So Many Possibilities
|THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO|
|Leafs could make a double-splash tomorrow if the Sedin twins are on the market.|
Having been absurdly slammed in some quarters for being too vocal prior to the draft - yes, by all means let us not encourage newsmakers to speak freely - Brian Burke has gone quiet the past two days.
Don't worry. He'll reappear tomorrow. In fact, if there are still a pair of Swedish identical twins available named Henrik and Daniel on the first day of free agency, there's a chance for Burke to make the biggest splash of his short tenure in Toronto.
The Sedins are target No. 1, and the Leafs are unlikely to do too much, or anything that would eliminate them from bidding for Rick Nash next summer if he gets to unrestricted free agency. Otherwise, precisely how Burke will spring into action is unclear, and for several reasons.
First, he's still waiting to hear from Swedish free agent goalie Jonas Gustavsson, which is why he had to cover himself by giving Justin Pogge a qualifying offer. Gustavsson won't be making his decision by tomorrow, it appears, and is back in Sweden overwhelmed by the decision and still grieving over the death of his mother two several weeks ago. With no parents left and no siblings, he's finding it understandably difficult to grapple with this very complex choice.
But the Leafs aren't going away on this one.
|AP FILE PHOTO|
|If Toronto can't land the Sedins, look for them to take a run at Mike Cammalleri, a 39 goal scorer last year.|
You can assume that if Gustavsson does eventually sign with Toronto, Burke has promised Pogge he'll find him a new home somewhere. That's Burke's style.
Second, It's not entirely clear which players will actually be available - hey, 44-year-old Ed Belfour wants to make a comeback - with many clubs going down to the final hours still trying to sign key athletes. Bill Guerin signed with Pittsburgh yesterday, and Rob Blake re-signed in San Jose today. So the situation is fluid.
Third, it's one thing to have a wish list and quite another to be willing to confront the financial demands of top players.
In general, Burke isn't keen on bidding wars or setting a price that other teams can top. Instead, his usual strategy is to huddle with his key advisers, set a target salary and then a number he won't go beyond. Last summer with the Ducks, for example, he ballparked $2 million a year for defenceman Jeff Finger and decided he would go no higher than $2.5 million per. The Leafs, of course, got Finger for the astronomical number of $3.5 million a season.
Dave Nonis, Burke's right hand man, is the governor on the engine here. He's determined not to let the Leafs get into a salary cap jackpot or to overpay for individual players.
That said, there is help for the Leafs out there in four areas:
The Leafs would love to think Jay Bouwmeester, if still unsigned, would consider them, but no one believes that to be likely. Moreover, the Leafs probably don't want to get into the $7 million a year range for a player who has really accomplished little in his NHL career because of his situation.
Their fall back positions included Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin, underrated and tough, and Montreal's Mike Komisarek, if he doesn't re-sign with the Habs. Those two players, however, could turn out to be this year's Finger, meaning the bidding could get goofy.
Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund, a long-time Burke favourite, is very much on the radar screen.
2. SKILL FORWARDS
The Sedins twins will get an offer from the Leafs if Canucks GM Mike Gillis can't get them to agree to new contracts. The Leafs are probably willing to hit the salary target unless it goes over $7 million per, but they would be likely unwilling to do anything longer than six years per twin.
Understand, the Leafs would love to rip these twins out of the hands of the Canucks, for hockey reasons first and foremost. But you can bet Nonis hasn't forgot having Gillis do an end-around to get his job in Vancouver.
The fall back position would be Calgary's Mike Cammalleri, a 39-goal scorer. Diminutive New Jersey winger Brian Gionta is another possibility here.
The Leafs want to become harder to play against, but that doesn't mean just muscle. Burke likes edgy, fast third and four liners like two players he had in Anaheim, Sami Pahlsson and Todd Marchant. Both interestingly, are available.
Local lad Manny Malhotra would be a good fit, a player who was drafted originally as a skill forward but has redefined himself in Columbus as a hard-nosed checking centre who can still score a little bit. He was skilled enough to play with Nash and Kristian Huselius for chunks of last year.
|AP FILE PHOTO|
|Rangers tough guy Colton Orr could be high on Leafs' wish list.|
Marchant could fit. while Pahlsson might not because Burke is well aware of his injury history. Domenic Moore might be another option.
You've got to believe Burke is going to make a pitch for tough guy Colton Orr of the Rangers, the only bonafide enforcer out there who can play. He's 27 and made only $550,000 last season, and the Rangers rejected a three-year, $1 million per season offer from Orr's camp. He can play a regular shift, and in fact was used extensively by ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney in a checking role against top-end opposing forwards.
The fall back position here would be Buffalo's Andrew Peters or ex-Senator Brian McGrattan. There's also Ottawa's Chris Neil, although he's more of a middleweight compared to Orr, one of the toughest fighters in the league, and would be more secondary toughness.