Leafs ready to dive into trade pool

Leafs GM Brian Burke said he's willing to deal away the team's top three draft picks if it will...

Leafs GM Brian Burke said he's willing to deal away the team's top three draft picks if it will land an established NHL player. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency file photo)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

MINNEAPOLIS - If Brian Burke has his way, the Maple Leafs general manager would release his inner Paul Holmgren in a heartbeat and make his own splash at NHL draft weekend.

While the trade pool is a little more shallow now that Flyers GM Holmgren unleashed his tsunami Friday afternoon, Burke said he wouldn’t hesitate dealing all three of his top picks in the 2011 entry draft if the right established player can be had in return.

“If we can leave here with our team better, I’ll trade all three of those picks,” Burke said in between meetings with his scouting and management team in advance of the draft, the first round of which goes Friday at the Xcel Energy Center.

“The picks are in play for established players, we want to be better now.”

What kind of dance partners — if any — are available remains to be seen and Burke doesn’t expect the offers to get really serious until the league’s power brokers gather on the draft floor.

Before the Flyers brought the carnival to town on Thursday — in separate deals that sent Jeff Carter and Mike Richards out of town — Burke and company acknowledged that trade talk was starting to simmer.

There were rumblings they were in the mix for Richards with a potential asking price of Toronto’s most recent first-round pick, Nazem Kadri plus Nikolai Kulemin.

Burke was reluctant to discuss the specifics of any potential trade talk for fear of tampering charges, but acknowledged that at one point on Thursday, something had his attention.

Not serious enough, evidently, to pull the trigger on anything.

“I think there is pressure on a general manager to do something around the draft because other teams do,” Burke said. “I just don’t feel that pressure.”

Despite having dealt away their own first rounder to Boston in the deal that brought Phil Kessel to town prior to the 2009-10 season, the Leafs will pick twice in Friday’s first round and three times in total between 25 and 39.

Barring any deals, of course.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about a lot of different things,” Burke said. “Moving up, moving down, trading picks for players that could help us now but nothing that’s materialized, obviously.

“I’m not waiting for the phone to ring with a deal and that’s not uncommon. It’s still early yet in hockey terms. A lot of what happens is going to happen on the floor.”

With 11 selections sprinkled through seven rounds (the first round on Friday night, the remainder on Saturday), this year’s draft looks like it could be one of the busiest in quite some time for head scout Dave Morrison and his staff.

But if it doesn’t end up that way, Morrison recognizes the difficulty for Burke to remain unfailingly patient.

“You do what you’ve got to do as an organization and if we’ve got to trade (the picks) to make the team better, I’m all for it,” Morrison said. “I’ve been through that before. Quite honestly, if the big team doesn’t do well and they make changes, well chances are I could be one of those changes.”

Toronto’s first selection falls at No. 25, a pick acquired from Holmgren’s Flyers in the Kris Versteeg deal. No. 30 comes from Boston via another late-season deal that sent defenceman Tomas Kaberle to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. The Leafs also have their own second-round pick, which lands at No. 39 on Saturday morning.

Burke stressed that his team would be content to use all three of its early picks to continue adding to the depth of young talent and wouldn’t necessarily see moving up in the first round as a priority.

“If we don’t trade them for established players, we may (stay put),” Burke said. “I’m not sure if you move up into the teens that you get that much better a player. So we don’t feel under any duress to do anything.

“I’m content with (where things are) but we’re listening.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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