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Writing on Deadline 2009

by Shawn Roarke / Vancouver Canucks
Burke Speaks

Brian Burke's every public utterance from now until March 4 will likely be newsworthy.

We can't think of a person more suited for such scrutiny. Burke has never met a microphone he didn't like. Wednesday, he was in London, Ont., to speak at the Engaging Insights Speaker Series.

No offense to the speaking series, or the city of London, but Wednesday's speech was a run-of-the-mill event until it involved Burke and fell less than two weeks before the trade deadline. Suddenly, it was a can't-miss event.

Throughout his speech -- and the question-and-answer session that followed, he talked about the upcoming trade deadline, a swap meet in which Burke's Maple Leafs are expected to take center stage.

According to Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press, Burke made quite a few newsworthy points.

* Burke said he was offered a trade on Tuesday, a deal interesting enough to have his staff begin the vetting process.

* He also said that an unidentified team made a pitch for young defenseman Luke Schenn, perhaps the only untouchable player on Toronto's roster. Burke's respond was a classic: "It was a short conversation. I asked him, 'You want me to trade a Top 5 pick, someone who might eventually be able to play, for an 18-year-old who is playing 22-minutes a game right now?'"

* Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle likely isn't going anywhere. Kaberle has waived his no-trade deal to facilitate a trade, but Burke said he doesn't see it happening. "It has to be a deal that blows my doors off and that hasn't happened."

*  Speaking of no-trade clauses, Burke was characteristically blunt: "No-trade contracts are coach killers. I hate them. They suck."

* Burke also said he has no intentions of pulling the plug on this season for a shot at the No. 1 pick, which he believes will be junior superstar John Tavares from the London Knights. "We'd have to lose a lot more games for that to happen," he said. "If I could make a trade today that would put us in the playoffs, I would do it right away. That's my job. Those aren't the kind of deals that are presenting themselves to us. Our job is to win as many games as we can."

10 questions

Forget the two-minute warning; we need the two-week warning for the NHL Trade Deadline.

And, fancy that, such a warning happens to fall today as we debut our "Writing on Deadline 2009" blog. Hopefully, the journalistic Idouble entendre in the title shined through. The brain trust spent a good portion of Wednesday racking their brains for that one.

We promise, though, we will be more spot-on with our analysis of completed trades and our discussions of rumored moves during the frenetic 14 days that remain before the 3 p.m. ET deadline on March 4. From now until then, this will be the place to get your trade deadline fix, no matter the hour, with the crack NHL staff serving as your tour guides to all things trade.

To get the Writing on Deadline blog ball rolling, let's start with the 10 questions facing the League and its member teams as the deadline begins to loom on the immediate horizon.

Will Brian Burke have to pay for extra minutes on his cell phone in the next couple of weeks?

Well, hopefully Burkie has the all-you-can-eat minutes plan and a Bluetooth headphone because his digits will be uber popular with his front-office peers. The new Toronto GM has declared a few players safe and put the rest of the roster on the market, including top forward Nik Antropov and a pair of puck-moving defensemen. Burke isn't afraid to pull the trigger when he has a chance to win now. In rebuilding mode, he should be among the most willing trade partners.

Can Keith Tkachuk get traded by St. Louis again?

The Blues dealt Tkachuk to Atlanta two years ago at the deadline for Glen Metropolit and an attractive package of draft picks. St. Louis then traded to reacquire Tkachuk that summer, returning a first-round pick to the Thrashers. So anything clearly is possible. But is it likely? Tkachuk is having a very good season and is deadly on the power play, but he has had limited playoff success and did nothing for Atlanta in its first-round ouster two years ago. Opposing GMs may sniff around, but won't be willing to pay the price Atlanta surrendered at the 2007 deadline.

What are the Devils going to do with three goalies?

All-world Martin Brodeur is scheduled to return from his long-term injury absence before the deadline, giving the Atlantic Division leaders a terrific boost in the form of a goalie who has won three Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal. But it also gives them the potential headache of carrying three goalies for the remainder of the season. Will GM Lou Lamoriello try to move one of them? If so, Kevin Weekes is likely the odd-man out -- and it is unclear what, if anything, he would command on the open market. Would a team like Montreal, with two young goalies, be interested in an experienced backup with some big-game experience?

Speaking of Montreal, will it put forward Alexei Kovalev on the market?

