Reported by TSN, see original story here, Brian Burke has reacquired Toronto's 2nd round pick in 2010. As stated on a PPP fan shot done by ohshrit, this opens the door for the possibility of an offer sheet, given that Toronto now holds its own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks in the 2010 draft. This, of course, is a pre-requisite for any team attempting to put an offer sheet in for a Restricted Free Agent. Let us take a closer look.
Assuming, and I am going out on a limb here, that Toronto will not actively pursue defencemen or goaltenders with an offer sheet, we will focus on forwards. Risky, I know, but I'm feeling lucky. Specifically, there are 3 forwards currently RFA for the 2009-2010 season that may be of interest to the Leafs, namely Phil Kessel, Brandon Dubinsky, and Drew Stafford.
Dubinsky seems like an unlikely target of Maple Leafs interest, given that there seem to be a excess of similar players currently situated in the Toronto line-up/prospect pool. Although he does seem to have a bit more of an upside than the aforementioned players, the differences are nominal, more of the same doesn't seem like the best solution. Stafford, and especially Kessel, intrigue the eye a much more.
Drew Stafford, a 6'1" 216 pounce right winger from Buffalo, has shown gradual improvement since his 2006 entrance into the league. He has a lot of the qualities Burkie looks for in a hockey player, including his North America pedigree, and seems like he would fit nicely into Toronto's plans for the future. However, Buffalo know what kind of a player they have in Drew, and have cap-space to burn. Thus, Buffalo would be likely to match just about any offer Toronto made, especially given that Burke will NOT overpay to win an offer sheet on a player.
Phil Kessel. Yes, here comes his name again. 6'0", 192 pounces, and 21 years of age, he has nothing but his best ahead of him. Phil is a genuine star in the making, potting a whopping 36 goals in 70 games, with only 8 of them coming on the PP. He is a scoring machine that only continues to grow as a player. And keep in mind, this is only a few years removed from his battle with testicular cancer. Clearly his life experiences have expedited his growth as a character person, and paired with his talent on the ice, Kessel would be the top 6 forward the Leafs have been talking about obtaining. Boston is not as lucky as Buffalo in terms of cap space, and is right up against it. Currently, there is a 'media war' waging between Kessel's camp and Boston GM Peter Chiarelli in the effort to resign the rising young star.
Now, depending on the size of the offer sheet, would require Toronto give either a 1st, and 3rd draft pick for 2010 ($2,615,623 - $3,923,437), or a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ($3,923,437 - $5,231,249). I am not entirely sold that a sheet will in fact be tendered, though it is quite feasible, this move does one very important thing. It puts the 'puck' in Boston's 'rink', and basically sets a limit as to how much Kessel is actually worth, which is now a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick, or something of comparable value. It forces Boston to re-engage serious trade talks with Toronto, with the threat looming that, "Hey, we'll offer you this, this, and this, for Kessel, and if you don't want it, then you're going to have to match an offer sheet or take draft picks." It gives Boston a direct choice now, but not a whole lot of options.
I am not a fan of predicting what will or won't happen, but regardless, we should all be very excited to watch how this all progresses. This is clearly a build-up to a bigger move, and yet another reason to be excited about the upcoming season.
Special thanks again to ohshrit for posting this story late last night. Thanks for reading.