So, the big Irish Man, Mr. Burke, has finally made a notable and perhaps worthwhile acquisition. Of course, the ever-anxious "Leaf Faithful" jumps right on a trade such as this and immediately begins to prophesize that the future is near and that the players we have obtained are hockey deities. Unfortunately, and to the disappointment of countless fans, this trade is not the blockbuster deal that we have been made to believe it is. Although it is a seemingly beneficial deal from a technical aspect, it is not as beneficial in relation to what the Leafs essentially need in reality.
But first things first, in the recent deals, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf (along with his massive $ 6.5 million contract) Fredrik Sjöström, Keith Aulie (all 6’6 of him) and J.S Giguere in exchange for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jason Blake, Ian White, Vesa Toskala and Jamal Mayers. This deal can be broken into two perspectives.
The primary part is the obtaining of a hard hitting, strong first passing and scoring defenseman in Dion Phaneuf. Unfortunately, his overzealous contract is going to cause a strong hit against the Leafs salary cap, which will ultimately prevent them from pursuing a high quality playmaker in which they desperately need. Furthermore, we had to give up a very cheap and arguably the NHL’s most underrated defenseman in Ian White. Moreover, Ian White can practically do everything Dion can do (4 more points this season), aside from hitting hard, for 5, 650, 000 dollars less. Thus the question remains, would it have been more favorable if the Leafs kept Ian White for the remainder of the season instead of dealing him for an over-priced and currently under-achieving defenseman? In theory, if Ian White had remained a Leaf, Stajan and Hagman could have been moved for an efficient playmaker to get the puck to Kessel because as of late he’s skating around the neutral zone both aimlessly and unproductively leading to countless turnovers.
The second part of the equation is dumping salaries. Jason Blake’s contract was giving him an average of 20 million dollars over 5 season meanwhile Vesa Toskala’s exorbitant contract of 8 million dollars over 2 years proved to be most unreasonable. Therefore, by taking on J.S Giguere’s 6 million dollar contract in return, combined with Dion Phaneuf’s contract for a flurry of Leaf’s players, the leafs cleared up roughly 2 million dollars in cap space for the upcoming free agency season.
Regrettably, another problem still remains even after this trade was conducted. The Leafs are still without first round draft picks for the next two years. This situation can be attributed to the incredibly steep price that GM Brian Burke paid for the services of Phil Kessel. Although what’s even more unfortunate, is that the next two NHL entry drafts are deemed to be deep with talent. Based up on such a notion, it is evident that Mr. Burke along with the Leafs upper management will have to put their heads together once again to try and re-acquire a first round draft pick. And to add insult to injury, on a team with seemingly now valuable assets aside from Tomas Kaberle (who can’t be moved anyways because of his no trade clause, thank you Mr. John Ferguson!), a task of the utmost importance will be virtually impossible.
So, with all the facts being presented, the future is not bright. As a matter of fact, it is quite dreary, well perhaps with the slightest shed of sunlight on the horizon. The so-called American trio of Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson, that was once highly regarded by Mr. Burke as the future has performed everything short of expectations. In addition, when Brian Burke’s tenure began, he preached patience to the Leafs Nation saying that this rebuilding process would take time and that eventually the desired results would come. Well judging from what’s been done, there has been absolutely no rebuilding. During a rebuild, a team isn’t supposed to try and sign immobile defenseman such as Mike Komisarek and Garnet Exelby, they aren’t supposed to trade away potential top 5 lottery draft picks in return for a "sniper" (Phil Kessel) who’s stats have been inflated due to him having one of the best playmakers in the game (Marc Savard) by his side. Moreover, to add more fuel to the fire, who is Jeff Finger anyway? You aren’t supposed to sign a practically unknown defenseman out of Cloud St. University for $ 14 million over 4 years who is known merely as a "shutdown defenseman." What you are expected to do is stockpile draft picks by trading off all your assets that aren’t registered as building blocks to enable your franchise to build from the bottom up (Can anyone say Washington Capitals?).
So Leaf fans, due to some errors and lack in proper judgment from Burke Management and Co. we are going to have to be a lot more "patient" with the Leafs than what was once originally thought. Therefore, just sit back, relax, put your feet up and go jump on the bandwagon for another team because it’s going to be a long time coming until we get to witness the glory days similar to those witnessed in 1967.