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Eric Staal and the Maple Leafs - Wishful Thinking
Steve Minakakis

Eric Staal and the Maple Leafs - Wishful Thinking
What was the first thing that came into your head when you heard the Eric Staal trade rumours possibly pointing to the Toronto Maple Leafs? I laughed a little. The Leafs are a team that's right up against the salary cap. So, no big deal, just trade some players to save some cap space right?

North York - December 28, 2011 - What was the first thing that came into your head when you heard the Eric Staal trade rumours possibly pointing to the Toronto Maple Leafs? I laughed a little. The Leafs are a team that's right up against the salary cap. So, no big deal, just trade some players to save some cap space right? Well, the problem is that the only players that would save space via trade have contracts that no other team in their right mind would be willing to pick up.

It's a miracle the Leafs managed to get rid of players like Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala. I'm nearly certain that when Brian Burke traded Beauchemin to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner he must've said "Please, for the love of God help me, I helped you guys win the cup a few years ago remember" over and over until the Ducks organization was overcome with pity and accepted the trade.

Possible Players the Leafs would like to trade

Matthew Lombardi - 3.5 mil / season - has two years remaining (this year plus one more year)

Tim Connolly - 4.75 mil / season - also has two years remaining

Mike Komisarek - 4.5 mil / season - has three years remaining (Just an awful signing all around)

Tim Connolly may be manageable as he has shown that he can still be a very useful player in many situations (Powerplay, Penalty Kill) but at almost 5 million dollars for the season I find it hard to see too many teams that would be willing to take a stab at him.

Matthew Lombardi is still injured but last I heard (which was a few weeks ago) he was expected to be returning in the next few games. Lombardi is a good player that the Leafs may be able to trade, but his track-record is riddled with injuries. If you're a team making a playoff run and you want to add to your team at the trade deadline why would you go after a player who is constantly getting injured?

Mike Komisarek will not be traded. There is no way that any General Manager in the NHL would take this awful contract off Brian Burke's hands. Face it we're stuck with him for the next few years. At least he was playing somewhat better before he got injured this season.

The Leafs are also still on the hook for buying out Darcy Tucker. His buy-out costs them one million on the salary cap each year and has another two more years after this season.

Sure, Eric Staal would be perfect for Toronto. He's the big strong top line centre the Leafs are looking for and it seems the Hurricanes have their hands tied with him. I would expect him to be moved by the deadline this year if not next year, unless things change in Carolina. The problem for the Leafs is that Staal makes 8.25 million on the salary cap per season. The numbers simply don't add up unless the Leafs manage to dump a bunch of salary. Eric Staal to Toronto is just very unlikely...(maybe Burke can call Vancouver and tell them to take Komisarek off his hands because he made all those brilliant moves to get the Sedin twins there).

Another name that has been thrown around is Zach Parise. This is a player the Leafs would love to get their hands on. At twenty-seven years old he is in his prime and he has already proven to be one of the NHL's elite players. He is also more affordable than Eric Staal at just six million per year against the cap. The downside with Parise is, that although he has played his fair share of games at the centre position, he's natural position is on the left wing and so trading for Parise wouldn't really help the Leafs need for a top line centre. Parise will most likely be traded by the deadline if the New Jersey Devils think that it is unlikely for him to sign a contract extension with them in the off-season, as this is his last year under his current contract. Parise becomes an un-restricted free agent in July and any team considering trading for him would be aware that he may only be there for a short period of time. I like the idea of Parise playing in Toronto. He could sit really nicely on that second line with Grabovski if Leafs coach Ron Wilson doesn't want to split up Lupul and Kessel. Is it possible for the Leafs to trade for Parise? I think it is. I think if they do they have to be near certain that he will re-sign in Toronto because the Leafs are not in a situation to be trading for a possible playoff run. Any team trading for Parise however, will have to give up considerable assets or very high end prospects (most likely a package containing both), as Parise will have quite a bit of value by the time the trade deadline rolls around.

Rumours have been swirling around for quite some time about Bobby Ryan. Is he on the trade block, or is he not? I don't think the Ducks are in dire need of trading Ryan, despite their struggles this season, but the word is out that he may be available and if the right offer comes around you may see him being moved. At a fair 5.1 million dollar cap hit, he is a player that teams might just be able to manage into their budget. Ryan is still young (24 years old) and has proven that he has the ability to be a big player in the NHL despite his struggles this season. We all know Leafs GM Brian Burke has ties with Anaheim so might there be something in place here? Possibly, but once again Bobby Ryan is a left-winger and the Leafs biggest need right now is a front line centre. I'm not saying that you don't trade for a player like Ryan if the right deal comes around, but I'm just stating that the Leafs are already tight to the cap and if they were to trade for one of these high priced players, they need to make sure its the right trade.

What the Leafs do have going for them is that Colby Armstrong is out indefinitely with a concussion. He makes three million per season and at the moment there is no time-line for him to return. The Leafs have a ton of injuries right now and the longer these players are on the IR, the better chance the Leafs have of freeing up enough space to make a big splash for one of these players. It doesn't help to have Colton Orr eating up a million dollars every season, but maybe he could be a salary dump/throw-in as he only has one more season on his contract after this one. I don't actually think this is likely to happen but hey, can't I be optimistic?

But what assets do the Leafs have that they would be willing to trade? Well theres a lot of talk about Nazem Kadri, but given his recent success with the Maple Leafs since being called up I don't think the Leafs are willing to trade him just yet. He's a player that could end up being a key piece of the roster in the Maple Leafs future. Colborne has been getting some looks from around the NHL. Although he doesn't have quite the value a player like Nazem Kadri has, he could fetch something in return. His short stint with Toronto was an eye opener for the team as he struggled when he was called up and really still hasn't found his way back since returning to the Marlies.

Hey, there's always draft picks in Toronto. What are those you ask? Draft picks are something teams use in June to select young players to join their NHL roster. Many in Toronto believe these "draft picks" are merely a myth, but word around the other National Hockey League teams is that they might actually exist. But seriously, the Leafs need to think long and hard before they consider trading another first round pick away. I love Phil Kessel, and I think it was a good trade thus far but the jury is still deliberating on that one. Let's see how Hamilton turns out in a few years.

Final verdict

Staal is too expensive. I'd love to see the Leafs get Parise, if they can sign him to a contract renewal. The Leafs are pretty deep with goaltending prospects and New Jersey's top two goalies are both almost 40 years old. Maybe we can get something going there, but any trade the Leafs make should not include Nazem Kadri, or a first round draft pick. It just wont be worth it...

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