February 14, 2011
Expect more deals from Burke
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Does the Kris Versteeg deal mean the Maple Leafs are taking steps to a solid future — or is Brian Burke simply covering his tracks?
A lot depends on whether the other part of Monday’s machinations pay off in the second trade the general manager is working on.
Short term, the optics are good for Burke in terms of recovering a first-round pick, low as it is, to get some critics of the Phil Kessel deal off of his back.
Burke said the Philadelphia Flyers were the only ones to “meet our price” of putting a first and third-rounder in the deal, again insisting that all the “chess pieces” aren’t in place to fully judge the Kessel deal.
Versteeg’s journey with the Leafs ended in Boston, where Toronto’s troubles with first-round picks began 17 months ago with the Kessel trade. Flush with success in pre-season games, with a parent company pining for playoff revenue and anxious to make a splash in his first full season, Burke sent two first-rounders and a second to the Bruins.
Though he bravely asserts he’s make the same deal today, Kessel has not lived up to billing, at least without a No. 1 centre.
He carries a 14-game goal-less streak into Boston where he’s called the gift that keeps on giving, especially if Boston gets another top-five selection.
The cost of recovering the picks was Versteeg, one of those young turks that was supposed to be in the vanguard of the scrappy Leafs.
The Leafs are minus one in that department after Francois Beauchemin was traded for Joffrey Lupul, who will be 28 at next year’s training camp.
Burke was quick to insist he has not forsaken this season as he waits to see if the third- rounder can be parlayed into another forward, a deal “in play” as of today.
But Toronto’s sagging playoff hopes, 10 points out again with 26 games to play, grow more faint without Versteeg and three injured forwards. By the time the Leafs complete four straight games against Northeast Division opponents on Saturday, the next significant date to add players could be July 1, when they spend some of that cap relief from Versteeg.
“As of today I could have acquired a player with six million in cap space,” Burke said, using Monday’s conference call to do a little advertising. “The ideal criteria was to get a player who was closer in age (to one of the youngest teams in the league).
“There were multiple offers, multiple inquiries. We shopped this deal hard. In the end, we didn’t think this package would be there on Feb. 28 (at the NHL trade deadline).”
Having said that, Burke wouldn’t rule out tossing the first-rounder back into another deal, but only if he gets a good price.
“We are trying to add to our specific group, if not, we keep the pick and move on,” he said.
A whirlwind day saw Versteeg leave teammates at their Boston hotel, with little positive to say about his Toronto experience, while Christian Hanson was called up from the Marlies.
That wasn’t the only news of note from the farm, where rookie goalie Jussi Rynnas broke his finger, shelving him with Jonas Gustavsson.
With Ben Scrivens the only other healthy goalie on the farm, Burke said that could scuttle any decision to make veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere available in a deal.
He has met with Giguere and his agent about options heading to the 28th and Giguere’s no-trade clause.
It seems odd to be talking about a Flyers-Leafs trade and not hear Tomas Kaberle’s name.
Two years ago, interim boss Cliff Fletcher was ready to send Kaberle to Philly for an unhappy Jeff Carter and a first-rounder. That deal fell through when Kaberle would not surrender his no-trade clause.
And it’s almost 10 years to the day that the Flyers’ insistence on Kaberle killed the deal that would have made a younger Eric Lindros a Leaf. Toronto general manager Pat Quinn was offering Nik Antropov and Danny Markov, but the Flyers wanted Kaberle and Quinn wouldn’t move.
Once more, the door is open for Kaberle to leave if he wants to get a shot at a Stanley Cup elsewhere.
Burke added some intrigue by saying he, Kaberle and agent Rick Curran are dropping a veil of secrecy on the subject.