Ever since Brian Burke`s closing press conference to the abysmal downfall that was last season, he made it very clear that he would look to gain assets through trade, not free agency. Despite Burke`s consistent comments throughout last week, Leafs Nation seemed to be riled at the fact that he did not pursue any big named free agents. With around $12 million in cap, the Leafs don`t have the space to offer players the dough that other teams can.
Contrary to what people might think, the Leafs have quite a lot of depth down the middle, with Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, David Steckel, and Matthew Lombardi. Add the potential of Nazem Kadri and the possibility of James van Riemsdyk playing center and the Leafs suddenly have significant depth and leverage to test the trade market in order to obtain that number one center.
Brian Burke stated during the July 1 hoopla that he wasn`t done.. meaning via trade. Mind you, once Zach Parise signs somewhere the dominoes will begin to fall. One name I`ve mentioned before and still isn`t garnering a lot of attention at all is Shane Doan. I don`t think he signs long term with Phoenix, only to run the risk of being moved by the league in the near future.
The situation in Phoenix reeks of uncertainty, and Doan knows it. I do not believe he takes the chance in Phoenix, so when Parise finally signs, expect Doan to gain attention. And expect Burke to be in the mix. At the same time, Burke will likely look to address certain needs through trade before he tries anything drastic in signing a free agent like Doan. But maybe the trade talks are more focused on the goaltending front.
When Burke said that he`s content to start the season with Reimer and Scrivens, don`t let it fool you. Burke knows that he has to be behind his goalies in the case that they are not able to acquire a seasoned goaltender before September. I suspect that he is waiting to see what unfolds over the next few months and pursuing Tim Thomas before September. Also, if Luongo is dealt to Florida and Theodore still remains on their roster, expect Burke to push for Theodore. Having said that, I believe in the Reimer-Scrivens duo, but a veteran presence in net would only progress the two young netminders.
So again, Burke has the right idea. In free agency, you`re limited to a narrow field of assets, not to mention the serious overpaying of those assets. In trading, however, the options are open to 29 rosters and a seemingly unlimited field of talent. This allows a general manager to seek out the precise asset they need. This strategy also allows Burke to unload contracts or effectively swap contracts for better talent.
And Leafs Nation, let`s remember, minus one of the greatest meltdowns the NHL has ever seen, the Leafs were a playoff team last season. I square the blame on the man who left town during the downfall last season, Ron Wilson. Jonas Gustavsson was cruising with the Leafs for 27 consecutive games due to a James Reimer injury. When Wilson brought Reimer back in the mix, he pitched a shutout.. then another. It, then, appeared that Reimer was once again the goaltender going forward. But when Reimer was lit up in a 5-0 loss on Hockey Night in Canada after Mats Sundin`s jersey honouring, Wilson flipped back to Gustavsson. But that would mark the beginning of a vicious cycle where each goaltender had to win, or they were replaced with the other. The two young goaltenders were demoralized with less than 30 games left, and the team followed suit. But enough about last year, it`s behind us and we have a lot to look forward to this season.
The Leafs weren`t far away last season and aren`t far away this year. And when Burke says he isn`t done, only expect the Leafs to get closer this season. Though people are eager to see the moves now, Burke is not a man to set a deadline. Even if that means well into the 2012-2013 season.