Deadline Day: Checklist for the Toronto Maple Leafs

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It’s Deadline Day in the NHL. Yesterday gave us several deals that uprooted Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy from Dallas and sent Ryan Clowe to the New York Rangers. But there are still a few names on the horizon, and generally, deadline deals that we don’t expect go through.

The big names are off the table, but the Leafs have yet to make any major deals this season. They still have two interesting impending unrestricted free agents in Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak and winger Nik Kulemin may have garnered some interest. Right now the Leafs look to be comfortably in the playoffs, but they still lag behind Pittsburgh, Boston and Montreal as far as being a contender goes. Today is the last chance Toronto have to bolster the roster until after the Stanley Cup Finals. What will they do? What should they do?

Related to Trade Deadline 2013

What the Maple Leafs might sell
What the Maple Leafs should buy

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Here is a checklist for Leafs general manager Dave Nonis to follow today. Hopefully all the objectives get completed:

Checklist Item No. 1 – Don’t trade for a goaltender

It’s not just Roberto Luongo who has been rumoured to go to the Maple Leafs. An equally un-prudent deal would be one that would see veteran backstopper Miikka Kiprusoff be sent to Toronto. While Jay Feaster has been absolutely obliterated in both the Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester deals, a rumoured trade for Kiprusoff makes little sense.

The qualities that Kiprusoff supposedly exhibits, playoff experience and veteran leadership, are wasted on the fact that the only time Kiprusoff had any success in the playoffs was in his first year as a starter in the postseason, and that realistically the Leafs would get just three or four games out of a new backup down the stretch.

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Conceivably, there is a way to get Kiprusoff aboard and please the geeks like myself. I’ve been an advocate for the Leafs, who are blessed with a healthy number of cursed contracts off the books this season, to exercise their financial clout by offering to use an amnesty buy-out for a player on another team by trading for said player along with a prospect. For a price, the Leafs could offer Kiprusoff this service. Mike Komisarek is still the one obvious buy-out candidate, but each team gets two. Unfortunately, the Flames don’t have very many other buy-out options other than Matt Stajan, so there’s a good chance they hold onto Kipper if they’d have to forfeit a mid-level prospect for the service.

That scenario is the only way I can see a Kiprusoff trade benefitting Toronto.

No. 2 – Deal Tyler Bozak, maybe

Have we established this one way or another? Toronto’s first line has been remarkably inconsistent over the last few weeks. With James van Riemsdyk in both a performance and a production slump, the line is essentially Phil Kessel and two hangers-on. Bozak this summer is going to make millions of dollars with an organization that won’t be Toronto. I hate quoting guys who use unsourced information, but this Dreger tweet is indicative of something:

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That something is that the Leafs don’t see a future with Tyler Bozak in the top six, and why would they? Since Dreger’s tweet, Nazem Kadri has become something of a firewagon, and the team can’t possibly leave $5.5-million on the third line forever.

Interestingly, there was the news that Tim Connolly will be held out of the Toronto Marlies lineup against Lake Erie this morning. Perhaps there’s the indication that the Leafs have the option to bring up a centreman, or trade one. Either way, the team ought to make a decision on Bozak at some point. Everything has been tried in the lineup this season except taking Bozak and Kessel off the first line.

No. 3 – Find a left-handed defenceman (or a right-handed one)

Ever since Dion Phaneuf moved over to the right side of Carl Gunnarsson, the Leafs have been a little thin on the left side. While Jake Gardiner and John-Michael Liles can both handle that point, it’s becoming obvious that whoever is paired with Mike Kostka is better suited to almost purely offensive minutes. Cody Franson plays the right side on the current third pairing, but he’s developed at a quicker pace than Mark Fraser this season and Fraser’s the current anchor on the pairing.

Of course, the Leafs lost out on Jay Bouwmeester who would have been the excellent option to play next to Franson. Rather than looking to add on the 3rd pairing, the Leafs should be looking for somebody who can play on the 1st or 2nd pair on any other team, bumping everybody else down the lineup.

Then again, the defenceman could also be right-handed. That would allow Gunnarsson and Phaneuf to separate, Phaneuf to play on his normal side with a defensive defenceman with an effective shoulder. Stephane Robidas has been given lots of love for two straight seasons over at Canucks Army and is a good defensive fit for this team. The Leafs, again, have yet to replace the loss of François Beauchemin.

The guy pictured above might help, too.

No. 4 – Go ahead, add a long-term player

Who said the trade deadline has to be all about rentals? Last year, the Los Angeles Kings went out and got Jeff Carter despite him being under contract until 2022. For the right price, why not inquire about a player like Alexander Burmistrov or Paul Stastny or a player another team may have soured on? Today isn’t just about looking for UFAs to bolster the team for the playoffs, but it’s an opportunity, as is any day, to find players to make your team better in the long run. The flurry of moves may grease the wheels a bit for a trade on deadline day as GMs get anxious to do something.

Last year, the Maple Leafs went out and traded Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton and Dale Mitchell for Mark Fraser. Boy, that was exciting.

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