Trading Spaces: how deadline day impacted the Leafs and their chances

Trading Spaces: how deadline day impacted the Leafs and their chances

The National Hockey League’s much-ballyhooed trade deadline came and went yesterday will a lot of talk but little action. As is quickly becoming tradition, the TSN-fuelled fanfare overshadowed the event itself. Few teams made any deals of real consequence (though a couple did), and most of the trades involved tweaks on the margins.

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a single move—sending minor-leaguer John Mitchell to the New York Rangers for a seventh-round pick in 2012—but they were neither a buyer nor a seller on deadline day, in large part because general manager Brian Burke had made his moves in advance of the deadline day bonanza, much like other wise GMs around the league. With that in mind, we take a look at what the moves of note around the Eastern Conference mean for the Leafs, both this season and next.

1. The dearly departed
Dealing Tomas Kaberle, François Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg in exchange for more firepower and more youth earlier this month turned out to be the “major surgery” Burke quipped about in the lead-up to the deadline. Many thought more moves were in the offing (including, it seemed, Burke himself), but it wasn’t a buyer’s market out there, and Burke isn’t one to make a change for the sake of change itself. That said, the Leafs now have two gaping holes to fill for next season: a skilful, puck-handling defenceman and a first-line centre. The free-agent market will be tough, so let’s see if Burke can work his magic in the off-season.

2. Will he stay or will he go?
At first, it looked like Clarke MacArthur was on his way out the door. Then, overnight, the frosty relationship between the team and its top scorer thawed a little. He’s still a Maple Leaf, but for how long? According to the Globe and Mail, MacArthur and the Leafs are entrenched in a fierce game of contract hardball, and it’s uncertain whether the impasse will be resolved by next season. If his production continues on an upward trajectory, keeping MacArthur around could quickly become one of Burke’s top priorities.

3. Draft day manoeuvres and other magic
Burke may not have made any major moves on deadline day, but there are whispers that he’s keeping a rabbit in his hat until draft day. The Leafs GM is expected to trade his two first-round picks and several others in the later rounds for an established player or players that can pay immediate dividends. Burke pulled off one of the greatest draft-day swaps in NHL history while in Vancouver. There’s no telling what sort of scenarios he might be dreaming up for June.

4. The competition
It sure would have been nice if a contender decided to take injury-prone J.S. Giguere and his massive contract off the Leafs’ hands, but that didn’t happen. What did happen around the Eastern Conference is that the Washington Capitals went for broke and the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators cleaned house. The Caps’ run for glory has little consequence for the Leafs—even in the unlikeliest of scenarios where Toronto does actually make the post-season—but the Florida and Ottawa fire sales are of interest. Both those teams are in roughly the same spot as the Leafs today. However, the Panthers’ and Senators’ moves over the last month were designed solely for a better, albeit distant, tomorrow. That can’t be said with the same conviction for the Leafs.

• Little changes for Burke on deadline day [Globe and Mail]
More fine-tuning than fireworks [Globe and Mail]
• Cox: Caps, Canucks and Kings beef up on dull deadline day [Toronto Star]
Panthers clean house; Leafs remain quiet [Toronto Star]
Deadline Day: No big deal for Maple Leafs [Toronto Star]
Leafs best move was standing pat [National Post]