Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brian Burke drops the hammer

So it's come to this. On the same weekend that my entire house is without internet access except for an ipod that can steal my neighbor's wireless, Brian Burke decides to roll a grenade into the Leafs' locker room. So here I am, blogging from a Starbucks. I'm that guy. You have my permission to punch me in the throat.

We have a lot to talk about. Let's get the easy one out of the way first.

The Anaheim Deal

Great deal. Fantastic deal. A perfect deal. Forget about whether this trade works for the Ducks or not. From the Leafs perspective, it's a masterpiece.

The Leafs improved their weakest position and their cap situation in one deal. Yes, they take on an extra $2M next year. But this team won't be good enough to compete until at least 2011-12, and having a 39-year-old Jason Blake and his $4M off the cap that year is a huge win.

What's the absolute worst-case scenario here? If Giguere is every bit as bad as Toskala, the Leafs are stuck with him for one full year. If he's borderline average, the Leafs will have a cup-winning goalie to dangle at next year's deadline.

But if he can get back to being even a bonafide NHL starter, Burke has worked a miracle.

The Calgary deal

This one is trickier. Dion Phaneuf has had a downright bad year, and it's not hard to imagine him imploding in the Toronto pressure-cooker. He has a long-term deal with a big cap hit, so there's significant risk here.

But here's the flipside: Phaneuf is also a former Calder and Norris contender who's still years away from his prime, and the Leafs gave up shockingly little to get him. Two players who had no future in Toronto past this year, one solid forward who won't be all that hard to replace, and a very good young defenceman. That's it. Oh, and the Leafs picked up a decent prospect in the deal.

Losing Ian White hurts, no doubt. It's not even impossible to imagine that he could be the best player in the deal a few years from now. But that's unlikely, and you have to give up something to get something.

Bottom line: The Leafs are looking to the future, and in terms of longterm impact they basically just traded Ian White for Dion Phaneuf. It's far from a sure thing, but that's just about the ultimate buy low/sell high deal, isn't it?

This feels familiar

It's impossible to look at these two deals without feeling like we're back in the early 90s all over again.

JS Giguere is only slightly older than Grant Fuhr was when the Leafs acquired him in 1991. Both had won Cups. Both had lost their hold on their starting jobs. Both needed a change of scenery. At the time, Cliff Fletcher dismissed concerns about Fuhr's age by pointing out that top goaltenders often play well into their late-30s.

Oh, did we mention that the Leafs gave up a young Vincent Damphousse and more in that deal? Today, the Leafs got Giguere for two guys they would have given away for nothing without blinking an eye.

And then there's the whole "Make a multi-player deal with the Calgary Flames for a potential star who wants out". There's even a mustached defenceman playing a prominent role.

That seemed to work out OK last time.

So what's the impact on the rest of the year?

Short answer: who cares? This season is already over.

Longer answer: Everyone is asking how the Leafs will score now. But they weren't scoring before, at least enough to win. This deal clears out a bunch of older players and makes room for some of the kids to finally show what they can do.

Giguere should help Gustavsson develop. He'll also hurt Gustavsson bargaining position as an RFA, which may save the Leafs a few bucks. Both are good things.

And finally, hopefully the charade of not trading Tomas Kaberle comes to an end. If anyone still believed Burke's ridiculous "I don't ask guys to waive NTCs" stance before today, dealing for Giguere should put that to rest.

If the Leafs can get a decent return for Kaberle, the future may actually look bright. Imagine that.

The bottom line

It took a year and a half, but the Brian Burke era is finally here. It's off to a good start. For the first time in a long time, we can say that today is a good day to be a Leaf fan.

Finally, I've had a bunch of people asking about whether these deals do anything to change my one-month sabbatical from watching the Leafs. Apparently they missed the fine print on that post.


  1. Hooray, the return of DGB!

    Welcome back, you didn't miss much. Er....

  2. what a joke. Leave when the chips are down return when the excitement is back. When will you come out of the closet and proclaim your devotion to the Senators. The evidence is everywhere

  3. Ah, anon. Why would someone with absolutely zero sense of humour or context be hanging around this blog in the first place.
    Man, the Snes fan recruitment efforts are sad.

  4. Too many defencemen and too few forwards. There must be more to come. Kovalchuk?

  5. I agree with most of this. Today is the most reason for optimism we've had as Leaf fans for years. I remain a bit worried that a team that already spent too much on their D just took on a 6.5 million cap hit defenseman, but the price asset wise was definitely right.

  6. Excellent analysis. The risk-reward in these trades is so heavily tilted in the Leafs' favour, it's crazy.


  7. watching burke talk about kaberle in these press conferences, seems like he is pretty adamant/firm in his position of not trading him. which is fine, but if that's the case, how are they supposed to get a top center/winger for the offense?

  8. When I saw Dreger's twitter this morning (if you told me in 2005 I was going to type those prior 4 words, I would have punched you in the face) indicating that the Leafs were getting Phaneuf, I immediately began to worry that one or two of Schenn/Kadri/Kessel/picks were going the other way. Then I sold myself on Kaberle going the other way. When I heard what the actual trade was, I threw out my arm fist-pumping so many times. The 4 assets we traded are all EASILY replacable at a low cost.

    And then the kicker...he convinced Anaheim to take our two least desirable assets in exchange for someone who could command a 1st round pick at next year's deadline and will help our goalie of the future get better.

    It's a great day to be a Leaf fan. We have a considerably brighter future right now than we did last night's debacle.

  9. Sad that many people are falling under burkies master piece "life as a leaf, set back and enjoy".

  10. ANA deal is great as it is, could turn out to be brilliant. How the CGY deal pans out remains to be seen, but potential gains far outweigh the immediate losses, none of whom were anything near irreplaceable. I'll miss White, but Phaneuf could be Phantastic.

    Well played, Burkie, well played indeed. You might not be a complete bum, after all. Next step, make Wilson go away before next season, would you?

  11. @ DP

    I can't believe you referred to Blake and Toskala as 'assets'. Or did your spell check mistakenly replace 'asshats'?

  12. @ kidkawartha: Why are we dissing SNES? Go back and play NHL 94!

    In general: Wheeeeeeeee. And as a kicker, the better we play for the remainder of the year (we'll see how that is, but I think it'll be somewhat better), the worse player Boston is likely to pick up next year. And they're in our division. Whoot.

  13. Thanks DGB! First analysis I've read on it that I can really sink my teeth into, and I feel much better about it now.

    Boiling it down to Phaneuf for White does seem easier to swallow overall, even though I'll miss White and am no fan of Phaneuf.

    I was somewhat good with the Anaheim deal already, but pointing out how Giguere will help even off the ice (mentoring, hopefully trade bait) makes it all the better.

    At least Blake and Toskala are someone else's problem. Phew.

    Also, future blog post suggestion: Strategies for being graceful about it when your team is constantly losing. Something that will help me from punching smug Canucks fans in the face.

  14. It's nice of Burke to respect Leaf traditions. Once again, we have a goalie that's beaten Ottawa in the playoffs.

  15. DGB! love the 'fine print'

    on that note, about your 1 month leave of absence, I'm in Europe traveling for this entire season, and it has not been easy, I actually go crazier because of the frustration of outshooting, out everything teams and losing. so its good your 1 month ended, because its not easier

    I have spent too many nights around France, England, Spain, Portugal, turning my back on girls while staring @ my score mobile ap waiting for the leafs to scor... lose, ugh

    anyway, losing white hurts me down to my soul, lets trade kaberle for white?

    now for some forwards. I just hope this ends the stupid Kovy talk, we need CENTERS, CENTEEEERRRRSSSS!!!

    and wingers... haha

  16. oh,and with
    kaberle, komisarek, beauch, dion, schenn, gunnersson (top 6), finger, exelby and a few boys in the minors now, does schenn become expendible? whaddya think?

  17. "And finally, hopefully the charade of not trading Tomas Kaberle comes to an end. If anyone still believed Burke's ridiculous "I don't ask guys to waive NTCs" stance before today, dealing for Giguere should put that to rest."

    It still has nothing to do with Burke & his stance. He's not Giguere's manager, Bob Murray was. He didn't ask for anyone to waive anything. He didn't sign Giguere to a NTC. Neither thing contradicts Burke's position.

    Brian Burke will not put together a deal, then go to the player and say "I really want to trade you, waive your NTC."

    But if you have a player - i.e. Giguere - who is unhappy at his situation and his role on the team, then goes and asks the GM to find a trade for him so he can get out of Anaheim.
    So Burke & Nonis get a call from Murray that Giguere is available. They put together a deal and a trade happens.

    I don't see any instance of Burke asking a player to waive a NTC.

    Unless Kaberle and his agent say "I want to be traded to one of these teams in March" Burke & Kaberle will have no discussions about anything except the weather.

  18. " He didn't sign Giguere to a NTC"

    Yes he did.

  19. So then Burke cant trade Giguere at any point, because he has a NTC. Unless he waives it again next season.
    Or is his NTC now void because he waived it to come to Toronto?
    -Confused in Ottawa

  20. I was actually referring to the fact that Burke was Ana's GM when Giguere signed his contract, complete with No Trade Clause.

  21. where's sundin when we need him...

  22. As much as I hope that giguerre will be a number one goalie, this feels too much like our recent goalie pick ups
    Toskala and Raycroft were starters who lost their spots and we thought they were still number 1s and look how that turned out

  23. The Leafs won both trades. They improved defensively and they got rid of the two worst players on their team

  24. You know when the future also looks bright?
    When you keep your number 1 or 2 overall draft picks.

  25. Gentlemen,
    Isn't anybody worried about the 6.5 cap hit that Phaneuf brings until 2014???

  26. There is a large misconception about the Kaberle situation.

    Kaberle is as good as gone. Burke never said he wouldn't trade him, he said he wouldn't ask him to waive his clause. But since he's tried to mvoe him in the summer, Kaberle has to know - waive it now while you still have some control, or get moved this summer when you don't.

  27. IIRC, Kaberle's clause in his contract that voids the NTC in the summer still exists for this year, assuming the Leafs miss the playoffs. Essentially, Kabby is in the same position Kubina was: get a trade now to a place you like, or wait until the summer when all bets are off.

    I really like Tomas, but it seems borderline absurd to keep him. The Leafs are in the process of completely reinventing themselves. The need to purge the old wound, plus the thought of what Kaberle could potentially bring, makes it a no-brainer, really. Here's hoping, at least.

    Alternatively, try Kabby as a forward and see if we already have Kessel's centreman.

  28. I am a bit concerned over the Calgary trade, mainly because I don't know how Phaneuf will react to playing in Toronto (and I don't know how the other players will pan out)

    But the ANA trade works so well, I can't even believe it actually happened.

    We'll see, I guess

  29. @andge No you didn't keep your 1 and 2 draft picks. Those already got traded to Boston. And guys stop talking about getting kovalchuk. He wants to go to a cup contender. And these are pretty good trades and will speed up that process it still isn't going to happen for at least 2 years. Lol haha. Go sens!........ And that other team from Edmonton...... Damn oilers.

  30. DGB, that fine print says "star defenseman".

    Phaneuf isn't a star defenseman right now. The hiatus should, by all rights, continue!

    Oh, and has been alerted - no more getting away with it :)

    Giggy with 4 wins in 20 games. Whoopa!

  31. Let me get this straight- you trade away the only two forwards on this team that anyone outside of Toronto can name besides Kessel, get a crappy goalie for a crappy goalie, and swap an up and coming D for an overrated goon, and you call this a good thing?

    As a Bruins fan, I could not be happier to see this trade.

  32. And Noah, Kovalchuk is only going to a contender for the Cup. The Leafs are not even contenders for 10th place.

  33. Welcome back DGB! The anonymous who said you are a closet Sens fan might need to come out of the "closet" him/her/itself. Nothing against that choice of lifestyle, if you want to be a "Sens" fan, then you should have every right! They may not win a Stanley Cup, but they do have a parade every year, and Sens fans should feel a sense of "PRIDE" in that.

    Anyways, who do you think will be next to go? Poni? What do you think we could get for him?

  34. I think White is going to develop into a very solid top 2 on any team he goes to, but that being said, is he going to develop into a Norris contender/team canada candidate? Not likely. Phaneuf is that player. A bit pricey, buy you've got to believe that Stajan and White were going to be calling for more $$ in the very near future, so you've got to overlook that.

    I agree that the Anaheim deal is about as good a deal as anyone could have hoped for.

    We'll see what else is on the horizon. I can't see Poni not moving because there are only 1 or two players of any interest to other teams left.... other than Exelby of course... :P

  35. The only thing that worries me about this trade is the following.

    Leafs are already full of big-name defencemen that get silly penalities. (SUP, KOMISAREK.)

    But...the PK sucks. And isn't showing much signs of improving.

    Oh, and the 40% less offensive players as well. This worries me. A lot.

    Oh man, we need Fake-Brian back. So bad.

  36. Phaneuf = Truculence..... Isn't the cba up in 2011? There will probably be a luxury tax of sorts brought in, so we can spend, spend, spend like the Yankees to be able to win the cup.... (contrary to everything in the leafs past that indicates that they would continue to run the organization like Ebenezer Scrooge ran his business in A Christmas Carol.......)

  37. "If anyone still believed Burke's ridiculous "I don't ask guys to waive NTCs" stance before today, dealing for Giguere should put that to rest. "

    Bob Murray did that, Burke didn't. Burke is still in the clear here. :)

    Anon @ 3:25, your rudderless team led by an aging, unimaginative GM is that way ----------> Please bring Murray a bib, looks like he'll need him at his next news conference.

    As per the trade:

    Win, win. I was so happy when I head Blake AND Toskala were traded I called my best friend then ran outside screaming for joy.

    While it looks like we gave a lot, we got a premier defenseman back, a good prospect in Aulie and a 4th liner in Sjostrom. Juggy is miles better than Toskala.

    No Kovalchuk please, he's the wrong way to go.

  38. does this change your previous "I quit" stance?

  39. wow the leafs picked up a bigger/dumber mccabe. boston has got to be loving this, 1st overall this year and then another top 5 next year

  40. DannyD:
    >"... proclaim your devotion to the Senators".
    Ok hun, here comes the proclamation: Before the Calgary deal I was really hoping the Leafs would try to sign Volchenkov in the summer. End devotion.

    >"boston has got to be loving this, 1st overall this year"
    Yeah, I'm devastated :)) Any chance the Bruins fans would realize they're drafting Taylor Hall, not John Tavares? Boston gets a good forward that will be NHL ready in 2 or 3 years. So? We'll sign 10 college kidz about the same skill level ready to go next season.

    Back to the topic: I'm really loving the Keith Aulie part of the deal.

  41. Well, that will teach me to skip over the fine print... though I must say that print was REALLY fine, because I don't remember seeing it at all. Maybe I need my eyes checked?

  42. Joe Bowen's MansiereFebruary 2, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    Brilliance as always.

  43. Hey DGB, did you or anyone else notice the add on your blog for the heart and stroke society. I'm all for helping out, but seriously how can you have the phrase "Play Hockey. Save Lives" beside a picture of Wendel Clark? Is he not responsible for ENDING lives while playing hockey?

    Signed, confused in Leaf Nation.