Although Brian Burke didn’t make many significant moves at the trade deadline as many suspected he may it seems apparent that he is wanting to make significant moves in the off season to bring in some young talent. So far he has already signed college free agents Christain Hanson and Tyler Bozak and is in the running to sign defenseman Matt Gilroy. He has also signed QMJHL forward Robert Slaney. Rumours are that Burke is also very interested in Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson who has a very good year as a 24 year old in the Swedish Elite league. We can have no idea how any of these guys will pan out at the NHL level (though Hanson has looked promising in his 5 games getting a goal and an assist) but Hanson, Bozak and Slaney and possibly Gilroy and Gustavsson give the Leafs some much needed organizational depth and give Burke some additional assets to make deals if he finds some of interest. One deal that Burke is interested in making is moving up in the draft in order to draft John Tavares.
I am not shocked by this news. Brian Burke wants to make a splash everywhere he goes. In Vancouver he traded for the draft picked needed to acquire the Sedin twins. In Anaheim he signed free agent defenseman Scott Niedermayer and then traded for Chris Pronger. His opportunity to make a statement move (or moves) for the Leafs is this summer starting with the draft and then into free agency season.
So, what will it take to acquire the first overall pick? Well, that will depend somewhat on who gets the pick but I would assume the asking price would start with the Leafs first round pick, likely 7th. The only teams that have a shot at the #1 overall pick are the Islanders (48.1%), Lightning (18.8%), Avalanche (14.2%), Thrashers (10.7%) and the Los Angeles Kings (8.1%). Each team would provide a different type of trading partner for the Leafs. If Brian Burke had a choice he might be hoping that Tampa wins the draft lottery because it is known that they would like to upgrade their defense and the Leafs have several defenseman who they could deal including Kaberle, former Lightning Kubina, Van Ryn and Ian White all of whom might interest the Lightning. Would Tampa go for something along the lines of the Leafs 7th overall pick and Kaberle for the top overall pick? Possibly. A similar analysis could be said for Colorado who have a top young center already in Paul Stastny and might put a priority on acquiring a defenseman.
But the most likely winner of the draft lottery is the New York Islanders and they pretty much need everything so what they would be looking for in return is a really good hockey trade, not any particular position. With Mark Streit already locked up long term as their offensive defenseman they may not be interested in acquiring the Leafs most valuable asset, Tomas Kaberle. They would probably love Luke Schenn, but would Burke be willing to trade the 7th overall pick and Schenn for the opportunity to draft Tavares? Probably not. In an ideal world I am sure Burke would love to build the Leafs around Tavares and Schenn, not just one of those two. Outside of Kaberle and Schenn, do the Leafs have the assets to acquire the top overall pick from the Islanders? It is not obvious that they do (Tlusty and DiDominico only hold so much value as prospects and it isn’t enough) so it may take some creative trading to accomplish that goal. They may need to seek a third team who will trade them some assets for Kaberle or Kubina that they could then flip to the Islanders for the top overall pick.
In any event, this should prove to be a very interesting summer for the Leafs, starting with the draft in June.