nhl trade rumors

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New Acquisitions, Same Old Questions

nhl trade rumor
An exciting two weeks in hockey's mecca have left us with a number of important questions heading into the upcoming season. The auspicious signing of shifty centre and longtime Leaf killer Tim Connolly (More points vs Toronto than any other team) and the astute transaction that brought promising defenceman Cody Franson and underrated pivot Matt Lombardi to Toronto present interesting options to Leaf management. With a number of players still unsigned and another trade possibly in the works, does this off-season suddenly become much more significant than we all originally thought? Though there hasn't yet been any major moves, sometimes it's the minor acquisitions and the trades that aren't made that can really define the team's success.

Tim Connolly is a very interesting signing and indeed conforms to the recent trend of Burke taking on forwards who were once thought to be blue chip prospects but have not lived up to their perceived potential. Connolly, much like Joffrey Lupul, was a considerably high draft pick that while showing flashes of brilliance at times never really ascended into the role he was meant to fill. In his defense he's probably one of the best players to come out of his draft year whose last name isn't Sedin, but nonetheless hasn't yet become a consistent NHL point producer at age 30. The general sentiment in Toronto is that IF he manages to stay healthy there's no reason he can't put up 65 points for the next couple of seasons playing alongside complimentary players such as Kessel and Lupul, but let's face it that's a pretty big "if". After missing only 3 games in his first 4 seasons, he missed approximately 180 over the next 6 seasons. Paying such an injury prone player nearly $5 million a season even for only two seasons is a bit of a gamble, especially if he incurs minor nagging injuries that prevent him from being placed on the long-term injury list and continually affect his performance when he is playing. In spite of this, I do like Connolly's game as it's very two-way and his potential as an elite playmaker has never been tested to the likes of playing with a winger of Kessel's skill set. Burke did the smart thing in inking Connolly but if I'm a Leafs fan I take it for what it is: Buying time while Kadri and Colborne develop into NHL players.

Cody Franson, a former 3rd rounder (75th overall in 05) was the key piece in the deal that miraculously got rid Brett Lebda's contract and only sacrificed mid-level prospect Robert Slaney. I am among the masses of Leaf followers who did not see this move coming and also among those who are big fans of this trade. From Nashville's point of view this move was necessary only to unload Lombardi's contract, but trading away talented homegrown players is hardly something for which GM David Poile (or any good GM) is known. Franson has the potential to be a perennial top-4 defenceman for years to come and at 6'5 215 lbs, he fits right in with the already towering Leafs blue line. The question is, who's the odd-man out? Phaneuf, Schenn, Liles and Komisarek are essentially locks to make the roster and newly acquired Franson is already a full-time NHLer so that leaves Gunnarsson, Aulie and Lashoff to fight it out for the remaining two spots. No matter which way you cut it, adding Franson creates an immediate glut of defenceman that will be addressed whether by trade or demotion. That old hockey adage "There's no such thing as too many defenceman" is worth mentioning however there is such thing as unutilized assets, and with Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker knocking on the door of the NHL, you have to wonder if Lashoff and Gunnarsson might be two players that will be shopped hard this off-season.

The salary Burke took on in the deal with Nashville was that of speedy centre Matt Lombardi. After a career season in 09/10, he spent nearly all of last season on the long-term injury list due to a pre-season concussion. He, like Connolly, is a bit of a question mark in terms of what he'll be able to produce this season. At 29, he's never exceeded 53 points and has spent this past season injured. Although he certainly will have to train hard to get back to where he was in Phoenix, he is a very quick centre who can create space on the rush, and if he manages to get back to top form it would beg the question should HE be the one slotted to play with Kessel on the first line. Whats most intriguing about Lombardi is the dilemma his presence creates with regards to Tyler Bozak. As far as I could see, Bozak was pretty much heading into next season as 3rd line centre. Now that Lombardi is in the mix, there's a sense of ambiguity regarding Bozak's role on the 3rd line. Bozak, in a way, has lost his leverage in contract negotiations. Now that a suitable replacement has been added, he can't possibly ask for even as much as he earned on his entry-level contract ($3.75mill incl. bonuses) and although I'm sure Burke fully plans on re-signing him, he's certainly not as unattainable as he was at the end of this past season.

Toronto has added a great deal of depth with only a handful of moves so far this summer, albeit not attaining any marquee player. My advice for Leaf fans is to be patient. It is going somewhere this time.


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