Toronto - June 26, 2014 - The NHL is now a day away from the first pick of the 2013 NHL entry draft. There are trade rumours galore and it would appear there are multiple potential heirs to the first overall pick in Friday night’s draft. With the media storm continuously building since well before Lord Stanley’s Cup was lifted, the angst all hockey fans are feeling across the league only continues to grow. Perhaps not surprisingly though, all is eerily quiet among the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The draft is now less than 24 hours away, and for Leaf faithful that will be a long 24 hours. Despite all of the rumours and media fervor surrounding the team, the intentions of hockey’s most profitable franchise remain about as clear as they did at the trade deadline. It truly does feel like the calm before the storm.
One cannot simply ignore the rumours surrounding the Leafs, as they have been wide ranging and some even shocking. Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Cody Franson are all some of the high profile names rumoured to potentially be on their way out the door. Meanwhile Joe Thornton, Patrick Berglund, Ryan Kesler, Ed Jovanovski and Dan Boyle have all been rumoured to join the Blue and White. I would be remiss if I also did not mention the Leafs potential for trading into a top 3 draft pick in the first round as well.
The one constant in all of this seems to be the team’s interest in Aaron Ekblad. It would appear that Leaf’s management has identified the seemingly NHL ready defensemen as a key target in this year’s draft. With the Leafs defence being one of the leagues worst last year, it should not seem surprising that they would crave the best defensive talent in the draft.
If the Leafs do make a deal on draft day to trade up it would seem probable that it would be to pick the young Barrie Colt’s defensemen. Apart from Ekblad though, the Maple Leaf’s intentions are unknown. The Leafs have only 5 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie under contract. Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Mason Raymond, Jay McClement, Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson all remain unsigned at this time.
The Leafs have a staggering amount of work to be done between Friday’s draft and when they open up the season against the Montreal Canadiens on October 8th. With the talent available in free agency as well as the draft, the blue and white have a real opportunity to retool this team. Hopefully after the first round, Leaf faithful have a better view of where this team is going.