BOSTON - The perfect storm of trade speculation swept New England on Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs are in town for a game tonight, having just made the Kris Versteeg trade the evening before, starting breakfast with a minor deal for feisty Anaheim forward Aaron Voros, while headlines in Boston asked when the Bruins would do something to keep pace with moves in the Eastern Conference and protect their division lead heading into the playoffs.
Whether another deal can be worked with Toronto - the last one seems to suit the B’s nicely - remains to be seen. But there was interest in Versteeg here before the Leafs sent him to the Flyers for a first and third rounder, and Toronto general manager Brian Burke did a nice job stirring the pot when he met the media after the morning skate at TD Banknorth Garden.
“I know that our trade set off a big surge in phone activity last night, a frantic response,” Burke said. ”We try and get out ahead of the (Feb. 28) trade deadline before it gets confused and there’s a cattle stampede. You’re on one phone line, your assistant’s on another, (the other team) is on the third and players keep popping off the board. All of a sudden you are stuck with a lesser alternative. We obviously want to be out in front.”
What’s making people in Boston as jittery as a clam chowder shortage were the back-to-back losses to Detroit that exposed a few flaws in their armour. They’ve also lost Marc Savard for the season with a concussion and the Flyers, the team that rallied to beat them in last year’s playoffs, are girding for spring.
Boston might be able to make up some of Savard’s offence, but the biggest lack of depth could be on defence behind Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara.
They need a puck mover and the Leafs could have just the man in Tomas Kaberle, provided he waives that no trade clause that has been a deal killer so often before. With Toronto facing virtual elimination if it doesn’t win a regulation game on this week’s Northeast Division swing, perhaps there will be a change of heart with the Czech this time. Young Zach Bogosian in Atlanta is another name being mentioned.
Boston is more prepared for a trade than at any other time, with prospects, cap space and draft picks, including the one the Leafs still owe them this spring to complete the Phil Kessel trade.
When asked about Kaberle waiving his no-trade on Monday night, Burke declared the subject to be off limits to media snoopers, to be settled between himself, Kaberle and agent Rick Curran, who submitted a late list of teams at the 2010 deadline.
Burke acquired Voros from the Ducks after the Marlies were left short-handed by the promotion of enforcer Jay Rosehill and Monday’s call-up of winger Christian Hanson. Voros has some NHL experience and can certainly fight. Toronto’s current musclemen, Colton Orr and Mike Brown, are hurt. But at less than $1 million US in salary, Burke is worried about losing Voros on re-entry waivers at present. The Ducks would get a seventh-round pick, but only if Voros re-signs with Toronto in 2011-12.
It has been a big month for the Leafs aleady, acquiring Joffrey Lupul from Anaheim for Francois Beauchemin and the swapping Versteeg for the picks.
“We made two deals, Nashville just made a good-sized deal with Ottawa and I think you’ll see more activity and events,” Burke added.
But if Burke hoped there would be a quick yield for the third rounder of the Versteeg trade that he began offering late Monday, he was disappointed.
“I don’t know if it will happen or not,” Burke said of the pick on its own or as a package. “We’ve floated it. We put the pick in play right away to try and get a forward back. We’re not throwing in the towel here (on making the playoffs) and we’re not done (trading), either.
The Leafs have at least nine picks at present, but Burke said that won’t be the case by the June 24 draft in St. Paul, Minn.
“If I have my way, we’re going to do something with them. You don’t see (the pick) for three years.”
For Tuesday’s game, Hanson will be on third line left wing with Darryl Boyce, taking Versteeg’s spot. Coach Ron Wilson has re-united the top line of Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Maikhail Grabovski, as well as Kessel and Tyler Bozak, letting Joffrey Lupul try the left side.
As for third liner Versteeg’s assertion that he wasn’t accorded enough of an opportunity with the Leafs (others were given far more time to get settled on the top two units), Burke politely begged to differ.
“I’m not going to respond,” Burke said. “We’ve never run players on their way out and if that’s how he felt, that’s fine. I don’t think that’s accurate, but he’s a good guy and I wish him well.
“When I was a rookie GM in 1992, I asked (Boston’s) Harry Sinden ‘any advice?’. He said when you make a mistake and get a player who is not working out, fix it. Kris just didn’t mesh here, but it was no fault of his.”