When Brian Burke held his end of season news conference he mentioned that he will not be committing to a five year rebuild and believes that they can right this ship ASAP. This will definitely be the most important off-season for Burke in his entire tenure with the Leafs. And personally, I think he can make the most of it by targeting three players;
Colby Armstrong (ATL) – As I’ve said before, this guy should be a prime target of the Leafs in the summer. With an ability to play on any line and his attention to playing both sides of the puck, Armstrong is a no-brainer for a great off-season acquisition. I firmly believe he will wear blue & white next season. If not, some other lucky team will reap the benefits, and that would be a shame. I think he's either a Leaf or Pen (again) next season.
Raffi Torres (BUF) – Like Armstrong, Torres is another pending unrestricted free agent and would fit in with the Maple Leafs quite well. Similarly, Torres can move in and out of the bottom six from game to game. Versatility for me is a big deal, and Torres fits in the lineup wherever you need him at forward. With Armstrong and Torres, the Buds can put the pieces together for the best bottom six in the league. One thing you’ll notice about the Pittsburgh Penguins is that despite the enormous names like Crosby and Malkin, a lot of their games are won with their third and fourth lines. If the Leafs want to stack up well in the conference for future playoff battles, they’ll need solid veterans like Armstrong and Torres.
David Clarkson (NJD) – There’s no way in hell the Devils will want to let Clarkson go. He’s played well beyond his salary this season, and he’ll be heading to arbitration in the summer. If Lou and the boys can’t pay him, then he can move on… hopefully right in to Leaf-land. This one is clearly a long shot, but what Leafs fan wouldn’t want to see David Clarkson in a blue & white uni next fall? I only throw this name out there for my own personal interest in seeing Clarkson and Orr on the same team. Bring tha ruckus indeed.
With players like the three I’ve listed above bolstering the bottom six forwards to a new level, the Leafs will have that area of the lineup well assembled. Add into the mix a top six forward in the upcoming Tomas Kaberle trade, and the lineup for next year starts to show a glimpse of promise. The Leafs really have no choice but to pull out all the stops to contend for a playoff spot next year. The only thing worse than delivering Tyler Seguin to the Boston Bruins is handing over an enormous prospect the following year. A lot of talk surrounding the 2011 NHL Draft suggests that the pool isn’t that great. But here’s the thing; everyone says that every year. Nugent-Hopkins and Couturier are already being thrown around for #1. By the time next years draft rolls around, we’ll all be well aware of the "next big thing" and four or five players will be household names by mid-season 2010-11. It’s just the way it rolls.