As much of the league takes a post-draft/free agent frenzy breather for the Canada Day and July 4th long weekend, I figure I’ll spark some discussion with a bit of educated speculation. In talking to a source over the past week it’s been suggested to me that Brian Burke has a Â deal or two on the table for scoring help involving a Leaf asset he’s struggling with the idea of parting with. It’s said at this time Burke is hoping desperation on the part of the involved GMs reduces the price on a few top six trade options as the off-season continues.
In a separate report from a source regarding Bobby Ryan’s availability in Anaheim after recent news that negotiations between the club and the restricted free agent had stalled at 5 years, $25 million, it was intimated that Bob Murray will be looking for Luke Schenn-plus out of Brian Burke in any potential deal. Prefacing this again under “educated” speculation, one has to wonder if the desperation Burke’s expecting is for the price on Ryan to fall as Murray continues to struggle to get the Burke-drafted 23-year-old American under contract.
The quote I’m referencing from my source: “It is very conceivable that Burke lands two top 6 forwards in the next several weeks or sooner but he will need to part with a very important part(s) of the roster and he’s not sure about that. He is hoping that in time the desperation of other teams will allow him to offer up less or they offer up more.”
What’s clear is that Burke isn’t yet happy with the current deals on the table. Given that Burke is waiting for the price to drop on the top six assets in question or for another GM to up the ante on the other side, it’s worth discussing the question Alex posed a few weeks back, the previously unthinkable idea of moving Luke Schenn.
Any time Schenn’s name has popped up in trade speculation, I’ve been quick to dismiss the thought. From all indications, Burke is a big Schenn fan. Â But he’s not a Burke original. There is one – and if you are of the opinion it’s a sure bet – soon to be no players remaining from the 07-08 Leafs outside of Kaberle. While he made only finishing – although very critical – touches to the Stanley Cup winning Ducks team, he is making this team very much his. Despite all the shuffling Burke has only moved one player he brought to the Leafs originally – Paradis, who isn’t even at the NHL level. Burke may not have the type of attachment to Schenn as he would if he drafted him.
Let’s look at the surrounding facts; where the above has involved a lot of speculation, here’s what we know:
1) The Leafs have a lot of cap committed to the backend – roughly 26 million between Phaneuf, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn, Finger, Gunnarsson and Kaberle. After taking on the Ballard contract and having to overpay to land Hamhuis, the Canucks are still sitting at $24 million committed to their top seven. The Wings spend around 19-20 million. New Jersey, $16-17 million. These latter two numbers are more around the norm.
2) There is an excess in Leafs defencemen that do a similar job. Komisarek plays a similar brand of game to Schenn. Phaneuf, Beauchemin, Gunnarsson play all-situation minutes. In hindsight, signing both Beauchemin and Komisarek for a 8.3 million total was probably superfluous and it meant only bad things for Schenn – Schenn’s 21:32 TOI/G in his rookie season fell five minutes per game to 16:15 last season.
3) One of the downsides of a salary cap – besides forcing you to trade core players who won you a Cup within two weeks of lifting it – is that the problem is often separate from the solution. Beauchemin and Komisarek had disappointing campaigns. We can reasonably hope for a resurgence with a more solidified line-up backed by consistent goaltending, and write-off Komisarek’s 30-game season, but the fact of the matter is that Beauchemin was awful last season. If you want to drop money from the backend, however, it’s not through subtracting the problem but in trading what’s marketable as a compromise. It wasn’t Brian Campbell being traded to alleviate cap issues in Chicago, it was Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. As a result of stepping out of the WHL and into the NHL in his draft year, Schenn will need a new contract after this season.
Though the above factors combined with Schenn’s expiring contract does make one wonder, the cap overcommitments to the back end may not be of primary concern at this stage of the game (though certainly it will looking to next year). In fact, Burke seemed willing to spend MORE on the backend in the UFA market on Thursday. Which leads us to..
4) More speculation… why was Burke pursuing Dan Hamhuis and Paul Martin July 1st? Martin could feasibly add some replacement puck-moving ability in event that Tomas Kaberle was moved, but why Hamhuis with Phaneuf, Schenn, Beauchemin, Komisarek, Gunnarsson already on the roster? To corner the Kaberle market? Or to ease the pain of moving another piece? Reports are continuing to surface that Burke is looking for a depth defenceman after getting priced out in both the Hamhuis and Martin sweepstakes.
Again, this is highly speculative stuff. In an ideal world, Burke can land top six scoring help without the cost of the one we once hailed as our next captain.
But if you’re Burke and moving Schenn is between you and say, Bobby Ryan, would you pull the trigger?