitate to insert Gunnarsson quickly into the lineup if someone begins to scuffle.

            - TSN begins to stir up the early season rumors a little bit by hinting at the possibility that Scott Niedermayer and Fabian Brunnstrom could be on the trading block. While Burke surely loves Scott, there’s already a logjam on defense at it is and the required pricetag would likely be out of Toronto’s range anyways without a 1st round pick to dangle in return. Brunnstrom on the other hand may be an intriguing fit as a skilled young forward, but he has struggled out of the gate thus far and did after all turn down the chance to play for the Leafs last summer.

            [email protected]

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              Some interesting contrasting rumors/speculation in the Toronto media today regarding Kessel:

              Damien Cox of the Toronto Star hears that Phil Kessel is very interested in joining the Maple Leafs and is already familiar with both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson through the U.S. Olympic program. However, Cox also mentions that it’s believed that Boston GM Peter Chiarelli is not overly enthused at the notion of dealing Kessel within the division but that Toronto is willing to pay more than the offer sheet compensation of three draft picks.

              On the other hand, Lancy Hornby of the Toronto Sun reports that the Leafs intensified talks with the Bruins yesterday, and that Kessel could be headed this way in exchange for a “high 2010 draft pick”. Although you’d have to assume that the return would be much higher than that, the way it’s put seems to imply that it would be a single pick in return.

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                Hitting the links bright and early on a Thursday morning: Jim Balsillie and the city of Hamilton get new life, Kadri’s WJC tryout experience, an update on the Justin Pogge situation, Leafs sign a young defenseman, a mid-summer recap of the offseason festivities, and the Marlies coaching staff announced.

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                  The interview between league Commissioner, Gary Bettman, on Toronto radio station, FAN590 segment “The Game Plan” featuring Doug Maclean and Jack Armstrong, was a first hand look at the battle the relocation to Hamilton has become. Stating that after Jim Balsillie’s attempts at hijacking the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, the commish indicated he sat down with the billionaire outlining what it would take to become an NHL owner.