For only the second time during Brian Burke’s tenure as GM the Toronto Maple Leafs posses their own first round selection in the upcoming NHL entry draft. While the draft is still a few months away, it’s possible that the pick is burning a hole in Burke’s pocket and could be gone by the February 27th Trade Deadline.
Throughout his career Burke has not been shy about wheeling and dealing first round picks. As you may or may not remember, Burke used the Leafs 2010 and 2011 First Round picks to acquire noted awkward All-Star Phil Kessel. Last year Burke acquired two first round picks, one from Boston in the Kaberle trade, and one from Philadelphia in exchange for Kris “Night Moves” Versteeg. On draft day he packaged Boston’s pick and a Second round pick for the 22nd overall pick in order to draft Tyler Biggs.
Burke has plenty of options between now and June:
Use the pick in a deal for an impact player at the deadline:
Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, and James VanReimsdyk are names that keep surfacing. Any deal for these players is likely to involve the Leafs first round pick. Being that the Leafs have solidified their position outside the Draft Lottery, the risk of moving this pick is significantly lower than in previous years.
Use the pick to move up in the draft:
For often than not, when Burke covets a player, he will move heaven and earth to get him. In addition to securing two consecutive picks to draft the Sedins, he famously left fake scouting reports around the hotel in 1993 to give other GMs a false impression of who he wanted. As with last year, if Burke has his sights set on a player in the first round, he could package the Leafs pick with another to draft him. However, initial reports suggest that this year’s draft in relatively top-heavy so it wouldn’t surprise me if he opted for option four.
Trade down in the draft for additional picks:
Burke may well choose quantity over quality. With the Leafs pick likely falling in the 12-17 range he could trade down into the 20s in exchange for a second round pick, or out of the first round entirely for a high second and an extra pick.
Trade the pick at the draft for a roster player or more established prospect:
If Burke doesn’t like anyone enough in the first round he may opt to move the pick for a more established prospect or a young roster player. The Sens did this when they acquired David Rundblad from the Blues. Or he can use the first round pick to acquire a young player or a player on an expiring contract.
Draft at the assigned position:
If all else fails Burke can let his scouting department do their job and pick at their assigned position. I’m not a betting man, but if I had to guess I’d say that this is the least likely option.
While there will be a lot of names thrown about between now and the Trade Deadline, the Leafs first round pick might be their most valuable asset.