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NHL Trade Deadline Day, Toronto Maple Leafs Style

March 5, 2009 | by TSM | Comments Comments Off on NHL Trade Deadline Day, Toronto Maple Leafs Style
Nik Antropov won’t be around to thrill and delight young Leaf fans anymore. Not even those wacky Eric Lindros fans.

What a day it was. GM Brian Burke was busy; not as busy as I would have liked, but busy nevertheless.

Here is a review of the deals (in case you didn’t know):

1. The Maple Leafs acquired a 2009 second round draft pick and a conditional draft pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft from the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Nik Antropov.

2. Toronto traded forward Dominic Moore to the Buffalo Sabres for Carolina’s second round draft pick in 2009.

3. Toronto obtained goaltender Olaf Kolzig, defencemen Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers and a fourth round draft pick in 2009 from the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenceman Richard Petiot.

4. The Maple Leafs claimed goaltender Martin Gerber off waivers from the Senators and defenceman Erik Reitz from the Rangers.

Here’s a tour of the reviews:

Damien Cox, Toronto Star

“The Maple Leafs started the day with five picks in this summer’s draft, selections in the first, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. They ended it with eight picks, adding two second rounders and a fourth, as well as an extra conditional selection acquired in the Nik Antropov deal with the Rangers. Nothing spectacular, but certainly necessary. Instead of having one pick in the top 60 selections, the Leafs should have three in the top 50. Instead of having two picks in the top 120, the Leafs now have five.That’s how the restocking of the prospect cupboard starts.”

Interesting that Damien has a positive spin on the Burke’s day…

“Dominic Moore, acquired after waivers last year by John Ferguson, re-signed by Cliff Fletcher and traded away Wednesday by Brian Burke, netted a second-round pick, a net gain for the Leaf organization. And what of Antropov, the 10th overall pick in 1998, moved to Manhattan for a second rounder? Well, the Leafs got a lot of years of service for the Kazakh. We watched him grow from a skinny, confused kid with little ability to speak English into a power forward with scoring ability, not to mention a gentleman and a father. Was he a bust? Well, he didn’t become a star, but look at the other players taken in ’98. After Vinny Lecavalier went first, the order went David Legwand, Brad Stuart, Bryan Allen, Vitali Vishnevski, Rico Fata, Manny Malhotra, Mark Bell, Mike Rupp and then Antropov. Based on that group, Antropov was a very successful pick by the Leafs. At the end, he was traded because he wasn’t good enough for the dollars he’ll be looking for as a free agent to a team that’s at the very early stages of a long rebuilding period. And if he pans out for the Rangers and helps them win two playoff rounds this spring, the Leafs will get an additional fourth rounder.”

The fact he is so positive scares the hell out of me. Let’s see what the days ahead bring…

Paul Hunter, Toronto Star

“Vesa Toskala is finished for the season. Toskala has been struggling though hip and groin problems and said he would have surgery to correct those issues next week. His spot between the pipes will be filled by former Ottawa Senator Martin Gerber, who the Leafs claimed on re-entry waivers. As expected today, the Leafs also traded Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore, two players who were headed for unrestricted free agency this summer. Antropov went to the Rangers for a second-round draft pick and another conditional draft pick. Moore went to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round draft pick.”

Just the facts, ma’am!

Stephen Brunt, The Globe and Mail

“Brian Burke has a way with words, and in his current gig, that’s going to come in mighty handy. Yesterday afternoon, at the conclusion of his first signpost day as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was called upon to explain the absence of highlight-reel goals and home runs and one-punch knockouts. The trade deadline had come and gone, leaving the franchise minus a couple of useful pieces they declined to sign for what those players and their agents believed they were worth, Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore. The Leafs are now in possession of a marginal starting goaltender acquired on the waiver wire, Martin Gerber, to replace the now-shelved Vesa Toskala, and have four new drafts picks — two second round, one conditional, one fourth round — to partly fill the gaping hole left behind in that department by previous administrations. But there were no first-rounders acquired, though that was the original asking price for Antropov. There were no bright young prospects added who might some day be part of a contending Leafs team. There was no real blockbuster deal, through which a Tomas Kaberle might have brought something truly significant in return. It was more housekeeping than renovation, which for an understandably anxious fan base might not have been quite the Burkean miracle they had imagined.”

