For fans expecting GM Brian Burke to make a big splash next Monday, prepare to be disappointed. Â After acquiring Joffrey Lupul a month ahead of D Day in 2011, Burke equated the deadline frenzy to ethnic party favours, â€œitâ€™s almost like a party with a piÃ±ata, everyoneâ€™s going for one player and everyoneâ€™s swinging at it.â€Â These are not the words of a man willing make a knee jerk trade just to appease his Twitter feed.
Below are the trades the Leafs have made on the past three trade deadline days.Â Aside from showcasing just how far the team has come, it speaks volumes that the best player Brian Burke has acquired for the Leafs at the deadline is Olaf Kolzig (about ten years past prime).
2010 â€“ 2011 season:
To TOR: 7th round pick in 2012
To NYR: John Mitchell
2009 â€“ 2010 season:
To TOR: 5th round pick in 2010
To NJD: Martin Skoula
To TOR: 4th round pick in 2010, 7th round pick in 2010, Matt Jones
To PHO: Lee Stempniak
To TOR: 7th round pick in 2011
To ANA: Joey MacDonald
To TOR: Chris Peluso
To PIT: 6th round pick in 2010
2008 â€“ 2009 season:
To TOR: 2nd round pick in 2009
To NYR: Nik Antropov
To TOR: 2nd round pick in 2009
To BUF: Dominic Moore
To TOR: Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers, 4th round pick in 2009
To TAM: Richard Petiot
More than anything this season, itâ€™s the Leafs position in the standing that may stay Burkeâ€™s hand.Â The club he assembled by October has been a playoff team â€“ at least in the standings, their recent on-ice product notwithstanding â€“ almost from pillar to post.Â With only 2 games remaining until the deadline, the Leafs cannot plummet down the standing enough to open up shop for a fire sale.Â League mediocrity parity is such that the Leafs have a favourable position in the race for the post season all on their own.Â Further compacting the issue is that the Leafs players, by and large, are signed through next season, limiting the desire of many potential buyers who donâ€™t want to look at an acquisition past June 30. Of course, should the Leafs bottom out in the next few nights, Burkeâ€™s patience will be tested and he might be more amenable to a deadline deal.
The team is still in a rebuilding phase, but there is a strong enough nucleus in place to carry the Leafs into the post season without sacrificing anyone.Â The flip side is that the Leafs are alsoÂ 5 points out of 7th place and are by no stretch a contender in the Eastern Conference.Â Now is not their time, and thereâ€™s no single player who can secure any cup challenge.
This begs the philosophical (and long) question, â€œknowing that this team isnâ€™t ready for the finals yet, wouldnâ€™t it just be better just to offload any expiring contract for draft picks?â€Â Banking solely on lottery tickets is not financially prudent, even if it might be beneficial 5 years from now.Â Burke has to be aware of the prospective gate for even just two playoff games and wonâ€™t be willing to mortgage the present for future gains.
With that said, Iâ€™d like to discuss briefly Luke Schenn, who would be the most traded player in Leaf history if fans had their way.Â Brian Burke will not trade the guy he took to Afghanistan for a good will mission and signed to a 5 year contract during this season.Â Heâ€™ll wait until the offseason if he does it at all.Â Trading him after that would be a PR nightmare paramount to saying â€œI f*cked up. This rectifies it.â€Â The same should be said about Rick Nash.Â Both players values AND markets will be higher in the off season, timing matters as much in their fates as anything else.
If I had to speculate on a likely trade target, Iâ€™d say Travis Moen of the Montreal Canadiens.Â For three reasons. Firstly, heâ€™s a defensive-minded winger and the Leafs could use one.Â Secondly, heâ€™d come on the cheap; both his cap hit and what it would cost the Leafs in picks/personnel.Â That keeps in line with Burkeâ€™s style over the past few years.Â Finally, Moen has played for Burke in Anaheim.Â He could be the highlight of this Monday, so fans donâ€™t get your hopes up.
Ultimately, should the Leafs fall short of the playoffs, many will look to Burkeâ€™s pending inaction on the 27th as the crux of why the Leafs fell short.Â Of course, hindsight is a great place to stage an argument from and Burke is in an unfavourable limbo at present.Â Too good to blow it up, too bad to make the finals.Â This must be the most torturously inactive part of the rebuild: waiting until the collection of Leafs are good enough to be considered contenders.