We are less than three months than the NHL’s trade deadline and the Toronto Maple Leafs have at least one player that should be a very good candidate to move on or before that date.
Nikolai Kulemin, a Leaf since the 2008-09 season, is in the last year of a two-year contract that was signed prior to last year’s lockout. As an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the Leafs have a decision to make with the current longest serving Maple Leaf.
In his previous five seasons with the Leafs, Kulemin has a total of 351 games played, with a total of 75 goals and 100 assists for a total of 175 points. Once thought to be a future offensive force, he has matured into reliable defensive, energy-line player.
Now, why should Kulemin be traded? He has, after all, been a pretty good player for the Leafs.
He should be traded because he’s an attractive commodity. There would be plenty of interest and if enough teams got into the talks, the Leafs might be able to get a first-round pick in return for him. If you doubt that, just remember the Buffalo Sabres got a first-round pick in return for Paul Gaustad a couple of years ago.
If the Leafs get a chance to get that in return for Kulemin, then there is no way they should pass it up. The Leafs have more free agents to re-sign and Kulemin will not be easy to re-sign with players like Dion Phaneuf, Dave Bolland and Cody Franson needing to be signed.
The Leafs have the players to replace the role that Kulemin currently provides. Prospects Carter Ashton, David Broll and Jerry D’Amigo would all be able to jump into that role and not look out of place.
As much as Kulemin has done for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the time has come for them to sell high on Kulemin and get as much as they can for him.