LeBrun: “Lots Of Interest” in Roman Polak

The trade deadline is now officially less than two weeks away.  And while the Leafs have almost certainly made their biggest splash on the trade market already, they still have work to do.  After all, those pending unrestricted free agents won’t trade themselves.

And even though the Leafs already moved a blueliner in Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak remains the most likely player on the roster to be dealt by the Leafs ahead of the deadline on the 29th of February.  That sentiment was echoed today by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who touched on Roman Polak and a possible fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins in his latest Rumblings blog.

Here’s the full excerpt from LeBrun on Polak:

I think on defense, pending unrestricted free agent Roman Polak is among the available defensemen the Penguins are monitoring; he’d be a nice fit on their third pairing and penalty kill. The Toronto Maple Leafs
won’t have a hard time peddling the very likable Polak, a tough dude
who oozes character, as there is lots of interest in him among the
league’s contenders ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

This is pretty much exactly what everyone has been saying for quite some time now.  In fact, people have been coming up with rumors surrounding Polak dating as far back as last off-season.

Basically, he’s a big-bodied, tough as nails, full-of-intangibles, veteran, right-handed shot defenseman, on an expiring contract, carrying a cap hit below $3 million.  In other words, he’s exactly the sort of player a lot of teams hoping to make a run in the playoffs would want.

But let’s not kid ourselves, despite the reportedly high levels of interest in Polak around the league, he’s still a bottom-pairing defenseman on a good team (something the Leafs are not).  It’s conceivable there are teams out there that think he can play a top-four role for them (especially since he played a top-four role for the Leafs last season), but most GMs are likely smart enough to recognize him for what he is – a solid depth defenseman.  Nothing more, nothing less.

With that in mind, the return on Polak might be a 3rd-round pick, or a 2nd-round pick if you can really get his value up.  Or, maybe the Leafs trade him for the prospect equivalent of those draft picks (in other words, the ultra-ambiguous “B-level” prospect).

But regardless of what the return is, Polak is almost certainly headed out the door before the month is out.