This cannot be argued. The Maple Leafs had few assets before Brian Burke took over. They have quite a few now.
Nothing, of course, that'll bring back that first round pick next June (Interesting how 2010 second overall Tyler Seguin has fewer points and fewer goals than undrafted Tyler Bozak). But tangible, solid pieces that other teams desire.
That's why he's getting offers on Kris Versteeg, a 24-year-old with a Stanley Cup ring. (worth noting Viktor Stalberg has six goals to Versteeg's 10, hasn't scored since Nov. 14 and is just back from his second concussion in two seasons). Just a guess, but I suspect it's the tightly packed Southeast Division teams that are most interested in Versteeg.
The youngster has just started to play well, including working the point on the Toronto power play. Do they really want to move him now?
Then there's Clarke MacArthur, 25, one of last summer's best unrestricted free agent signings by any team. All MacArthur's done is lead the team in scoring, shocking even the most optimistic members of the Leaf front office. The conundrum here is that MacArthur was only signed for one season ($1.1 million) and is a restricted FA next summer. Sign him now to a multi-year deal or swap him elsewhere before the deadline, figuring he's maxed out his value? Tough choice.
(Before you mock MacArthur for being the best scorer on a bad team, it's worth nothing he'd also be the leading scorer for Boston, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Phoenix and St. Louis.)
Francois Beauchemin has lots of detractors, but more than a dozen NHL clubs would love to slot him into their blueline rotation. He was added as an unrestricted free agent, costing the Leafs only money. Ditto for Finnish goaltending prospect Jussi Rynnas, who is having a very strong year in the AHL and is drawing interest from other clubs.
So what should be the target if one or more of these assets are to be moved?
Clearly, a centre. One under the age of 30, preferably 26 or younger, that can grow with the young group of players the Leafs have assembled. No easy task to get such a player, for sure. An ideal target would be 27-year-old pivot Stephen Weiss in Florida, not too expensive at $3.1 million per with two more years on his deal. If GM Dale Tallon decides to continue to do with the Panthers what he did in Chicago, players like Tomas Vokoun, Bryan McCabe and possibly Weiss could move. Putting Steven Reinprecht through waivers is an indication Florida might be interested in cutting payroll. Staying in the Southeast, Tampa has some good young forwards in Richard Panik, Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly, but they're not centres. Washington has Marcus Johansson, big David Steckel and Mathieu Perreault. Atlanta has Patrice Cormier and Daultan Leveille.
But these are all names and idle speculation. For the Leafs, however, it's clear a more experienced centre would help Kessel and allow Bozak to play as a third-line centre, which would make so much more sense.
But the point is that while detractors suggest the 28th place Leafs have nothing and that Burke's management has set the team back five years, that's nonsense. Right now, Versteeg and MacArthur would represent solid second tier scoring for a team with serious playoff aspirations. But they're also youngsters, part of the six-pack of Toronto players under the age of 26 with a chance to score 20 goals this season.
The next two months leading up to the Feb. 28th trade deadline could be fascinating for Leaf fans.