|Got a question about the Leaf trade? Ask Damien Cox during a live Q&A about all things hockey, Monday at noon.|
Brian Burke wanted to get things done well in advance of the "final five minutes before the store closes" at the NHL trading deadline on March 3rd.
For better or worse, he did that with two multi-player trades on Sunday. The heavy lifting has been done, with six players going out and four new players coming, only one of whom, goalie J.S. Giguere, is older than 26 years of age.
(And how fortuitous for the sad-sack Argos, whose latest fiasco -- a botched attempt to lowball Montreal assistant Scott Milanovich -- will go mostly unnoticed because of the Leafs busy day.)
All the ex-Toronto players sent packing were Leafs before Burke arrived, and two were of European heritage in Niklas Hagman and goalie Vesa Toskala.
Understand, Burke wasn't kidding when he vowed to become a younger, more physical and more North American team. It may not work, and the success of the Detroit Red Wings might suggest this isn't the way to go, but while many like to blast the Leaf GM as a blowhard, he clearly means what he says when it comes to the kind of team he wants to have.
Only about 10 players, including six Euros, remain from pre-Burke times, and that's if you include players drafted before the Truculent One arrived, like Viktor Stalberg and Carl Gunnarson.
Expect both numbers to be decreased in the coming weeks.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, a 29-year-old Ukrainian drafted all the way back in 1998, is as good as gone. Lee Stempniak sure won't be back, and Jeff Finger might have gone in the Giguere deal except the Ducks probably liked the $3 million in actual salary owed Jason Blake next season -- his cap number is $4 million -- a little better.
By the way, a little note here on Burke's patience. He's seen as impetuous, but his buddy, Ducks GM Bob Murray, has been trying to get him to take Giguere all season. Giguere's agent, too. But Burke wouldn't take a goalie he otherwise admired until Anaheim agreed to take serious dollars back in the form of Blake and goalie Vesa Toskala.
That move could have been made any time over the past months with the Leafs in need of goaltending help. But Burke waited Murray out.
Nik Kulemin may or may not remain a Leaf depending on his salary demands. Mikhail Grabovski is feisty enough, possibly, to fit in Burke's plans, and the future of Tomas Kaberle and his no-trade clause is murky at best.
Again, the Leafs remain second from last and not everyone likes Burke's moves. The grumbling over the Phil Kessel swap goes on daily. Phaneuf may or may not be a star. What Burke says is about finding competitive players is viewed by others as an anti-Euro bias.
But the Leafs and their fans believed Burke represented revolutionary change when he arrived in late November, 2008. That has been the case.
And now, with two big moves done yesterday, it will be easier to make smaller ones by the deadline.