Latest Maple Leafs News – April 18, 2011.

Could Leafs GM Brian Burke go the offer sheet route for a scoring forward? What could be his options for a first line center? Read on for the latest.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reported Sunday Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke wasn’t ruling out the offer sheet option, leading Simmons to speculate if Burke might pursue a big ticket RFA player like Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, New Jersey’s Zach Parise, Phoenix’s Keith Yandle, Nashville’s Shea Weber or Atlanta’s Zach Bogosian.  As for UFA options, if the Leafs can’t land Brad Richards, Simmons wondered if Washington’s Brooks Laich or Philadelphia’s Ville Leino might be options worth pursuing.

TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinksi listed possible UFA options for Burke this summer, which included Richards, Simon Gagne, Tim Connolly, Jason Arnott and Michal Handzus, as well as potential trade partners, including the Rangers, Senators (!), Bruins, Flyers, Sharks and Devils, all of which will have limited salary cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Burke’s well-publicized hatred of offer sheets, I’ll be very surprised if he actually went that route this summer. I agree, this year’s UFA market is thin on quality talent, especially at center, but if Burke wants to address his need for a first line center I believe he’ll go the trade route. He has a history of making major deals and goes into this year’s entry draft with depth in tradeable assets, including two first round draft picks, some decent prospects, plus perhaps a young player or two on his existing roster. Clubs like the Bruins, Sharks, Flyers, Devils and Minnesota Wild will be lacking cap space this summer and will probably look toward making salary-dumping deals, just like the Chicago Blackhawks did last summer, and those could be teams Burke targets for deals at the entry draft.

If Burke did go down the offer sheet path, forget about prying away Stamkos, Parise and Weber from their current teams. I also believe the Coyotes will retain Yandle despite their ownership woes. Bogosian might be a more viable target, but there’s no guarantee the Leafs could land him. I’m also guessing the Capitals and Flyers will re-sign Laich and Leino respectively.

31 Comments

  1. Stamkos is a pipe dream for sure. But if Stevie doesn’t have him signed by July 1, screw pride! Offer sheet him immediately. He’s probably the only rfa on that list I can say that about. I really want Burke to hang onto our 2012 first rounder. Stammer is/was a leaf fan growing up so I can see him signing our offer sheet above anyone else. Too bad it won get that far, Stammer isn’t going anywhere.

  2. I agree with everthing Durt said. Also, while I love the idea of Leafs signing Laich or Leino, neither are Top Line Centres, which is the number one priority. Gagne might be the best available centre to obtain from a team that may need some cap relief when they re-up Stamkos, and possibly go after a goaltender like Bryzgalov or Vokoun. I think most teams with cap issues will dump salary in the minors and call up low dollar rookies, or use a short bench before they will part with the best pieces of their teams, especially teams the Bruins, Sharks, Lightning, and Flyers which are contenders or possible contenders soon.

  3. to the armchair Leaf GMs/fans, would you take Lecavalier?

  4. Unless an unlikely trade comes up i dont think our centre problems will be solved this year… I’d rather the leafs sign someone like scottie upshall for the third line to play with armstrong and bozak and a depth defencemen and then hope the centre problem is solved interally through kadri, or colbourne. I like the young core that burke has been builidng and i dont want the picks or prospects to be traded unless absol;utely necessary

  5. I wouldn’t hate getting lecavalier, I would be cautiously optimistic. I think a change in scenary might do him good, but how long will that last? I can see him racking up points for the first little bit, but his slump after signing a big contract scares me away. I question his heart, not his talent.

  6. I would hate getting him. I mean he isn’t as bad as people say he is, he got 25 goals, BUT, he is making outrageous money and we have three players that score more goals than him. He has also been recently injured and his production has gone down every year. This is the big problem with Burke in my opinion. I assume he isnt targetting Lecavalier but he always goes after players that have been good. That is a major risk for the team that I personally wouldnt be willing to do.

  7. I’ve been saying for months that this year’s RFA crop is ripe for offer sheets!

    Fact, Brian Burke would be a fool not to have an offer sheet ready Stamkos to force Stevie Y’s hand in making a tough business decision and I can guarantee you that he will not be signed on or before July 1. The Leafs and the Kings are in the best position to do this.

    Stamkos is a franchise guy and is one of the Top Guy’s in the League. I’m surprised that with all the cap issues on many clubs right now that GM’s aren’t exploring this option more actively. These are the new rules of engagement.

    Brian Burke in this instance would have to eat a little crow. Burke threw a hissy fit when Lowe got Penner from Anaheim and that’s because he was up against the cap and couldn’t match. Now he’s in the same position that Kevin Lowe was.

