With less than 48 hours to go until the most important trade deadline in recent Leafs history, some of us are getting cold feet. There's a lot of talk out there about keeping this guy or that guy, about players who may have earned the right to stay, and about not expecting all that many deals after all.
We knew this day was coming. We knew the deadline would spell the end of this team as we know it. This is no time to be losing our nerve and talking ourselves out of what needs to be done.
Here's what we know: The Leafs are a bad team this year. All signs point to them being just as bad next year, if not worse. With a little luck, the team could be good in 2010-11, if you consider contending for a playoff spot to be "good". Some people would call even that view incredibly optimistic, and it is, but it's the best-case scenario right now.
So that means that there are two, and only, reasons not to trade any player on this roster right now:
- The player could be an important contributor to a winning team in 2010. Not just a spare part, but a critical piece of a winner.
- or -
- The player could have significantly more value in a trade some time between now and then
And it won't come as any great shock to hear that most of the current roster doesn't fit into either of those two slots.
Tomas Kaberle fits into both categories. He's an elite player on a very good long-term contract, and Burke seems to be playing his cards perfectly. If a team is willing to overpay, make the move. If not, hold onto him until somebody will, or until the team is good enough to win with him.
There are a handful of other guys in category #1. Luke Schenn is the obvious one. I'd put Pogge and Kulemin there too, and probably Grabovski although I'm still not sold on him. Beyond that, maybe Hagman's solid production and long-term deal makes him a keeper.
The only player I see fitting into category #2 is Vesa Toskala. While Toskala has had some success in the NHL, he's been lousy this year and his value is nearing zero. Hold onto him, and hope he turns it around in time to be traded at next year's deadline.
That's it, as far as I can see. Burke should be shopping everyone else. Aggressively.
Nik Antropov has to go, of course, unless Burke was bluffing about not resigning him. Pavel Kubina should go too, although it sounds like that will happen in the summer. And if anybody so much as starts to make an offer for Jason Blake, Burke should have the paperwork faxed into the NHL before they finish their sentence.
Mayers, Ponikarovsky, Stajan... all nice players, all solid contributors, none worth holding on to if a decent offer comes along. Same goes for Ian White, moustache and all, if Burke can get an offer he likes.
Which brings us to Dominic Moore.
Moore sounds like a nice guy and he seems to desperately want to continue his career in Toronto. That's wonderful. Burke should be in touch when free agency opens on July 1.
But Moore's trade value is as high now as it will ever be. Punch his ticket. And as many of his teammates as possible right along with him.
Now none of this means that we should expect a dozen trades on Wednesday. And it doesn't mean Burke shouldn't demand fair value, and walk away from any deal where he can't get it. Not every guy I mention will be dealt -- you still need to ice a team.
But it does mean that it's not unrealistic to expect four or five deals between now and the deadline. Anything less will leave fans demanding answers, no matter how hard Burke seems to be working to lower expectations leading up to the big day.
Steve at hockeyanalysis is on the same page, and he worries that Burke may be getting sucked in by the recent win streak. The GM's (seemingly endless) recent media appearances seem to support that. I think it's an act. I hope it's an act.
Remember: This is a bad team, and a short win streak doesn't change that.
"Stay the course" is no course at all. Pull the pin, Burkie. Fire in the hole.