This would have been a non-starter as late as last week, but that was before the front office -- with the blessing of coach Guy Carbonneau -- decided to leave Kovalev behind during this week's two-game road swing. The free-falling Canadiens are desperate for points in the Eastern Conference race, yet deemed second-leading scorer Kovalev expendable. If that doesn't pique the interest of other GMs, we're not sure what will. Kovalev is still a goal-scorer with first-rate skills. He could blossom again in the right situation. Pittsburgh, anyone?

Will the Penguins make a move before the deadline?

GM Ray Shero says the answer is no, insisting the firing of Michel Therrien and the naming of new coach Dan Bylsma is the season-saving move he had up his sleeve. But it is hard to believe that Shero won't be intrigued by a finishing forward to pair with Crosby in hopes of recapturing the Marian Hossa magic from last season. There is also likely to be interest in bringing Colby Armstrong back into the fold after moving him to the Thrashers last year in the Hossa deal.

What about the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings?

GM Ken Holland made only one move at last year's deadline, astutely adding Brad Stuart to solidify his blue line. This year, it appears a goalie might be on the wish list -- and that will be a much harder bill to fill. Chris Osgood has not been very good all year and backup Ty Conklin has been a pleasant surprise but has little in the way of playoff pedigree.

So will there be any goalies on the market?

It will not be a buyer's market for those seeking a quality keeper. Minnesota might put free-agent-to-be Niklas Backstrom up for auction, but that's not a definite as the Wild are on the cusp of making the playoffs in the West. Regardless of that, GM Doug Risebrough would like to make Backstrom his franchise cornerstone if at all possible. The tightness of the race in the West and the youth of eliminated goalies in the East have put a huge damper on the market.

Are we in for a busy two weeks, then?

Of course, the trade deadline has always been a wild time. This year, though, the action might pick up even later than usual. There are several reasons for this, including the uncertain economic future that is affecting all facets of life. Owners will need more convincing than ever to take on salary. Also, let's not forget that the GM Meetings are a week later this year, falling after the deadline. Usually, they precede the deadline and serve as an incubator for what is to come as the GMs treat meeting breaks, dinners and golf outings as sounding boards for potential moves. Now that process will have to be conducted over phone lines and via e-mail. Finally, some sellers will not emerge until the final 48 hours because of the tightness of the races in both conferences. 

Will the Conference leaders -- San Jose and Boston -- do anything?

That's a tough call. San Jose has been good from Day 1 and is one of the deepest teams in the League. The Sharks have 15 regulars who play more than 13 minutes per game and are proficient at both ends of the ice. But it wouldn't be surprising to see GM Doug Wilson use some organizational assets to add a depth defenseman  or a faceoff-proficient center. Boston has never been much of a buyer at the deadline, but rarely have the Bruins been in this position. GM Peter Chiarelli has not been afraid to pull the trigger during his tenure in Beantown and he will be scouring the market for some skilled size to add to his roster. Whether he can find a match remains to be seen.

With all that said, who will be the biggest name moved by the time the curtain falls at 3 p.m. on March 4?

My money is on Chris Pronger, just because he would likely bring the biggest return if the Ducks fall out of the playoff race. Pronger has one year left on his current deal, so the pressure to move him usually associated with impending free agents isn't there. But he will be in high demand among the Eastern Conference's top playoff contenders as they look for separation from the pack. That means someone will cave under the pressure and make an offer the Ducks can't refuse. Who knows, maybe that team is Boston? It's hard to imagine a team featuring the Twin Towers of Zdeno Chara and Pronger being an easy out.

Want to know what NHL GMs are thinking as the phone lines start to burn and inboxes fill to capacity? Well then, have we got a treat.

Last spring, writer Dan Rosen, a team from NHL Productions and I all headed to Naples, Fla., for the GM Meetings, which fell just days before last year's trade deadline. It provided a unique opportunity to pick the brains of some of the game's top executives during a time when trades were actually being discussed.

Brian Burke, Lou Lamoriello, Scott Howson, Kevin Lowe and David Poile were among the GMs who were amazingly candid as they discussed their trading philosophies and the mechanics of bring a deal to fruition.

It was an amazing learning experience for me to be a part of those discussions, and it has allowed me to understand trades and the trade deadline.

Fortunately, we have archived those sessions. They can be found here. Our stories from that informative weekend are also kicking around.

I strongly suggest you play a few of the video clips and peruse a few stories to get an idea of how different GMs approach this process. You might just learn a thing or two that might help decipher all the rumors that will surface in the coming days.
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