It's the best time of year!
By Dan Berlin
These Leafs aren’t falling. Instead, they appear to be on the rise up the standings this season. Despite losing their last two games, Toronto currently sits in seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, sporting a solid 10-6-1 record since the New Year. So with the trade deadline looming, and his phone surely ringing, Toronto GM Brian Burke is now on the hot seat, looking to make a move that will help ensure the Leafs snap their eight-year playoff drought come April.
While rumors continue to abound around the hockey world on who will stay and who will go, here's a list of five things the Leafs should – or shouldn’t – do come trade deadline.
1. Don't trade Mikhail Grabovski
Considering all the trade talk in Leaf land these past few weeks has centered around Toronto's need for a top-flight center, it's amazing that Grabbo's name even comes up. Grabovski has been nothing short of spectacular for Toronto over the past two-plus weeks, recording 12 points (3g-9a) over a six-game span, while cementing himself among the top three Leafs scorers with 39 points in 48 games. He's on pace for over 60 points this season; sounds like a guy who could help a playoff team -- like Toronto. Sure, he's going to be a UFA after this season, but if Burke is truly serious about making it to the postseason, the all-around play of Grabbo is something the Leafs can ill-afford to lose over the stretch drive. In fact, maybe it's time to lock up the Belarussian long term.
2. Try and fleece the Ducks ... again
Burke's tenure with Anaheim, which included a Stanley Cup in 2007, is still paying dividends in Toronto today. The deal with the Ducks at last season's deadline that brought Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a 4th rounder to Toronto in exchange for Francois Beauchemin is proving to be about as one-sided as it gets. So can Burke pull off some more magic with his old club this time around? The big name dangling in front of Burke's face is Ryan Getzlaf, who has the potential to elevate the Leafs first-line offence to a whole other level. With the Ducks franchise on the way down and the 26-year-old set to become a UFA following the 2012-13 season, maybe Ducks GM Bob Murray could be convinced to move Getzlaf for the right price. Now if only Murray would take Mike Komisarek and the $9 million remaining on his contract in return...
3. Go after Samuel Pahlsson
Let's face facts. The chances of Burke swinging a blockbuster deal at the deadline is unlikely. So while the Leafs might have to wait a year to have a chance to get their hands on Getzlaf, current Blue Jacket and former Burke disciple, Samuel Pahlsson, would be available for a song and a dance to help bolster the Leafs fourth line center position and penalty kill. Pahlsson, a UFA after this season, comes with a small price tag and plenty of playoff experience, something the Leafs are sorely lacking. The 34-year-old has played in 81 career postseason games, including two Stanley Cup Finals with Anaheim. Equally adept in the faceoff circle, he'd be an upgrade over the slow-footed Dave Steckel.
4. Stay away from "Mayday" Malone
Though the floundering Lightning may be sellers at the deadline, Ryan Malone is not the guy the Leafs should go after to add some scoring punch. Out since Jan. 21 with an upper-body injury, Malone, 32, is not only damaged goods but a product of diminishing returns at this stage of his career. His games played has decreased each of the last three seasons (to a career low 54 last year) and his season point totals are also steadily declining. Not to mention, Malone is owed $13.5 million over the next three seasons. That's a ton of money for a guy who might get you 20 goals. Hey Yzerman, he's all yours.
5. Move Tim Connolly
Despite a pretty damn good track record, not every move Burke has made has turned into gold. The Leafs' big free agent splash last summer was the signing of Connolly, who unfortunately hasn't come close to living up to expectations in the first year of a two-year, $9.5 million contract. He's mired on the third line after basically losing the top line job to Tyler Bozak. What more can you say? Connolly has proven to be invisible on most nights and has been unable to make any sustained impact on the Leafs squad this season. If anyone would actually take him, Burke surely would pull the trigger. Now if only he could package him with Komisarek...
Photo credit: Getty Images
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