I don’t disagree with anything Brunt says there…

“To get better, the Maple Leafs will have to make far better use of the draft than they have in the recent past. They will have to patiently and skillfully develop those players. They will have to create a positive environment and create cap space so that they can attract free agents. And they will have to get lucky, because however adept Burke is at manoeuvring through the current collective agreement, however savvy he is in his dealings with his peers, at some point his team is going to have to stumble on a franchise player. Today, early in his honeymoon period, most fans are probably willing to take Burke at his word, and to cut him some slack, especially since he declines to make excuses. ‘If you hear me start complaining people should throw something heavy at me,’ he said. ‘I work in one of the greatest cities in the world, I work for one of the greatest teams in the world and we’ll get this sorted out. I didn’t think it was going to be an easy or quick process and it’s not going to be.’ But check in again in a couple of years, on another deadline day, in what will likely be a rather different NHL, with the Leafs’ building process advanced, the stakes higher, and the movie presumably well into its second or third act.”

This passage could have been written at any time during the last nine months. Nothing new here folks, nothing at all.

Tim Wharnsby, The Globe and Mail

“The Toronto Maple Leafs restocked their supply of draft picks, but also have left their roster bare to play out the remainder of this season. Not only did the Leafs deal forwards Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore for a pair of second-round selections yesterday, they also shut down goaltender Vesa Toskala.”

And this is a bad thing? Plummet, Maple Leafs, plummet, for god’s sake!

“Although such talk is taboo, the move enhances the Leafs’ chances of sliding into the bottom five in the league standings and being eligible for the draft lottery. With 18 games remaining, the Leafs are 23rd in the 30-club NHL, six points up on the 26th-place Colorado Avalanche.”

Now you are talking. That is more like it.

“As a fill-in for Toskala, the Leafs plucked Ottawa Senators goalie Martin Gerber off re-entry waivers. Gerber will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and he hasn’t played a NHL game since Jan. 8, when the Senators buried him in the minors. What made the Toskala decision intriguing was that Leafs general manager Brian Burke publicly scolded Toskala last month for poor work habits in practice. The harsh words prompted the Leafs goalie to inform his boss that he took it easy in practice because of his chronic hip problems. After the information session, Toskala, Wilson, Burke and the medical staff discussed their options. When surgery as soon as possible was agreed upon as the best course of action, Burke and his management team began searching for another goalie last week. ‘I have been talking with the team and I’m on the same page,’ Toskala said. ‘We made a decision that is best for me.'”

I am calling bullshit on this one. Bill Watters and Greg Brady have been saying for weeks that Toskala hasn’t been healthy. Then Burke attacks him. I don’t know why, but I am just not buying the chain of events as they are being laid out. This doesn’t smell right. To be honest, who cares?

“Both Moore and Antropov, who were kept out of the Leafs lineup on Tuesday, were moved because they are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Antropov was the first to be traded. He went to the Rangers for a second-round pick and a conditional pick. Moore went down the highway to the Buffalo Sabres, also for a second-round selection. These were moves expected to be made by Burke, who will now turn his attention to signing two or three U.S. College players, then the draft and possible trades there as well as the free-agency frenzy in July. ‘We intend to be aggressive on a lot of different fronts,’ Burke said.”

Let’s hope so. I am not thrilled with what happened today. I wanted more. Having said that, it appears to be a start. Maybe more tearing down is needed before the rebuild starts…

Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

“Brian Burke is committed to rebuilding the Maple Leafs, but other National Hockey League teams were just as determined not to let him do it with their best draft picks. Burke’s attempt to wrestle a first rounder for Nik Antropov and a high second rounder for checking centre Dominic Moore were only partially successful on a day when the Leafs also shut down goalie Vesa Toskala with hip/groin surgery and added goalie Martin Gerber and defenceman Eric Reitz on waivers. Antropov is taking his act to Broadway, dealt to the New York Rangers at today’s 3 p.m. deadline for a second rounder and a conditional pick, likely based on the Rangers making the playoffs. Toronto began the day with a first pick in the top 10 at the June draft and hoping to parlay Antropov into another, but had no second or fourth rounder. It turned out just one first-rounder changed hands as the anticipated slow day because of salary cap concerns came to pass.”

