Rebuilding a Leaf Nation
Keaner | February 4, 2010 at 01:49 pmby
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With most NHL teams fighting the salary cap moving contracts has become an art, on January 31, 2010 Brian Burke might have painted a master piece when he acquired star defenseman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect defenseman Keith Aulie from the Calgary Flames for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White, and traded goaltender Vesa Toskala and forward Jason Blake to the Anaheim Ducks for goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The trades play out well in many ways for the Maple Leafs who not only clear salaries they were bound to for several years but also brings a well needed presence to the dressing room that was lacking. If Jonas Gustavsson is to be the Leaf netminder of the future then there is no better example than Jean-Sebastien Giguere to learn from. Just ask Jonas Hiller. Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Gerber who all used Giguere's influence to reach the next level. Goaltending coach Francois Allaire who had a strong influence on Giguere in Anahiem is the final component and he believes Giguere can help Gustavsson grow, ""There are four or five guys who made the NHL out of Anaheim," said Allaire. "You need a mentor to make the guys get better and Giguere did that perfectly." Along with Giguere defensemen Dion Phanuef a 9th overall pick in 2003 knows the pressures of being a young defensemen and will be an example for young Luke Schenn who was drafted 5th overall in 2008 . They both play a physical game and share similar junior background coming from the WHL. While the trade on paper can be debated, there is no denying the impact this trade will have throughout the organization.
Looking ahead, Brian Burke has given no impression he is close to finishing. Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak and Tomas Kaberle will be the biggest assets heading toward the deadline. Tomas Kaberle may play out the season in Toronto as he holds a no trade clause in his contract that Burke has publicly stated he will not ask him to wave. Regardless if he waves it or not his clause becomes void this summer should the Maple Leafs not make the playoffs giving Burke something to work with before the 2010 Entry draft where he is without a first round selection. Crunching the numbers while looking at next season reveals that Burke's financial restriction will give him more cap space to work with. He will need to re-sign Gustavsson who will look for a raise, John Mitchell and Nikolai Kulemin who has easily been the Leafs most improved player and most consistent. With a solid defense locked up, it will be the forwards that Burke addresses next, and with a weak free agent market ahead it seems encouraging that the wheeling and dealing has just begun.
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