The fact that the Maple Leafs would love to get bigger up front, well, that's nice and all. But try to find the players to fit that need.
We've talked lots about Ryan Getzlaf, but wanting that big centre and getting him out of Anaheim are two entirely different things.
So Brian Burke may have to set his sights a little lower looking six weeks ahead to the Feb. 27 trade deadline after making big deals to acquire Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul the last three seasons.
Not just a little lower. Also at a financial cost that may be less appealing.
Which brings us once more to Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Ryan Malone, once one of the more highly regarded power forwards in the game, now less of a force for the Bolts, who sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings right now.
The 6-foot-4 winger would, nonetheless, look good in the Leaf lineup. But he's 32 years old, has only nine goals in 38 games this season and carries a contract that comes with a salary cap hit of $4.5 million the next three years after this one.
The money-losing Lightning might well like to shed that deal, particularly with more than $20 million annually tied up in Vinny Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. But with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire after this season, is it the kind of contract a team like Toronto would like to add?
We've already seen some movement like that around the league. Last week, Calgary added winger Mike Cammalleri at a cost of a deal that will pay him $7 million in cash the next two years, more than the annual cap hit of $6 million. Montreal, meanwhile, added defenceman Tomas Kaberle earlier this season in a trade with Carolina, and Kaberle is owed $4.25 million per season for the next two years.
In that context, Malone's deal doesn't seem quite as onerous. Burke has largely resisted adding the bad deals of other teams, although he was forced to accept J.S. Giguere's contract in a deal with the Ducks and Lupul's $4.25 million deal, although that no longer seems as unattractive given the winger's production this season.
The Bolts surely need goaltending and depth, things the Leafs might have to supply. It's important not to get too caught up in the size issue after a loss to the Rangers on Saturday, but for three years Burke has lamented the absence of a big body up front that would give the club the crease presence it currently does not have.
Malone, aside from being a winger, not a centre, isn't Getzlaf. But even if the iikes of Bobby Ryan and Zach Parise start to move before the deadline, there's going to be a lot more players along the lines of Malone on the market. The Leafs have coveted the big winger for at least two seasons, but the Bolts have resisted moving him. In addition, Malone has a no-movement clause in his contract through the '12-13 season, although these things can be negotiable.
Given the state of the Lightning, Malone could become available. Even with the contract, he still may be a fit for the Leafs.