    Time will tell…

  8. for the billionth time, a player has to agree to an offer sheet. Stamkos has practically been adopted by the St. Loius family and i doubt that he is gonna move. However, the market is gonna look a lot sweeter after Boston, Philly, and SJ crap the tub in the 1st round and have to blow the thing up. They are all gonna be in a position to need to move core guys. How bout Jumbo Joe, Durt?

  9. Leino is ripe for the picking, with philly’s depth and cap woes, but i really don’t see him as a good fit for the leafs. while he certainly has more talent than versteeg i think he’s a similar type player and while the former wasn’t bad for toronto he wasn’t particularly good either.

  10. “Given Burke’s well-publicized hatred of offer sheets…” Actually what he hates is when a GM gives no warning that a RFA will be made such an offer without discussing said player before hand. I think if he knows another team wants one of his RFA’s he is open to dealing with that team rather than having a player taken away from him without him having any say or chance to make an offer. A case of sour grapes? Who knows but it kinda does make sense if not advantageous to him.

  11. These big young stars will not get to ‘offer sheet status’. Their teams will either make a qualifying offer or file for arbitration which I believe stops all offer sheets.

    You also mentioned dealing with the Senators. Who will they be trying to take to be a top 6 forward? The young players that are RFA’s will definitely be ‘qualified’ by Murray… not sure what player you were referring to? Is he going to try to trade for Spezza? Sorry, he ain’t going anywhere.

  12. ““Given Burke’s well-publicized hatred of offer sheets…” Actually what he hates is when a GM gives no warning that a RFA will be made such an offer without discussing said player before hand. I think if he knows another team wants one of his RFA’s he is open to dealing with that team rather than having a player taken away from him without him having any say or chance to make an offer. A case of sour grapes? Who knows but it kinda does make sense if not advantageous to him.”

    AND he hates it when GMs overpay to get an RFA (like Penner). There are quotes about skipping the second contract $$ and going right to the third without the player being ready for it. I’m sure the discussions around Kessel also included the possibility of an offer sheet.

  13. Not sure it’s already been said above.. but any decent offer sheet is going to include a 1st rounder min, which also needs to be the teams actual first rounder, which Boston owns. So unless Toronto gets that back, this whole story is pretty silly no?

  14. Tux, Damn right I would love Joe on my team. He’s still in his early 30′s and signed for 3 more years @ 7mil. His production has slid a little but he’s still got game. Even if (strictly fantasy land leaf haters…relax) he was paired up with kessel/lupul, and they where a little soft for playoff hockey, I have a feeling the grabovski line has the potential to be clutch when the games have meaning. I would offer a good package to get him, maybe the 2 firsts we have this year plus a good roster player or two would be nice. Just no kadri, colborne, schenn, grabs or Reims.
    That being said, SJ won’t move him. They just resigned him and he’ll play there twards the end of his contract.
    Again, leaf haters, the above statement was strictly fantasy, and in no way do I think Thornton gets moved.

  15. @HABS_FTW: That’s a common misconception anytime people talk about the Leafs and RFAs. Yes, the teams do need their own picks, however the 2011 draft is in June (where the Bruins have the Leafs 1st round pick) and UFA/RFA season doesn’t open until July 1st, so the draft picks involved would be for the 2012 draft next. The only pick the Leafs don’t own for 2012 is their third rounder (was shipped to LA for their 2010 3rd rounder at that draft).

  16. well durt, what do you think happens if L.A. keeps tossing their ass in the lost and found and big joe comes up dry? (did that come off like innuendo?)

  17. Here’s an option. Ship a 2nd rounder to Columbus for Derek Brassard. This guy was supposed to be the next top play making centre but his development is slow. If you watched any Columbus games this year (If such a person exists) you can tell the skill set is certainly there. Personally I think he needs a new address in order to grow as a player. Its going to be a risk, but if he can find chemistry with Kessel/Lupul then I would say its worth the price of admission.

  18. Aj, for real?! A second rounder for Brassard? Keep dreaming. And to boot you said it was a risk lol! It’ll cost more then that. Try brassard and commadore for one or our firsts, a decent/good roster player (maybe mac) and a future second/third rounder.
    To put things in prospective, what would you say to a Columbus fan who offered a second rounder for kadri or colborne?
    Tux, are you asking me what I think SJ will do with Joe if they lose to LA? They’ll still keep him. The only way they think about moving him is if they completely crap the bed next year and are 10+ points out of the playoffs by the deadline next year. Other then that, the earliest he would be dealt is by the deadline at the last year of his contract.

  19. Not that anyone is actually saying the Buds will get Thornton, but the issue in that situation – or any similar one – is that even if the Sharks lose in the first round, they aren’t going to blow the whole team up; there’s too much talent there. I could see them trading Thornton, but only for player(s) who would help them win the Cup next year, which is exactly what the Leafs don’t want to give up. The Leafs have future assets to trade, and while they would obviously give up roster players to get Thornton – or any other top line centre – that’s not the approach they want.