Like his counterpart at the Star, Lance offers no opinion.

Bruce Arthur, National Post

“But you want a deal that epitomizes the new NHL? Try one of the day’s final trades, in which the Toronto Maple Leafs sent an undistinguished gentleman named Richard Petiot to cash-strapped Tampa Bay for the expiring contracts of Olaf Kolzig (torn biceps), Jamie Heyward (concussed), minor-leaguer Andy Rogers, and a fourth-round pick. Kolzig and Heyward are unlikely to play a game for the Leafs; Rogers, from all appearances, is an afterthought. So basically the Leafs are paying the salaries of Kolzig and Heyward until the summer – a total of about US$500,000 – to get a fourth-round pick, while the Lightning save some cash. Toronto can afford it; Tampa cannot. Welcome to the new NHL. ‘I think part of it is people are scared to death of the 2010-11 season,’ Burke said. ‘The coming season, what the cap’s going to be, the cap will be based largely on this year’s revenues, and most of our revenues were in the tills before the bad news really hit. So I think it’s artificial in terms of what revenues will be in a year. But because the cap always follows 12 months of financial developments, my sense is that teams – and I know I am – are scared to death of 2010-11 in terms of committing money or locking up guys. This is where, if you go back to when guys were doing six, seven, 12-year, 15-year deals and patting themselves on the back for how smart they were, I think some teams are really going to regret going that far along.'”

This is not editorial on Burke or the Leafs per se, however, it’s very interesting to see how Burke used cap space and wealth to acquire a later draft pick.

Mike Brophy, Sportsnet

“Toronto’s Brian Burke likely hoped to make a bigger splash than he did as he tries to resurrect the Maple Leafs, but with Antropov and Moore gone, and Martin Gerber tending the net down the stretch, perhaps the Leafs stand a better chance of getting a lottery pick. That, for the record, is a good thing especially if they get John Tavares or Victor Hedman.”

Here’s hoping…

Jim Kelley, Sportsnet

“One could even make a case that the winner is the one that comes up with the most innovative way to perhaps legally circumvent the rules of transaction, much the way Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is attempting to do in essentially buying a fourth-round draft pick for $500,000 by buying off injured and likely retiring players via a complicated transaction with the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

If it weren’t legal, do you think the league would have passed it?

“Take Burke’s deal with Tampa Bay. Burke may have done something outside the spirit of the rules while working completely within them. He traded Richard Petiot to the Lightning for veteran goalie Olie Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andie Rogers and a fourth-round pick. Knowing full well that Petiot isn’t likely to ever be a player in the NHL, that Heward hasn’t made it (and likely never will) and that Rogers is also looking at the end of his career, he essentially delivered about a half million dollars in cap space to the Lightning in exchange for a fourth round pick. If this kind of transaction holds up, Burke will have won a battle he’s been losing for years, that being the ability to trade cap space from a team that has it to a team that doesn’t. This bears a whole lot of watching.”

A GM has to do what he can within the confines of the rules. That is a two way street. The Bolts are tight on cash and need any break they can get. The leafs needed a pick and took some dead weight from the Bolts and turned it into a pick.

Howard Berger, National Post

“What seems like an emotional let-down today for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs may ultimately be viewed as the perfect beginning to a long, complicated process. And, don’t fool yourself for even a second into thinking there are any short-cuts in the task of properly re-structuring the Maple Leafs, a franchise that only now – four years after the fact – is starting to be managed compatibly in the post-lockout NHL. Brian Burke was depicted by some as a media manipulator with his tempered comments of the past couple of weeks. He was merely lying in the weeds – managing expectations in the unseemly event he couldn’t re-shape the hockey club with a few bold strokes. In the end, however, Brian was typically shooting straight. He warned observers not to work themselves into a frothing mess over the Leafs’ trade deadline possibilities, suggesting as recently as Tuesday night that it was only the first step in his long-range plan.”

I think Howie is right (I know, two blogs in a row). Lots of us were hoping for much more today and are disappointed with the little that Burke did. I guess in time we will see if it was enough.

