The reported availability of Bobby Ryan should be of interest to 29 other clubs, not just the Maple Leafs. The kid can score, being No. 2 in the draft to Sidney Crosby has never bothered him and there's a personality there that sells in a bigger hockey market.
Do the Ducks have to move him? No, but they may want to do something soon, and looking further ahead, carrying Ryan's $5.1 million per season cap hit will make the squeeze a little tighter after next season when both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry become unrestricted free agents. It seems doubtful Anaheim can keep all three.
But that's the longer term view. Short term, the Ducks could fire coach Randy Carlyle, which seems unlikely, or they could shuffle the deck. GM Bob Murray might be of a mind right now to try and recover some of the young assets lost to Toronto in the Francois Beauchemin deal last winter. The Ducks made the playoffs and Beauchemin played well, but now the team's lousy, he's 31 years old and both Joffrey Lupul and cherubic blueliner Jake Gardiner are playing well with the Leafs.
Murray and Brian Burke have done deals before - Anaheim moved J.S. Giguere's monster contract, the Leafs dumped Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake - and it seems some teams are comfortable doing deals with certain others. Look at all the trades Vancouver and Florida have swung in recent seasons. Burke loves Ryan, and indeed, he turned down overtures from Cliff Fletcher in his final months in Anaheim when the Silver Fox was pitching hard for Ryan.
So should the Leafs be interested now? Yes. Does it matter than Ryan's another scoring winger, not a centre? Not really. The Leafs are in the business of acquiring top six forwards as assets. The positional balance can be addressed later. Is Ryan's salary a problem? He's got three more years after this one at $5.1 million. That's hefty, but not a cap crippler for a team like the Leafs.
Which brings us to the cost, and here's the tricky part. Ryan's a 30-35 goal man, a real stylist out there, not surprising for a legendary roller hockey player. But he doesn't really have a physical component to his game, he's not an accomplished penalty killer and he's off to a so-so start this season.
You don't want to overpay, but here's a guy it's easy to get over-excited about. Obviously, a young defenceman would have to be part of a deal, and maybe that's Luke Schenn or Carl Gunnarson or Cody Franson. Nazem Kadri could be in there. Stuart Percy is a young blueliner and Leaf first round playing junior in Mississauga. Nik Kulemin might make sense, but he's having an off-year, too. With the Leafs high in the NHL standings, a 2012 first rounder could come into play.
Some combination of that group might make sense. Perhaps it's Kulemin and Franson for Ryan. Schenn and Kadri? The Leafs have assets, more than in a long time, the result of steady work by Burke and Dave Nonis over the past three years. The guessing is Anaheim would want to net a significant name, and Schenn is the one young Leaf, formerly the fifth overall in the draft, that would carry the most cache despite his ups and downs this season.
You can bet Burke will kick the tires on this one, see if Ryan really is up for grabs. He knows the young man well and believes in him, and he and Murray can do business, with the fact they're a conference apart making it a little easier for both. The guessing is the Leafs would have interest best described as "mild" to "medium," given that they've already got some offensive wingers having good seasons. But price can change desire on the NHL trade market.