Last night TSN Insider Darren Dreger, one of the most connected reporters in the business, spent a lot of time talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their desire and willingness to make a deal. Not only does Dreger see the Leafs as the busiest Canadian team leading up to the NHL trade deadline, but he has some specific ideas of who they might be looking at and who they might send away.
Dreger’s entire segment on the Leafs is well worth watching; I’ve quoted it below but the original segment (which includes some commentary from former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward that I haven’t included) can be found here. Here’s Dreger’s take:
“It does, but we can’t read too much into the decisions that have been made by the coach or by the demotions to Aulie and Kadri. What we know is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are working the phones, they’re getting antsy. Brian Burke is desperate to make a deal. He wants to improve his club, he wants to alleviate some of the pressure of scratching veteran players, etc. But again, don’t read the demotion of Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie into the belief that they’re not developing at the rate the team would like them to develop. Nazem Kadri has been good; he gets better every time he’s called up into the National Hockey League, better defensively, which was their number one concern. The only way Nazem Kadri, Keith Aulie, Joe Colborne, go through some of their young depth is included in a trade is if there’s a significant piece coming back the other way. Trust me when I tell you that Toronto is going to take another run at James van Riemsdyk. Could one of those players be involved? Probably not; we know Philadelphia needs a defenseman, it would have to be a good young defenseman.”
There’s a lot there to cover, so I’d like to go through it in point form.
- Kadri’s pretty much on pace, at least compared to other forwards in his draft class. Brayden Schenn, who went fifth overall to Los Angeles, is still struggling to break into the league and has already been traded once (for ex-Flyers captain Mike Richards). Edmonton’s Magnus Paajarvi looks to have been elevated to the NHL too early; he’s bounced between the majors and minors this year. Outside of the first three forwards, there aren’t a lot of guys from the 2009 Draft that can claim to be ahead of Kadri. If we look at a couple of guys picked around the same spot in the previous two drafts – Logan Couture and Cody Hodgson – than there’s no reason to be overly concerned about Kadri’s development path.
- I’m also completely in agreement with Dreger that demotions to the AHL are a fairly common occurence for a lot of young players, and given that it’s a mistake to view them as proof the Leafs are willing to move them.
- Dreger didn’t mention Schenn in that segment, but later in the TSN Quiz he did. If the Leafs are serious about trying to pick up James van Riemsdyk, it’s hard to see it happening without a deal built around Luke Schenn. My thoughts on that sort of deal can be found here – short answer: depending on specifics I think it works for the Leafs.
- If a van Riemsdyk deal isn’t in the cards, however, it’s still easy to see one of Kadri or Colborne being moved. Breaking in two young centers at the same time isn’t an easy thing for a team with playoff aspirations to do, and both players presumably have cachet around the league. Carolina and Edmonton both have top-six wingers that are presumably on the market in Ruutu and Hemsky, and if the Ducks accept the inevitable (that there’s too much ground to make up and not enough time) there’s a obviously a Burke connection there. Joe Colborne is easy to envision as the centerpiece in some sort of deal, though at least in Edmonton’s case one imagines a defenseman would need to go the other way.
- Dreger mentions that Burke would like to "alleviate some of the pressure of scratching veteran players," which points to a move being made on the back end. However, Burke’s gone on the record time and again about the need for a playoff team to be eight deep defensively – I’m sure he’s willing to make a trade, but if push comes to shove I think he’d be okay with the Leafs entering the post-season with lots of depth in that position.