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Leafs Options at Centre

By: Brodi Craddock

The combination of the 2011 playoffs and the bitter feeling of our club being at it's lowest point in it's storied franchise(6 seasons 0 playoff appearances) has turned the Leaf's stellar play after the all-star break into old news.  In general, there's just not really much to talk about regarding the Leafs, especially since it's unlikely we'll see a demolition of the current 23 man roster this summer. The draft will provide a quick fix for the unquenchable thirst this fanbase has for all things Leafs, but the main question on a Leaf fan's mind must surely be "Will this be the summer we figure out a number one centre?".

Listed below are all the names of centres outside the organization who may be able to fill this gap, as well as a brief hypothetical situation similar to the one that would have to occur if this player becomes the Leafs number one guy.

Joe Thornton- Burke would have to sell the farm to acquire the captain of a team that has been to the conference finals for two straight years, not to mention one of the NHL's best playmaking centres. High end prospects like Kadri or Gardiner would have to be involved, as well as a 1st round pick and a top six forward like Kulemin. The only way it would really make sense to GM Doug Wilson is if he feels like Couture and Pavelski are their future number one and two and Torrey Mitchell is capable of being a 3rd line centre on a contending team. On top of that, Joe Thornton would have to waive his NTC, and he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who wants to be under the microscope even more than he already is by the media.

Jeff Carter- Another deal that would involve wasting good prospects. If Reimer was involved, along with a relatively high-end prospect like Frattin or Aulie as well as the two teams adding picks, the Leafs could probably acquire Carter, but that would be an incredible gamble and not one characteristic of the General Manager. It could make sense to Paul Holmgren if he thinks Giroux and Van Riemsdyk are the future stars of this team, and needs to dump salary to make room for raises to Leino and Nodl. If what I suspect is correct, then Reimer's value is through the roof and Burke acquiring a former 46 goal scorer with injury problems for a basket of great young players is a bad move. Pass on Carter.

Brad Richards- The most frequently mentioned name on the list and probably the most talented, however I just don't see it happening. A player as good as Richards at his age is probably looking for the last contract of his career, and his value is much higher now than it's going to be ever again. He'll want 5-7 years, and likely a NTC at not a penny less than 7 million per year. It will almost certainly be a massive overpayment by the team who signs him, either the Dallas Stars when or if the ownership situation looks a little brighter, or a contending team with plenty of cap room like the Kings or the Rangers. I've read that Brad Richards said he liked Toronto, and despite having ample cap room, I don't see Burke locking him up long-term especially since so many good players will need to be re-signed during the length of his contract.

Paul Statnsy- There's a common opinion among Leaf fans that Brian Burke loves American born players. He selected Paul Statsny for that great USA team that won a silver medal in 2010, and Statsny is exactly the age and the type of player that Toronto needs. It helps Statsny's availability that Colorado is a team with an internal salary cap and must sign 13 players, many of which will need a raise. Colorado has the 2nd overall pick in this years draft, and should they draft a Nugent-Hopkins or a Huberdeau, Statsny would become very expendable and in my opinion, the most likely for Burke to target.

However, the possibility remains that Burke keeps his picks and re-signs Bozak and Boyce and opts to slowly intergrate Kadri and Colbourne into the equation. Burke acknowledged in the regular season that the goal was to bring in a number one centre in the summer, but I do tend to get the feeling that he likes the hand he's holding and still believes in this team going forward based on strong play late in the season. As Bob Marley and the Wailers once sang, "Time will tell".

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