With another trade deadline behind us, the NHL season truly enters “crunch time” as rosters are set (for the most part) and the push for the Cup gets underway.
Most teams, including the Leafs, chose not to ripple any waters on February 28th – save for a few minor deals and an even smaller amount of major transactions.
While some media outlets will suggest that the teams surrounding the Leafs in the playoff race added key components while Brian Burke sat on his hands, this simply isn’t true.
If Toronto fail to make the postseason, it won’t be due to the fact that the Hurricanes and Thrashers added Bryan Allen and Radek Dvorak, respectively. Nor will it be because Brad Boyes is now a Buffalo Sabre.
The deals pulled by Burke earlier this month crush those done by the other clubs surrounding the Leafs in the standings.
If the Leafs fall outside of the playoffs, it’s because the hole they’ve dug is much too deep. But overall, I’m glad about where this team is headed regardless.
Brian Burke chose not to move anyone outside of John Mitchell on deadline day, opting to have his wheeling and dealing finished prior to the 28th of February. With major deals falling into place earlier this month for Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin, there simply wasn’t much else Burke could look at with only hours left to move assets.
One rumor that was steady throughout the day was drawn to Stephen Weiss and the news that he would only waive a no movement clause to go to Toronto. Then there was the John-Michael Liles situation, which apparently fell apart due to the fact that Burke was asking for futures along with the Avalanche’s salary dump.
While Weiss is a good player, he isn’t even really on the level of Mikhail Grabovski, who will be the ideal second line center for the Leafs going forward. Weiss/Grabovski is surely an upgrade to Bozak/Grabovski as far as pivots go, but there was really no need to offload assets to nab Weiss just because he was available (and likely at a pretty steep price.)
Burke set his prices prior to the deadline and didn’t budge from them, showing no urgency to move another player. And doing nothing is much better than doing something stupid.
With the way the team has been playing recently, and Kaberle shipped out weeks ago, there was really nobody to target from this roster as a potential trade pawn.
J-S Giguere could have possibly been an option, but A) he’s injured, B) he’s not good at hockey, and C) he costs more than the Florida Panthers.
Some could argue that Clarke MacArthur was a solid bet to be moved, garnering interest from around the league. But even though he has yet to be signed to a contract extension, Burke wasn’t going to sell him for pennies.
As much as it seems like the ball is in MacArthur’s court due to his surprising performance, he’s still a restricted free agent this summer and cannot test the market.
I’m quite confident the Leafs can work out a deal to keep him around for at least a couple more years, and at a decent price. Burke may play some hardball through the media when it comes to negotiations, but he did essentially the same thing last year with Nik Kulemin and he’s getting prime value from the winger right now.
What the Leafs need to do right now is simply focus on making up points on the teams in front of them, and that’s it. Their chemistry hasn’t been altered whatsoever, and the same team that has just climbed into the playoff picture will have to carry it the rest of the way.