Posts Tagged ‘NHL trade rumours’

We will take a break from the ‘Top Five’ mania that has riveted and compelled the world of sports (ok, I made that up) and we will instead focus on the talk in “Leaf Land” today which seemed to centre on whether Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs should have signed Raffi Torres to a one year, one million dollar contract for the upcoming season.  The popular answer among Leafs followers appears to be yes, we should have brought him into the fold, but my response to this question is an emphatic no and yours should be too.

Raffi Torres, who will turn 29 years old for the upcoming season is joining his fifth organization since entering the league as the 5th overall selection by the New York Islanders at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.  Four seasons removed from his last relatively productive season in 2005/06 with the Edmonton Oilers (27 goals, 41 points) Torres has been the model of inconsistent and one of the more frustrating players in the NHL.

Torres stands 6’0” and weighs over 220 pounds and has the reputation as under achieving power forward with some untapped potential, but since that 27 goal campaign four years ago Torres has averaged 59 games, 12 goals, 25 points (0.42 PPG) and a mere 45 PIMs.  I applaud Brian Burke for passing on this player as this is the kind of recycled projects the Leafs need not partake in, though the price is right there is absolutely zero upside to a move like this as even a career season (very unlikely) from Torres would essentially only make him a poor man’s Alex Ponikarovsky, at best.

This guys is barely an NHL calibre player at this point in his career, and if he goes on to snipe 25 goals this year for the Canucks (not likely) than good for them but the Leafs have internal options who are younger, hungrier and most importantly what kind of message is Brian Burke sending those kids if he decided to bring in a complete re-tread on a guaranteed contract with a lousy track record to boot?  This guy defines ‘replacement level’ hockey player, in fact he might be a step below and I think almost any of the Leafs current forwards (including Colton Orr) could give us 12 goals and 25 points with the type of minutes that Raffi Torres would need to put up even half decent stats for the team.

Didn’t we already go through this when we jettisoned Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Alex Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan last season, and those guys actually had some talent and past success?  Torres doesn’t make us better at all this season and is not a step-up over any of our current returning or prospective forwards.  He isn’t a great defensive player or penalty killer (like an A. Asham) and clearly is not a legitimate scoring threat of note so why would we waste a roster spot and risk the development in any way, shape or form of a Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, Jerry D’Amigo, Christian Hanson or Luca Caputi, among others. 

For better or worse, Brian Burke has a game plan and I admire the fact he doesn’t look for a band-aid solution to appease the masses of fans who seemingly want him to sign any recognizable free agent just for the sake of signing him at the expense of developing a core of hungry, young (and cheaper) alternatives internally.  Not only would signing a player like Torres not make us better I would venture to say he would in fact make us tangibly worse not only this season but when we factor in the ice-time he is possibly taking away from a younger player who would just as likely produce at the same (or better) level, it also makes us worse for the future.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Everybody loves a good old fashioned trade rumour and that is probably especially true for hockey fans.  With only four days to go before Maple Leafs defensemen Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause officially kicks back in I thought I would take one last look at some of the potential trade suitors and rumours that have been making the rounds.

These type of pieces haven’t really been my specialty as I am not an insider nor do I have any “sources” so everything I report today is basically for fun and a conversation piece, it is all second hand information, and likely third and fourth hand given the plethora of people who claim to have inside “sources”.  So although it feels like I am boarding the bandwagon and piling on a bit, let’s have some fun with it.

First, Tomas Kaberle is a very impressive offensive defenseman and has everything you would want in a puck moving blue liner.  Kaberle possesses silky smooth skating skills with the ability to stop and start on a whim and the uncanny (and un-teachable) ability to hold onto the puck while waiting out difficult pressure situations from opposing forwards to ensure a solid first pass out of the zone.  While not a huge defensive presence he is normally in the right position when it matters most and although his lack of strength and size are his biggest detriments he has worked around this weakness enough to carve out a nice little niche and impressive career in the NHL.

Kaberle burst onto the scene in the 1998/1999 scene after a very impressive training camp and he was such an unknown that Joe Bowen was pronouncing his name Kay-bur-lee.  Over the past decade Kaberle has been one of the best Leafs players consistently year in and year out and over 820 games with the Leafs he has amassed 80 goals, 402 assists good for 482 points.  Very impressive for a defenseman drafted in around that no longer exists in the NHL entry draft (8th round, 204 overall).

So the latest rumours have double digit teams potentially making a pitch to Brian Burke and company and a definite six teams with serious interest.  Among the six interested squads seemingly includes the Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  There are likely a few wildcard teams out there who would like to add the best current blue liner available but might not have the chips or desire to meet the Leafs asking price.

