New Era Begins in Toronto
New President and GM
After months of speculation, Brian Burke has finally become the new President and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Burke signed a 6-year contract with the organization and is expected to rebuild the team into a true contender while he is at the helm. Burke is a huge signing for the Leafs, as he brings years of experience to the table and a winning attitude from his years in Anaheim where he managed the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup.
Yes, this is a great move by the Maple Leafs but it’s going to take at least 2-3 years to see what kind of impact Burke is going to have on the club. After watching the Brian Burke press conference, it’s safe to say he won’t be making any big moves before the New Year. However, after the trade freeze is up, I believe he will be very busy. Cliff Fletcher did a solid job of starting the rebuilding process but there are still many moves to be made.
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The most talked about players being traded out of Toronto are Nik Antropov, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina and Alex Ponikarovsky. All 4 could get a pretty decent return but the most coveted one is Tomas Kaberle. In the new NHL a smooth skating, a puck-moving defenseman is a great asset and Kaberle fits the bill to a tee. The only problem is that he’s the one who decides if he wants to go or not because he has a no-trade clause attached to his contract. Kubina also has a similar contract, although his has a list of teams he won’t get traded to. Antropov, who is playing the best hockey of his career and Ponikarovsky are the 2 most likely to be dealt before the deadline. Burke would love to get Jason Blake and his $4 million contract off their payroll, but with his poor play they are probably going to have to wait until the summer to buy him out.
I would say the only untouchable on the team is Luke Schenn. He’s going to be a player to build around, is only 18 years old and more importantly, the type of player Brian Burke loves. Everybody else could possibly be moved. Of course he’s not going to trade the whole team away. Guys like Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski have shown some great chemistry together. Matt Stajan has had a great first quarter to the season and Mike Van Ryn who was acquired in the Bryan McCabe deal was playing very well before getting injured. At the very least though, all of these players have some trade value should Burke decide to move them.
When Burke does make moves this season, it’s expected they will be for prospects and draft picks. Something the Maple Leafs have been in desperate need of for years. But this is another reason why we shouldn’t expect much from the Maple Leafs in the first couple years of Brian Burke being the general manager. It takes time for teams to rebuild, no matter who is the general manager. When the time is right, Burke will also make some moves via free agency. Toronto does have some available cap space now and should have more in the summer. There will be plenty of money to make a splash come July 1 if Burke sees a piece of the puzzle his team could use.
The signing of Brian Burke by the Toronto Maple Leafs is a great move. He is the most logical choice of GM for a team in the state the Leafs are in right now. He turned a weak Canucks team into a constant playoff team and helped the Anaheim Ducks to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. He is also a long-time friend of coach Ron Wilson so that should do wonders with communication and the feeling out process of the team in the initial stages. But there’s a reason why Burke signed a 6-year contract and with some time, Burke should show the hockey world why he is the right man for the job.
By Mark Stewart
ProHockey-fans.com Toronto Maple Leafs Correspondent
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