Rumors are swirling that if Jonas Gustavsson continues his strong play, he could be traded when James Reimer is ready to return to the net later next week. However, ‘Monster’ has been providing solid netminding for the last few games. In the last two, the Leafs managed to outscore their opposition by a total of 14-2. Even with Reimer in the net, Leaf fans are not accustomed to blow out wins and top notch save percentages – and certainly not both in the same game. So if there is interest in Jonas Gustavsson, the return would probably have to be fairly substantial for Burke to be willing to toss away what looks like a very nice insurance policy.
That said, I doubt there are any managers out there willing to deal a lottery pick for a hot-and-cold goaltender like Gustavsson. Burke was a little late to the party if he wanted Greg Sherman to bite on that kind of deal. Still, a good prospect or a high pick (2nd rounder) might be enough to entice the Leafs GM.
Last season he managed to snag Jake Gardiner from the Ducks in a similar fashion – fulfilling an immediate need for their club and adding a prospect buried in depth. Gardiner now has 7 assists on the season and has been regularly eating up 20 minutes of ice-time. I won’t even mention that the ‘salary dump’ portion of that deal now has more points than Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf combined. Oops…I guess I couldn’t resist.
Also, in the Tomas Kaberle deal, Burke managed to get a 2nd round pick included along with Joe Colborne and a 1st round selection. He almost immediately turned the 2nd round pick into John-Michael Liles, who now has nearly three times as many points as the suddenly ineffective Kaberle. Essentially, he managed to replace Kaberle (and then some) with the smallest portion of the return on Kaberle himself – a feat which Burke does not receive nearly enough credit for.
This proves that clearly you can win trades and add key pieces for the future without getting an obviously great return. It’s all about maximizing your assets and being able to take advantage of the dollars and cents aspects of trades at the right moment. For example, Liles was so cheap because Burke waited until the draft. At that time, other teams wanted to pursue free agent options that would cost them nothing but money, whereas the Leafs happily discarded a late 2nd round pick to get a jump on the market. Not only that, but Colorado themselves were looking to free up cash heading into free agency; so timing is everything.
It’s quite possible that one of these situations is approaching with Gustavsson, where his value to another team may exceed his value to the Leafs, or there is an opportunity to use money and timing as leverage. The question is, who has interest in a goalie like Gustavsson, and who might they be willing to let slip through their cracks? Well, I’ve compiled a list:
1.) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are a frequent trade partner for Burke. They’ve made numerous swaps since MLSE found their man, and right now, Jonas Hiller is struggling to get the job done. The real problem for the Ducks is an inexperienced and oft-injured blue line, but in the past, stellar goaltending has helped them topple that hurdle. Dan Ellis is simply not providing the competition Hiller needs.
Potential Return: I feel sure that Burke would ask for Devante Pelly-Smith, who is likely the most truculent young talent on the roster. The Leafs would likely need to add to the deal to nab him though, as he has been quite impressive making the roster at 19.
2.) Calgary Flames
The Flames are going to keep fighting their way through this season, but at some point, they may have to face the reality that it is time to part with Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kipprusoff, and start a serious rebuild. The problem is, you can’t move out your star goalie if you have nothing behind him in the depth chart. Gustavsson has the potential to be the same kind of surprize that Kipprusoff was earlier in his career, and would likely be in their price range.
Potential Return: A 2nd round pick in 2013 might be something the Flames look at moving. They seem to have no problem tossing picks away like candy, and since they can’t draft an NHL player to save their lives, does it even matter?
3.) Columbus Blue Jackets
Steve Mason has been horrendous this year, and now he’s hurt. Granted, the team in front of him was equally bad, so it’s hard to place the blame squarely on his shoulders. Still, Curtis Sanford is now their starting netminder – I repeat, Curtis Sanford – so there is little question that the Jackets are shopping for a more high-ceiling guy to help their club moving forward. Everyone will point to the likes of Johnathan Bernier and Cory Schneider, but Gustavsson could be the more affordable option for a lot of clubs, including Columbus.
Potential Return: The Jackets could potentially offer a very similar type of return to the Beauchemin deal that went down last year. The Leafs could help them out with cashflow by taking the 2.65 million dollar Sami Pahlsson off their hands IF they’re willing to add a 2nd round pick or a prospect (ie. Cody Golubef). This kind of deal would fit Burke’s model of helping the team now and in the future.
4.) Detroit Red Wings
Ty Conklin has been around the block lately, and he’s had a very hard time sticking with any club. Detroit loves to take chances on guys like this, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, with the team from the net out getting older, the Wings have been needing to rely on their goalies a lot more than in years past. It might be prudent to think about bringing in a guy who could challenge Jimmy Howard (who has been spectacular) for the long-term. Gustavsson fits the Holland M.O. of being Swedish, and having a high ceiling.
Potential Return: Riley Sheahan is someone that Burke has reportedly been caught scouting. It also appeared that the Wings snagged Teemu Pulkkinen from the Leafs at the 2010 Entry Draft.
5.) New Jersey Devils
There is no mystery here. The Devils have two goaltenders with an average age north of 38. It is rumored that Brodeur would like to play for one more year, but his career is definitely on life-support. Not because he can’t do it any more, but just because the body can only take so much. The injuries are starting to pile up now, and Brodeur himself admits the years are starting to take their toll. Again, this is a team that could be after a more high-profile, younger goalie like Cory Schneider or Johnathan Bernier. They have the trade chips to get something like that done as well (Zach Parise). There’s always the chance though, that Uncle Lou looks at the more affordable model for going crazy on the luxury option.
Potential Return: The Devils don’t have a lot of prospects they can afford to part with as their roster is very thin as is. They might be willing to part with a draft pick though. Whether or not this would be enough to entice the Leafs remains to be seen.
6.) Tampa Bay Lightning
Dwayne Roloson is in the same boat as Marty Brodeur. His time appears to be nearly up, and he has been absolutely awful this season. In his most recent game, he gave up 6 goals to the Maple Leafs before being pulled. The real problem is the slow and weak defense of the Lightning, but remodeling that will take time. They can address goaltending more quickly, and maybe put the team back on track. The issue with the Lightning though, is that they are likely to be a team the Leafs are fighting tooth and nail with for a playoff spot. Both sides will want to clearly win the trade in order to get an upper hand. These two are probably unlikely trade partners as a result.
Potential Return: The Leafs would probably be asking for Carter Ashton in any deal with the Lightning, which is probably a non-starter for Yzerman and a definite overpayment for Gustavsson. With these teams in a dog fight for the playoffs, I don’t see either side doing a deal unless it is lopsided. Will the Bolts get desperate with Roloson allowing 7 goals per game?
7.) Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings
I include these two teams as one entity because their interest would be similar. Both have a legitimate starter, and a highly talented back-up that could have big value on the market, similar to Semyeon Varlamov. There has been speculation that Bernier could be used in a package to acquire a top player like Zach Parise. Similarly, I suspect either Harding or Backstrom could be used to acquire a piece of the puzzle to help the 1st place Wild now – both have a save percentage north of 935 (which is insane). However, you can’t really move these guys if you don’t have an insurance policy. Both teams are thin behind their NHL talents, with the Wild recently starting a 51-year-old on the bench, despite having never played goalie (much less against NHL talents). Gustavsson, at a reasonable rate, could allow them to make that big trade and maintain some of their depth at net.
Potential Return: Stoll and Penner are on the outs in Los Angeles, so a package could be worked out around either of them (preferably Stoll). The Wild on the other hand don’t have a lot of fascinating prospects, but could probably afford to dump a draft choice or two.
For the record, I don’t promote trading Gustavsson. His teammates like him, and he’s finally clicking for the Blue and White. That said, Reimer is the starter, Scrivens and Owuya are hot on his trail for the back-up role, and his strong play of late may have his value maximized. While he’s had some stellar performances, it’s important to remember too, that only a week ago, Gustavsson was the whipping boy for Leaf’s Nation. If there is any truth to the rumors at all, than perhaps Burke intends to strike while the iron is hot.