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Wading Through the Rumours

Friday, 22.02.2008 / 4:41 PM / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Wading Through the Rumours
 Just in case you thought this was the mother of all trade deadlines for the Maple Leafs, consider this list.

These are some of the players traded to Toronto at or around the deadline: Brian Leetch (2004); Doug Gilmour and Owen Nolan (2003); Jason Smith, Steve Sullivan and Alyn McCauley (1997);  Dave Andreychuk (1996), Wendel Clark and Mathieu Schneider (1996).

Yep. You’re right. This is bigger.

This time, it’s not about who is coming in. It’s about who is leaving.

A rebuilding phase the likes of which hasn’t been executed since General Manager Cliff Fletcher’s last tenure is nicely underway. Negotiations moved into what could be, in hindsight, the short strokes with Fletcher’s meetings Friday with Mats Sundin and his agent J.P. Barry. Fletcher also met with Bryan McCabe.

Both players would have to waive their no-trade clause for a deal to happen by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

The departure of Sundin, of course, would be jaw-dropping. A Maple Leaf since 1994, he has led the team in scoring in every year but one. One of the longest serving captains and an exemplary leader, Sundin’s departure would be of seismic importance.

It would also, should he agree to sign on for another year with the team that signs him, would result in a mother lode of prospects and or players.

The core group, the number one defence pairing of Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, veteran favourite Darcy Tucker,  first-liners Alexei Ponikarovsky and perhaps Nik Antropov could conceivably be dealt.

Aside from a few untouchables, young defenceman Anton Stralman and goalies Vesa Toskala, defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo and Justin Pogge and Russian forward Nikolai Kulemin, the entire roster is, theoretically at least, in play. This is the year the Leafs test the maxim that firing a coach is easier than trading an entire team.

There are a host of complications, of course. Higher-ticket players - Jason Blake is the best example here - will be tough to move because of their salaries. No-trade clauses for more economically priced players such as Tucker and Kaberle could scuttle any deal. Naturally, the Leafs will be reluctant to part with relatively inexpensive players with upside such as Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov but those players might have to sacrificed to move the bigger names.

And while the salary cap makes some contracts prohibitive, the ever-escalating pay scale means there could be room for overly well-paid players if they address a particular need. For a number one defenceman, McCabe's salary is in the ballpark. Ed Jovanovski, Brian Rafalski and Kimmo Timonen, by way of comparison, will earn more than McCabe this season.

Here then, for your edification, is the opening line. I have handicapped the players who I think have the highest chance of being traded. I have included teams they have previously been linked to through media reports, internet swamis and, most importantly, a careful sifting through the morning Alpha-Bits. Science, this isn’t.


Favourites: Stats

Rumoured Teams

Mats Sundin 24g, 37a Ottawa, Montreal, Anaheim, Vancouver,
Colorado, Philadelphia
Bryan McCabe 4 g, 10 a New York Islanders
Good Chance:
Alexei Ponikarovsky 14g, 11 a None Yet
Darcy Tucker 12g, 9a Edmonton, Calgary
Alex Steen 10g, 16a Dallas
Long Shots:
Pavel Kubina 5g, 22a None Yet
Nik Antropov 21 g, 22a None Yet
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