Monday, August 30, 2010

Would Burke Chase an RFA Next Offseason?

It was about this time last year when Brian Burke brought Toronto's most talented roster player, Phil Kessel, to the Maple Leafs.  While he's stated that he and his management considered whether the pick may be Taylor Hall, surely they didn't believe that they were giving up the second overall pick.  The Leafs should have been better than second worst, but they weren't.

Burke has repeatedly said that he would make the deal again if given the opportunity.  Would he?  Given the number of times he's been asked whether he regrets the deal, you'd have to think he'd be a little gun-shy.  But then again, he's Brian Burke and he probably doesn't give a crap what anyone else thinks.

Burke is clearly driving this team to compete in 2011-12 when Gustavsson, Kulemin and Versteeg should all be due for raises.  In order for the Leafs to do that, they'll need Kadri to develop well and to acquire at least one more player of Kessel's calibre externally.  With no first rounder this year, that player will have to come from another NHL roster.

If you look at next season's crop of free agents, there isn't much there.  With St.Louis re-signed in Tampa and Thornton likely to do the same in San Jose, the options at forward are thin.  Thin, that is, if you focus exclusively on UFAs.

The RFA market is considerably more appealing.  While I'm sure that guys like Stamkos and Doughty will be unattainable, there are other players that the Leafs might be able to steal from under the nose of their current teams.

Do the Flyers have the resources available to re-sign Jeff Carter?  I'm guessing that if the Leafs wanted him badly enough, they could put together an offer sheet that Philly couldn't match.  Claude Giroux is a potential target for the same reason.  Depending on what Kovalchuk's final contract with the Devils looks like, there's a chance that a hefty offer sheet to Zach Parise might be more than their cap can bear.  While Columbus will have plenty of cap space, their internal salary constraints could make matching an offer to Voracek problematic.

The questions that come out of this are obvious: Would Brian Burke do what he said he would and pull the trigger on a second Kessel-like deal?  And secondly, should he?

I think he would and I think he should.  A team that boasted Jeff Carter, Phil Kessel and the other developing Leaf youngsters should not fall in the draft lottery.  If you're not a lottery team, then an assortment of picks for Jeff Carter is a no-brainer.  Not to mention it would be so nice to swipe a talented young center out of Philadelphia and away from their knuckle-dragging fans.

The fact of the matter is, this is really the only way we can expect to bring in top-level talent before some of our key affordable contracts expire.  Burke often argues that he was comfortable dealing the picks for Kessel because Kessel is a 22 year old - he's not washed up and can grow with the team.  The same logic would apply to a guy like Carter, Giroux or (by some miracle) Parise.

This is our chance.  There's no sense in looking at next year's UFAs, there's nobody there but Semin.  Think about whether you're comfortable parting with another package of draft picks to bring in another player of Kessel's calibre.  If we're going to land a big fish, that's probably going to be how we go about doing it.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Burke can make RFA offer next year. Don't you have to have a first, second and third round draft pick to make an offer? Secondly, I think it has to your own draft picks not some other teams. This would seem to rule out the RFA offersheet.

Curt S said...

You have to have the picks that you would be losing (whatever they may be) and they do have to be your own. The picks dealt for Kessel are gone as of the draft next year, meaning that he'll be back in the market to make moves of this nature, should he feel compelled to do so.

willbur said...

But he doesn't have a 1st rounder in 2011 meaning he couldn't make an offersheet till at least 2012. So really any kind of RFA would have to come via the trade and I just can't see where the Leafs have the assets to make such a deal. Let's take Bobby Ryan as an example (granted he would be a top level RFA), who on the current Leafs' roster could you trade to get him? Without the 1st rouder going the other way it just isn't possible. Next summer is shaping up to be as quiet as this summer or even moreso. Other than Joe Thornton there are again a real dearth of top level free agents, and unless he can get his 1st rounder back from the Bruins he is unable to make an offersheet.

Curt S said...

The free agent period begins after the draft meaning yes, he could make an offer to an RFA next offseason (the picks involved would be for 2012).

To illustrate, think of the Kessel deal. We had Kessel in our lineup this season, yet the first pick we surrendered (though it was a trade and not an RFA offer sheet the second rounder the leafs re-acquired from Chicago to 'threaten' the offer sheet was for this year's draft) was for the draft which just passed.

I know it's a bit confusing but I assure you, if Burke wants to make an RFA offer sheet next year, he can do it. It would just mean at least three consecutive years without first round picks.

willbur said...

After I posted last night as I lay in bed I ran this through my mind and yes I was wrong. I think the easiest way to think of it is as 1 hockey year runs from the start of the free agent period and ends with the draft. Geez just don't tell my wife or she'll expect me to admit I was wrong all the time.

Curt S said...

Your secret is safe with me.

Leafschatter said...

Good post and comments...don't worry Wilbur...I get confused at times as for your wife...she will stop expecting you to admit you are wrong all the time when you hit the "oscar" stage of your life.

I would throw in Stamkos into the mix of RFA centres. However, you may have to offer him much more than $7.5 mil. As Curt S suggests, the price may be too steep with 4 (or 5) firswt rounders. I differ in opinion.

However, if done, then Burke can't sustain the strategy outlined by BCP. Snag a high end RFA for under $7.5 mil every two years.

Think about it, in 2013, Milan Lucic, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Brayden Schenn...

Leafschatter said... I have clued in....Curt S is part of BCP and wrote the article...Sorry Curt for being so clueless.