Puck Moving ‘D’ Part 2: Trade Options

Mark Mulville/Buffalo News File Photo

Mark Mulville/Buffalo News File Photo

In part one of this blog we looked at possible unrestricted free agent options for the Leafs. Burke has always been proficient at landing a big name on July 1st, but he also has a reputation for loving a good old fashioned hockey trade. Since the lock-out, Burke has completed major transactions that brought in the likes of Francois Beauchemin, Chris Pronger, Doug Weight, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, J.S. Giguere and Joffrey Lupul. Going further back, he pulled off massive draft day swaps that brought his clubs Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as Chris Pronger. He has moved out high profile names like Sergei Fedorov, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. The man hardly flinches when dealing away first round picks. When it comes to trading, Burke emits a sense of fearlessness that has no doubt helped him get solid returns over the course of his career. However, he has always maintained that the best deals are the ones that work out for both teams. Given the ‘old boys club’ nature of the job, this stance makes a lot of sense.

So who might be the target for a fair trade that can benefit both clubs equally? Lets break down the top five options using the following three pieces of critera:

  • Why would the player be a fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
  • Why would the trading club be motivated to move the player?
  • Would the player bring enough value to the team to account for the asking price?

Based on these questions, here are the first three of the top five trade options, complete with an estimated cost:

5.) Kimmo Timonen

Timonen is an offensively minded defencemen capable of anywhere from 35-50 points. He plays top minutes against many of the leagues best defenders. He has shown signs of aging as of late, but nothing so substantial as to be worried about the quality of his play. Burke and Nonis have had success with Finnish players before. Teemu Selanne was instrumental in bringing Burke a Cup in Anaheim, while Sami Salo has long been a key cog in Vancouver. Timonen would aptly replace Tomas Kaberle and be a highly suitable partner for one Luke Schenn.

This is perhaps the most interesting option. Of course, Kimmo Timonen has a full no movement clause worked into his contract, so he might not even be an option at all. That said, Simon Gagne had a no trade clause, and that didn’t stop the Flyers from moving him. A no movement clause puts the power a little more in the players hands though, as the team lacks the threat of being able to use waivers. Surely Timonen is the defender the Flyers would most like to move. Outside of Pronger he is the oldest of the group at 36, and his performance has been declining year by year. His cap hit is enormous at 6.333 million and he’s on the books for another two seasons. Andrej Meszaros could easily step into his spot (if he hasn’t already) at a fraction the cost. At this point, Timonen could be the difference between landing the big time number one goalie the Flyers have long coveted.

Under these circumstances, Timonen would be very cheap. Consider that Gagne, after a heroic playoff run, returned the Flyers only Matt Walker (now in the AHL), and a 4th round draft pick. The Flyers essentially paid the Lightning to take Gagne by acquiring an otherwise useless contract in Matt Walker. The 4th round pick was a courtesy at best. With the NMC in this case, and the bigger cap hit at longer term, the Flyers would have to sweeten the deal for the Leafs – especially if Toronto is a destination Timonen is willing to waive his NMC for. Would the Flyers make Carter available at an affordable rate if it meant the acquiring team would also take Timonen? Is this the kind of cap move Burke has been waiting for and preaching about seemingly forever?

Estimated Price: Trading Carter at a reasonable rate (ie. Gunnarsson + D’Amigo + 1st) versus market value.

4.) Michael Del Zotto

Already one of the youngest teams in the league, the 21 year old Del Zotto would fit right in with the Leafs. Del Zotto would be the offensive flare to pair with Luke Schenn’s defensive dominance. He’s shown, albeit for a limited period of time, that he can run a powerplay effectively in the NHL. During his first month with the Rangers, he racked up points at an alarming rate before falling back to Earth. Still, it is clear the offensive talent is in him. He could easily flourish in Toronto.

The reasons New York might consider moving Del Zotto are many. He was demoted to the AHL this year once his offensive production slipped off, and rumors swirled that he was not in Tortorella’s good books. Some speculated that Del Zotto liked to party a little too much, and needed a reality check. His loss was Ryan McDonagh’s gain, as his first taste of the NHL proved highly successful. The Rangers are not overly deep on defensive prospects, but they have enough to comfortably move Del Zotto if they so choose. With Staal and Girardi in their top four, they’ll be secure in that regard for many years no matter who is supporting them.

Del Zotto would not come cheap. If the Leafs were to acquire him outright, his value has not dipped too much from the 20th overall pick with which he was selected. With the Rangers chasing Brad Richards however, they do need to clear cap space in order to make a serious offer. It’s possible that Glen Sather would ask inquiring teams to take Avery or Drury as a salary dump. He may even prefer to expand the deal and try to move Wojtek Wolski at the same time. In pretty much any deal, Sather will want to move out money.

Estimated Price: Take on a salary dump (ie.Drury, Avery) + a 2nd round pick or mid-level prospect (ie. Caputi)

3.) Jordan Leopold

Jordan Leopold has had quite a travelled career. Having played for the Flames, Avalanche, Panthers, Penguins and Sabres, he’s played with all manner of defensive partners. However, earlier in his career he had a really solid connection with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. So significant was their pairing that at the 2009 trade deadline, the Flames sought to reacquire Leopold in hopes that it would ignite some magic from the 2005/06 season. Now Leopold is signed at a cap hit of 3.0 million for the next two years – a perfect amount of time to bridge the development gap for Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker.

Leopold had his best season to date playing for Buffalo last year. On the one hand, that makes him a key piece of Buffalo’s back end. On the other hand, Leopold’s value may never be higher. As well, the Sabres are likely to be big players in free agency this summer, predominantly searching for big name defence-men. It’s possible the Sabres could consider moving Leopold just north of the border for a sizeable return, and replace him with a higher profile defender. Part of team management is maximizing assets, and this would be a situation where that becomes possible. On top of this, Buffalo also has a host of defence-men that need new contracts (Butler, Weber, Sekera, Gragnani) and high quality AHL defenders ready to make the jump (ie. TJ Brennan).

The Sabres are not going to just give Leopold away. They’ll want a solid return on their investment. A lot will depend on who they manage to land in free agency, but you can bet they won’t want to do any significant favors for a hated division rival. My guess is that they’ll expect a similar return to what they paid for Craig Rivet a few years back (two 2nd round picks). However, the recent market has cooled slightly, with players like Dennis Wideman getting traded for a 3rd round pick and low level prospect. Perhaps a happy medium is possible?

Estimated Price: 2nd round pick in 2012 + mid level prospect

Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow’s blog (Part 3) will unveil the final two trade targets for Burke’s back end.

More from Cameronhockey: