nhl trade rumors

#blog-pager { display:none; }

Building Blocks up Front

By: Brodi Craddock

Toronto has been for some time challenged for talent up front. Since the departure of Mats Sundin there have been no all-star quality forwards in the line-up. Yes, Kessel did technically participate in the All-Star game, but he is not yet an elite forward in the sense that he doesn't control or impact the game on a regular basis. Kessel is clearly a work in progress, and the only forward on the team we can pretty much guarentee will be playing here for some time. The question is, which other forwards in the organization will still be playing here in 2 or 3 years time?
Newest Maple Leaf Joffrey Lupul came to Toronto with varying expectations and a chance to resurrect a floundering career. Though we have only a very small sample of his work as a Maple Leaf, from watching Lupul play in Philadelphia and Anaheim, he strikes me as the kind of player who can play well when he's surrounded by good players. His best season was his first with the Flyers, where he amassed an impressive 46 points in 56 games. From what I see, he isn't the best skater in the world, but he does have a great release and adds a bit of size to Toronto's offense. Acquiring him was an experiment no doubt, and Burke did it with the knowledge that this player may never reach his full NHL potential. That being said, he has a lot of upside, and he's going to get every chance to bounce back here. Verdict: I'd say there's about a 50/50 chance Lupul will get re-signed next summer when his contract expires, although if he does get re-signed he will likely see a big pay cut.

Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin are interesting to consider since both have played nearly their entire professional careers in Toronto. Both are flourishing into great forwards and both seem quite content to play with this team. If either manage to score 30 goals this season, they will be the first player the Leafs have developed since the lockout to score 30. Although Burke didn't acquire either of these players himself, has their play this season made them apart of his long-term plan for the team? At the moment, Mikhail Grabovski is the undisputed number 1 centre, and Nikolai Kulemin is the best all around forward. Unless a handful of talented centres happen to fall into the Leafs lap, I can't see Grabovski going anywhere soon. However, he has blossomed into a scoring forward who is good on the PP(9 of his 22 goals have been with the man-advantage), and this has done wonders to his trade value. Based only on the fact that he has no clauses in his contract and is a pending UFA at the end of next season, there is a chance he could be traded if Burke doesn't plan on re-signing him, which I could only really see happening if Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri both emerge as point producing centres, or if a centre is aqcuired from now to the end of next season(shhh or you'll jynx it). Nikolai Kulemin is easier. He's a Leaf, plain and simple. Unless the return was astronomical, there is no way Burke is getting rid of this player. Even if(hopefull when) our roster is filled with talented forwards who bump him down the depth chart, Kulemin has a place on this team as a 3rd line player, a role very much suited to his skills.

Clarke MacArthur and Kris Versteeg were brought in back in the summer through free agency and trade respectively, the former having much less expected of him than the latter. Three quarters of a season later, Clarke MacArthur has exceeded every expectation the Leafs organization had for him, and Versteeg has.. well, not played bad. Most of us thought Versteeg could be a big time scorer on a team that gave him more minutes and more PP time etc. Not that he hasn't been an important player this season, but he just wasn't able to fullfil the role of top-six forward, and the organization already has tons of depth when it comes to third line players. All this makes Versteeg moveable, and although this blogger would like to see him remain a Leaf, as Burke indicated more moves were coming, and Kris Versteeg is one of the only players with enough value to get a decent return. MacArthur I think will get re-signed. If he is moved before the deadline I for one will be a bit shocked. The question is, at what price? If he was awarded $2.4million for a 40 point season, what will he be worth this season, now that he's on pace for about 60 points? I expect if he's signed, he'll make around 2.5 seeing as he's repeatedly stated he would like to remain here and play on a line with Grabovski and Kulemin, and both are paid roughly that figure.

The only other top-six forward to really consider here is Nazem Kadri, who will start next season as a rookie and easily has top line potential. Other than Kadri and Kessel, no other top six forwards in this organization are guaranteed to be here in 2 years. How many teams in the league can say that?

No comments:

Post a Comment