Let’s look at the teams and potentially rumoured players coming back:

Boston – Marc Savard.  The rumour that will just not go away has the Leafs receiving Marc Savard and likely another piece for a player the Bruins have coveted and could seriously use in Kaberle.  I like Savard as a player but I am not enamoured with his salary situation (7 year deal at 4 million, currently being investigated by the NHL for cap circumvention) or injury history (head injuries are no joke).  I don’t see the Leafs trading Kaberle to get this player, but if the right deal or situation came about (aka salary dump) than I would have no problem adding Phil Kessel’s former running mate.

Savard – 33 years old, 5’10” 190 lbs put up 33 pts in 41 games last season.  Career PPG – 0.89.

San Jose – Ryane Clowe.  Mr. Clowe brings the intangibles that Burke craves as he has enormous size and strength and will go to the dirty places on the ice that a lot of Leafs forwards either won’t or can’t.  The addition of Clowe to the top line would definitely provide the size and space that Phil Kessel needs to get through a full rigorous NHL season in top notch form and with top PP minutes Clowe would be a potential 30+ goal scorer.  I guess the downside is he sort of mirrors the stats of former Leaf Alex Ponikarovski but with a tougher mindset and the truculence “Poni” lacked. 

The Sharks have been a rumoured Kaberle landing spot since the off-season began and he would likely put up 70+ points with the weapons the Sharks have on the power-play (Thornton, Heatley, Setoguchi etc).  The latest is Clowe and a 1st round pick for Kaberle.

Clowe – 28 years old, 6’2” 220 pounds put up 19 goals, 38 assists for 57 points and 131 PIMs.  Only 2 PPGs so room for improvement with Toronto.  Career PPG – 0.63.

Dallas – James Neal Brad Richards Mike Ribeiro.  Sorry Leafs fans but Mike Ribeiro would be the likely candidate to move in a potential Kaberle deal unless Dallas loses its mind.  Ribeiro brings a definite upgrade offensively over Tyler Bozak/Nazem Kadri for at least one or two seasons but I think both Leafs centres have higher ceilings than Ribeiro, and he isn’t exactly known as a physical specimen or force on the ice.  This is a long-shot at best but If he panned out and blossomed in Toronto it would at least tick off Montreal fans, so that alone gives it a slight boost.

Ribeiro – 30 years old, 6’0” 180 pounds put up 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points.  Career PPG – 0.73.

Los Angeles – Wayne Simmonds.  The kid from Scarborough would be a local boy and a likely fan favourite for the way he plays the game, a definite gritty and in your face style with budding offensive skills.  Not sure if the Kings would want to part with him necessarily and not sure he provides the immediate offensive impact that the Leafs desire either however it would have to be considered a coup if Burke was able to land this kid.  He’s still maturing physically and his offensive game is only in its infancy, the future is very bright for Simmonds.

Simmonds – 22 years old, 6’2” 181 pounds put up 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points and 116 PIMs.  Like Clowe, limited power-play time and overall minutes, would likely see huge increase in Toronto given the current state of our wingers.  Career PPG – 0.39.

Tampa Bay – Ryan Malone.  He isn’t young and he isn’t old so he is smack dab in his prime and would definitely fit into the Brian Burke breed of hockey player.  Given his salary situation and age I don’t see how they would accept Malone without an enticing sweetener of some form but I doubt the Lightning would want to part with its first round pick given where they have chosen the past few years, supposed improvements be damned.  Clowe > Malone, so this one is a long shot.

Malone – 31 years old, 6’4” 224 pounds put up 21 goals and 26 assists for 47 points and 68 PIMs.  Career PPG – 0.59.

New Jersey – ?  I honestly do not see any realistic trade opportunities between these clubs at all.  The Leafs do not want Dainius Zubrus or Jamie Langenbrunner and the Devils won’t part with Zach Parise (having 45 and 38 goal seasons in the past two might be reason to keep him?). 

So there you have it, I promise to do a proper and more professional analysis of the Maple Leafs haul if and when the Tomas Kaberle trade saga comes to an end.  Who knows what will happen in the next 48-96 hours and there may even be a wildcard team or two that could give the Leafs exactly what they desire.  One of my sources (ok, a buddy from my office) said he heard Buffalo was trying to put something together centered on bad-boy Zach Kassian and likely one of their overpaid and underachieving forwards.

My gut tells me San Jose will ultimately end up with Kaberle, with Clowe and a couple draft picks coming to Toronto unless Burkie gets creative (and lucky) and can score Ryane Clowe and a Devin Setoguchi for Tomas Kaberle and Mikael Grabovski? 

What are you hearing, what are your “sources” telling you and more importantly what do you hope (realistically) the Leafs get for Kaberle?