    For that reason, they need a trade partner that is willing to blow their team up, or wants youth. I think Brassard might even be a good fit (though for more than a 2nd rounder like Durt says). Or a player like Steven Weiss, maybe?

  20. @murph

    Gagne is a Winger not a center. It will tuff to find a first line center. I dont Steven Weiss will be a good fit, he’s too small. He’s a secone line center. I would trade for Brassard, but if you can’t find chemristy with Rick Nash ? Ryan Kelser ! is the man you leaf fans want. And I want on my Hawks.

  21. @eddie: Ryan Kesler? I think this is getting out of hand here. Vancouver will not trade Kesler. Why don’t we all just start throwing every name we can think of out there? The Leafs should trade for Datsyuk! The Leafs should trade for Malkin! The Leafs should trade for Ryan Getzlaf! They will get none of these players. I’m a Leaf fan.. but I’m a realistic one. I think the best scenario Toronto could hope for would be to acquire a guy like Mike Ribeiro. He’s a prime target if Dallas resigns Richards. Tim Connolly could be a decent fit too.

  22. No to Connolly!

  23. @Eddie

    You are correct, Gagne has been playing wing, in all but his rookie year, where as a centre he racked up 20 goals and 28 assists. Then he moved to wing on a line with Recchi and Primeau as Centre and had even greater success. However, like many forwards in the NHL he is a natural centre, and I think could easily move back to that position. I think he is mature enough and skilled enough to centre Kessel and Lupul, and also has his own scoring touch when the opportunity presents itself.

    Ribeiro if nothing better was out there and we did not have to give up to much. Connolly no. Too inconsistent, and I do not think he is a Burke type.

  24. Stamkos won’t happen, he’s got too much going in Tampa; being a fan as a kid doesn’t go very far in the NHL anymore.

    Within that group of players, I really hope Shea doesn’t head to Leaftown; if he didn’t play in Nashville, he’d be considered one of the top 4-5 defencemen playing the game currently. I’d rather see him go to a worthy team that he could compete year in/out. Again, a nice list for Leaf fans to dream about =o) that place hasn’t held a true star since Mats, so I wonder what they’ll do.

  25. - Durt

    Yes I’m for real on Brassard. But I’m just trying to get the ball rolling. Regardless of what you give up he is still an interesting risk and worth a shot at the right price. And fair enough on the 2nd rounder to Colbourne/Kadri (even though I think Kadri is overrated).
    Bottom line is that if you can get someone with Brassard’s talent, the you do it.

  26. Aj, I couldn’t agree more. Brassard would be awesome. It would be hard to pry him away though.

  27. I think Ryan Malone could be an option, as the Leafs had reportedly shown some interest before.
    He may not be a number one center, but has the size and grittiness they need, and could be a nice fit at number two.

  28. I’d rather have weiss or ribeiro over Malone. Atleast those two could set up kessel. We need a 1 or 1a center. We have enough second liners.

  29. You guys are all gonna think i’m crazy but I think Spezza would be a good fit for both Ottawa and Toronto and he wouldn’t cost the price tag Brassard or Thornton would – Ottawa is in full rebuild mode and it’s no secret they would love to get rid of his contract – we could absorb the overpaid cap hit and he would be a nice fit with Kessel. Lupul would really have to pick up his D-game though playing on a line with those two…

  30. I have said before that Spezza would look good on our first line, and while ever hopeful , I would never bet on it. If Ottawa is not prepared to dump Alfreddson, I am not sure if they would move Spezza. I think Alfie has 1 or 2 more years max, and then they anoint Spezza as their Captain. Although I would love to be proven wrong.

    If the Sens really wanted to burn it to the ground they would get rid of Alfie and Spezza. As Spezza is nearing 30, I guess another option would be to trade Spezza, and keep Alfie as Captain until Karlsson (spelling?) is ready to take it over.

    Proven first line centres or bust!

  31. I think The Sens would love to get rid of Spezza’s contract – let’s face it – he’s not worth what he gets paid. When healthy and inspired he is – the past two years he’s had injury problems and then when he’s come back and the season’s done and over with he’s turned it back up to where he was 3 -4 years ago – just enough to let everyone see what he is capable of still. He needs a change of scenery and Toronto has the cash to absorb his inflated contract (ala Giggy).

    The thing this hinges on is whether or not Melnick can swallow his pride enough to make a deal to a division rival – Spezza is the kind of player who could light it up and remind him of what he gave up on… that and he has to seethe everytime his own barn busts at the seams with a hearty “GO LEAFS GO” when The Buds are in town…lol