Thursday, April 23, 2009
Timing. And Luck.
(please, dear Lord, let them be wearing skates)
Luck O'the Irish
Brian Burke is about to have a wonderful off-season. Rarely have I seen circumstance so benefit a NHL General Manager.
Everything should be working to his advantage. EVERYTHING.
A. The team operates in a large market with a rabid fan base and can spend full Cap without blinking an eye.
B. The dollar resources of the team, and the force of Burke's personality/control of the team, are such that the budget should be able to exceed Cap.
C. His is one of (very) few teams entering this contract season with lots of Cap space, lots of budget space and few RFA committments to consider.
D. Individual NHL teams will be facing serious fiscal obstacles and will be eager to deal with someone who has cash and knows how to use it.
E. The NHL, as a whole, has entered a period of time where salary inflation should be almost non-existent due to the economy.
F. The NHL, as an operating league, has already approved deals which work to the dollar strengths of the team (see: Detroit).
i.e. the heavy lifting has been done.
G. The upcoming UFA and Entry Draft classes are stocked with talent (as opposed to the 2008 UFA list or the 1999 Entry Draft lets say).
H. The upcoming Entry Draft has two distinct classes of teams in the top-7 picks and this will provide opportunity. **
I. He will have carte-blanche in all his dealings and can remake the team as he sees fit.
THAT is some pretty sweet timing. Los Angeles should be in this position as well but I don't see those owners as being as willing to spend the dough.
About That #1 Pick
Being contrarian I do not see a deal for Tavares as being impossible, or even 'really' hard for Burke to achieve. In fact I also see Los Angeles as being a contender for that (the #1) pick.
** That is because of the two classes of teams that I mentioned above.
1 ... New York Islanders
2 ... Tampa Bay Lightning
3 ... Colorado Avalanche
4 ... Atlanta Thrashers
5 ... Los Angeles Kings
6 ... Phoenix Coyotes
7 ... Toronto Maple Leafs
On that list Toronto, Colorado and LA stick out like sore thumbs. The financial capabilities of those three teams, compared to their brethren, is staggering - and of the three, financially, Toronto is way, way ahead.
Two things further differentiate Toronto from Colorado and LA:
a. roster and payroll flexibility (Toronto only really cares about Schenn) and
b. compete level
Because of where their rosters are (in terms of build and compete) both Colorado and LA are teams that should be/want to be serious play-off spot contenders next year. Colorado's picture is litle muddied in that the team will be subject to two, mutually exclusive but same sourced, motivations:
a. possibly dumping some salary if Sakic re-signs or
b. probably adding a replacement player if Sakic retires
Regardless of the Sakic decision fall-out however, the point to be made is that neither Colorado nor LA is in the same strategic space as the Leafs - namely, being quite willing, able and happy to trade picks, players and money for a big move in the draft.
In fact, because of their compete factor it is quite plausible that either one of LA or Colorado would be willing to trade their pick for quality players coming back the other way.
Enter Brian Burke
The trick here is for Burke to trade for one of the 3rd or 5th picks and package THAT with the 7th.
I think people underestimate how many quality trade chips Burke actually has. Kaberle, alone, represents a serious upgrade to either Colorado's or LA's defense corps (Kaberle, Doughty, Johnson and Hickey make for a quality defense corps).
Think about it: Stajan, Ponikarovsky, a bevy of 2nd round picks, Kubina, Hagman, White, a (albeit) small pool of prospects and even Stempniak or Finger... yeah, Toronto has tradeable assets.
My Take? A package in the form of Kaberle, Stajan and a pick gets LA's 3rd or Colorado's 5th.
And don't forget - Toronto can afford any bad contract any team wants to dump.
Snow is a fairly smart GM. He knows that, as valuable as Tavares or Hedman is, a package of high quality assets can make all the difference in the world (see also: Quebec/Lindros).
My belief is that Burke gets the 1st if he gets Snow any two of Duchene, Cowen, Kane and Schenn in a package. I suspect the package would look a lot like this:
x2 1st rounders (as mentioned);
x2 2nd rounders (only one needs be current year);
a prospect (or still a 1st year player);
one of Ponikarovsky/White (probably White).
The only question for me is this: if Burke gets the #3 and has a legit shot at two of Duchene, Cowan, Kane and Schenn, why would he trade that away?
I gotta give this to Burke: his timing is impeccable. Or maybe he should just pull that leprechaun out o'his ass... though it does explain the temperament.
Have a great evening everyone.