“Whether or not that plan actually lifts the hockey club out of its perennial quagmire remains to be seen, and will obviously determine if Burke was, indeed, the best man for the job. But, on the day of his first trade deadline with the Leafs, Brian kept his word. He mentioned on numerous occasions that his primary goal in this initial step was to re-stock the franchise with draft picks that were lost in recent trades, and he did exactly that – acquiring two second-rounders, a fourth-rounder and a conditional selection. In bartering for those picks, he vowed not to take on wasteful salary – contracts of middling players that extend into the 2010-11 season, when the global economic crunch is likely to affect the league’s payroll cap. Again, Burke stuck to his guns. And, the players he moved – Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore – were widely rumored to be going elsewhere as they prepare to test unrestricted free agency this summer.”

Credibility is a good thing in this town. I still am not buying the Toskala thing one bit, but that is a discussion for another day. While all the pundits were yelling bullshit, that Burke is merely playing poker, the reality is he was being pretty straightforward. Not only that, but his near f-bomb on the TSN deadline marathon was priceless.

“So, really, an outbreak of clinical depression should not be endemic among Leaf fans that chose to pay attention, and viewed the 2009 trade deadline for what it was – a table-setting exercise. Much more anticipation can be reserved for the warm months, when Burke will begin to replenish his draft stock, and will have more cap room to work with in free agency than most other big-market teams. It will enable him to sign a premium talent such as Richmond Hill native Mike Cammalleri – a bonafide 40-goal shooter that is young enough, at 27, to be a vital cog on a contending team three or four years down the road. It will allow Burke to try and deal for a top-end player with a contract that does extend beyond next season, now that he eschewed taking on fringe holdovers at the deadline. And, the process of fashioning the Leafs into a winning club will advance to the next level.”

Here Howie heads offside. One, he predicted in his last blog that Burke could make up to six or seven deals if he wanted to. So don’t give me this ‘if you paid attention’ crap. Also, folks, should Burke sign Cammalleri, remember this blog post for when Berger slams Burke for doing so.

“There was much deception from the Leafs – and from Toskala, himself – over the goalie’s suspected groin and hip problems this season. It’s never pleasant to be outright lied to – Ron Wilson, you’ll recall, assured that Toskala’s recent hip examination showed no structural damage – but the Leafs aren’t the only team to go down that path, and it’s understandable that teams would wish to protect their assets in any way possible.”

Hey come on, Howard, it’s not a lie if you know the truth!

“Burke doesn’t yet seem like the “hot shot” he rhetorically called himself on the radio last month. The moves he made at the deadline lacked even a modicum of flair. But, showy maneuvering isn’t the recipe for a pseudo-expansion team with legitimate designs of advancement in today’s NHL. Large steps must be preceded by baby steps.”

Modicum, love it! I don’t necessarily disagree with this comment. I think the Tampa deal was creative, though. Interesting to see Howie give a hat tip to Burke’s moves.

All in all, it was an interesting day. I think the TV networks looked like idiots for being on at 8 a.m. Going from eight to nine hours of coverage translated into an hour of my life I will one day wish I can get back. To me, the big winner of the day was those of you who were on Twitter, and Twitter itself [Note from the Editor: you can now find RotoRob on Twitter]. It was pretty wild to see all the dialogue on it. For those of you who are curious as to what I am talking about, go here and then enter #nhltrade into the search bar and you will see all those who were talking NHL trade deadline over the last several hours. I can tell you that the numbers were staggering. It just proves once again that NHL fans are the most tech savy of any sports fan out there.

Second place goes to the folks over at The Globe and Mail. Their online live blog was good. I don’t think they talked to the room enough, but this was their first time. Coverage on the Fan 590 was weak. Really weak. It started with Hogan and Toth who essentially started the day with nothing to talk about. They seemed almost annoyed to be there. The rest of the day was, well, just boring. I know the moves didn’t really start until later in the afternoon, but man, they didn’t seem to have an real planned programming. I only heard about an hour of Brady and Bill Hayes. In my opinion, it paled in comparison to what the TV guys were doing. Then again, that isn’t a fair comparison.

So technology won the day for me. A buddy hooked me up with his slingbox so i could watch TV on my laptop. It was phenomenal. Add Twitter to that and it was a fun day. Here’s hoping draft days and free agent days are more active in the future. I’ll be back with more thoughts and commentary tomorrow.

Check out more of TSM’s articles here.


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