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Afternoon Analysis

Afternoon Analysis: Trade Rumours

Yesterday, I wrote about the need for NHL General Managers to get back to their phones and get some buzz going with respect to trades. Today, I perused not only our collection of links but also those found on Spector’s site and found…not much in the way of impending trade news.

That said, there was a little news about Brian Burke sniffing around the Blackhawks and possibly looking at defender Brent Sopel. Now, its no secret that the ‘Hawks need to shed salary and that Brian Burke is willing to take on a little salary if he can get some draft picks in the deal. The Leafs dealt a couple of choice picks to the Bruins for Phil Kessel and need to replenish those picks to rebuild a roster that is somewhat short on high-end prospects.

Looking specifically at a possible Sopel deal and trying to avoid treading the same ground as Richard’s previous post, lets look at a few possibilities. Sopel, once a decent offensive from the blue line, is in a bit of a decline these days, but still a serviceable player and a guy that could likely help the Toronto blue-line. The Leafs can obviously absorb his $2.33 million cap hit for this year and next and could find a place for him to play.

That said, Sopel would most likely be the thrown in for any deal involving the Hawks and Leafs, as the Leafs want picks and the Hawks need cap-relief. The question becomes “what could the Hawks use and what kind of picks are they willing to give up to get cap relief”?

The Hawks are a well-balanced team with good depth everywhere but in net. They aren’t likely to “need” a high pick in the next couple of years but, as Toronto can attest, constantly trading away high picks is not a recipe for success. Lets say that the cap relief is worth a second rounder to the Hawks. Fair?

So if the Hawks send Sopel and a 2-rounder to the Leafs, what do they take back. They have a modicum of room this year (created by Sopel’s departure) but cannot carry salary into next season with their recent signings and the albatross that is Brian Campbell’s deal.

This leaves us with a Toronto UFA going the other way. The list that Richard compiled looks like this: Stajan, Stempniak, Toskala, Mayers, Exelby, Van Ryn, Wallin, Ponikarovsky and Primeau. For a very good and deep Chicago team, none of these players seem likely to attract a lot of interest.

Looking deeper, Chicago has been through a tough playoffs and knows a little better now what it takes to win. Hard nosed players like Wayne Primeau and Lee Stempniak (who needs a change of scenery) could be options, but Stempniak makes too much money and Primeau would likely be an afterthought in Chicago despite his faceoff  skills.

Ponikarovsky should be re-signed by the Leafs, as he is  consistent scorer who can play tough minutes. Matt Stajan is a young guy with  upside, but to me there are already several better versions of Stajan already playing in Chicago.

That leaves us with the defensemen. Van Ryn is still serviceable and could be a good depth defender for the Hawks but he is oft-injured and thus not reliable for a playoff run. Wallin has trouble cracking the Leafs’ forward lines, so I can’t imagine the Hawks having serious interest. Garnet Exelby, a big, tough former Western leaguer might be a good fit, as he is old enough to spend extended stints in the press box and could provide toughness if necessary. He could also be sent to the minors, as he is no stranger to bus rides.

What about Toskala, you ask? Could be a stop-gap fit in Chicago as (high-risk) insurance to Huet? He hasn’t performed up to snuff in Toronto and could be susceptible to the high-pressure environment that Toronto provided. However, a change of scenery could help as could the relief from being “the guy” and from returning the Leafs to the promised land.

So, my conclusion (as wordy as it is) is that the best fit for a potential deal (should it be resurrected) is for the Hawks to sent Sopel and 2nd-r0under to Chicago for one of Exelby or Toskala.

Think I am a crank? Consider me a visionary? Lets hear it in the comments.