|Rick Nash, #61, Columbus Blue Jackets|
So, Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, must ask himself a few important questions. Are there sufficient players available on the Marlies that can jump up to the NHL level and play in an opening that might be created by trading for Nash? Will the Leafs have to trade away salary to have a manageable amount of cap space to make the trade? Is it worth it to trade away a handful of good young talent for Nash?
The Leafs have played 19 different forwards this season. These include their usual starting line up, but also others in the Marlies. Such as Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne. Jay Rosehill and Colby Armstrong have been a healthy scratch the last few games, and Philippe Dupuis is in the Marlies as well, but he wasn't much help to the Leafs when he was up here.
The Leafs have also used eight defensemen this season. Including Phaneuf, Liles, Schenn, Gardiner, Gunnarsson, Franson, Komisarek and Aulie. They are very deep in defense as they also have Korbinian Holzer, Matt Lashoff, Jesse Blacker, and Simon Gysbers in the Marlies. Blacker is still very young, and not ready to be put into the NHL, but the other three might be able to pull it off. Lashoff has previous, although limited, NHL experience with the Leafs as well as with the Lightning and Brunis.
The Leafs wont have to trade much to fit Nash under the cap for the remainder of this season. They will only need to shed a little over 1.8 million worth in a yearly salary. That is the equivilent of David Steckel and Mike Brown. Next year, however, they have to resign some quality UFAs and RFAs (such as Grabovski, Kulemin and Franson), and won't have enough space under the cap with Nash on the team unless they trade away a good chunk of salary. Toronto would likely have to get rid of the about 7 million dollars off their cap (almost equal to the $7.8M cap hit Rick Nash brings.
We've established thats it's possible, but is it worth it? I'm not a big fan of trading away a lot of young players with potential for one player, but Rick Nash is only 27 years old and have plenty on NHL in front of him. He's the big skilled body that the Leafs are looking for that would fit in their top 3. I think it is possible, and I do think the Leafs have the depth to support the trade, and they've proved it with all the different players that jumped into the line-up due to all the injuries earlier in the season.
So, how would you go about trading for Rick Nash? I would start with shopping Tim Connolly for anything. Connolly is a cap hit of $4.75M and hasn't shown much more than a guy like Matt Frattin, who makes a lot less money this year, and is an RFA next year. If the Leafs can get Tim Connolly off their books, it will already equal nearly 2/3rd the amount of salary needed to cover Rick Nash's salary for next season. Tim Connolly is only signed through next season, so it is not a long-term gamble for any team considering taking on this salary. I'd say its preposterous that anyone would trade for Connolly, but the Habs traded for Gomez while he was in a terrible slump and in a much worse contract in New York. According to capgeek.com, Tim Connolly has a modified no-trade clause, but it does not elaborate anything beyond that.
Assuming Jake Gardiner is a must, and Columbus wants another three good young players, is it not worth it for the Leafs to try to get this deal done? Let's say the asking price is Gardiner, Kulemin, Kadri and Colborne, is that too much to ask? What about Horbinian Holzer, Keith Aulie and Luke Schenn? Is Clarke MacArthur too old for Columbus to take him in a package deal?
Brian Burke doesn't traditionally like to make any big deals at the trade deadline, he is known to make his trade weeks or months prior to the deadline. This year is going to be different though, because the Leafs are so tight to the salary cap, and as the trade deadline approaches, he will have a little more wiggle room. Brian Burke and his management staff will have a lot of decisions to make heading towards the trade deadline.