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Deadline deals don't always pan out

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Heading into his second season as analyst for Leafs TV, freelance sports writer Scott Burnside gives you some of the best Leafs insight. You can watch Scott on numerous Leafs TV programs including Leafs Today and The Reporters.

by Scott Burnside
-- Leafs TV

Hold out your hands. In one hand put Rob Blake. In the other put Aki Berg.

Okay, so it's not exactly the scales of justice. But that has been the lot in life for the Toronto Maple Leafs come trade deadline time under coach and GM Pat Quinn.

At the NHL's annual trading banquet, the Leafs have been forced to sit at the childrens' table away from the big boys like Colorado's Pierre Lacroix, Detroit's Ken Holland and New York Rangers' GM cum coach on a hot seat Glen Sather who yesterday acquired this year's deadline blue plate special Alexei Kovalev.

There are of course well-documented reasons for appetizer-sized trade deadline acquisitions that include Tom Barrasso (2002), Aki Berg (2001), Wade Belak (2001, waivers) and Darcy Tucker (2000).

The Leafs in recent years have either refused to jump at the big deal (Eric Lindros in 2001) or had too few assets with which to pursue trade deadline gems like Blake who, along with Steven Reinprecht, went from Los Angeles to Colorado in 2001 for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, a player to be named later (Jared Aulin), a first round pick and future considerations.

By almost any measuring stick, the Leafs are a country mile ahead having kept Tomas Kaberle and the blossoming Nik Antropov while Lindros languishes in New York.

Still, critics will always wonder why it?s always the other teams that seem to get the big names when the annual playoff stockpiling takes place, a familiar refrain that will no doubt be heard again after the Rangers landed Kovalev along with Pittsburgh teammates Janne Laukkanen, Dan Lacouture and Mike Wilson for Rico Fata, Mikael Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner and an estimated US$4-million.

Of course there is truth in the old saying, "one man's garbage is another man's treasure" and not all trade deadline deals turn into a champagne kiss from Lord Stanley's mug.

A year ago Sather plucked Pavel Bure and a second round pick from Florida for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak, a first and second round pick at last year's draft and a fourth round pick at this year's draft. Although Bure played well the Rangers missed the playoffs just as they are poised to again this year.

Lacroix miscalculated on last year's big deadline star, Darius Kasparaitis as the Avalanche crumbled under defensive lapses to eventual Cup winners Detroit.

Theo Fleury did little when Lacroix grabbed the troubled forward and Chris Dingman in exchange for Rene Corbet, Wade Belak, Robyn Regehr and a second round compensatory pick in 1999.

The Flyers acquisition of veteran playmaker Adam Oates a year ago made little difference as Philadelphia self-destructed in the first round to the Ottawa Senators.

But the theory persists that you can't win if you don't buy a ticket and the deadline is often the ticket wicket that offers buyers the best chance to the big dance.

The Leafs, of course, have two conference final appearances and at least one playoff series win in each of the past four years so Quinn must be doing something right although that often gets lost in the frenzy that a million trade rumours creates.

Still, there remains a different buzz about the Leafs this season.

There is the report of a secret (or not so secret as the case may be) war chest of cash to land the usually expensive trade deadline pieces. And for the first time in years the Leafs arsenal of assets is finally in the black.

The Leafs have led all NHL teams in the number of prospects on display at the World Juniors the past two years and players like Brad Boyes, Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt Stajan and Alexander Steen suddenly make the Leafs an attractive trading partner. But who should fans look for as possible blue and white additions and who are the red herrings?

Herein five players that we like to garner serious consideration and five we'd take a pass on.

Yes, please

1. Brian Leetch, New York Rangers; Yes, the veteran Gothamite has a no-trade clause contract and has been hobbled by an ankle injury for much of the season. But if coach and GM Glen Sather can't make good on his Ruthian prediction of a playoff run (as of this writing he had failed to win a single game) Leetch could be on the move and the Leafs have the prospects Sather will need to re-seed the Ranger flower bed.

2. Mathieu Schneider, Los Angeles; A former Leaf who, like many Los Angeles teammates could be on the move, would fit in nicely, possibly as a partner for Bryan McCabe.

3. Dmitry Yushkevich, Los Angeles; The popular warrior's six-year tenure in Toronto ended badly with a blood clot and disagreement over whether he should have played in the playoffs. But Yushkevich has said all is forgiven and he'd like to return to Quinn's lineup and could help resurrect McCabe's season. (Too bad the Leafs can't forgive Yushkevich's agent Mark Gandler, the real obstacle to his return.)

4. Aaron Miller, Los Angeles; Are you sensing a defensive trend here? Injuries have limited Miller to just 24 games this season but he logs 21-plus minutes a night and has come into his own since being traded from Colorado in the Blake deal.

5. Ziggy Palffy, Los Angeles; Okay, honestly we had Kovalev's name here. But Palffy is a close second to Kovalev in terms of his offensive acumen (51 points in 49 games for the injury riddled Kings). Even if it costs Nik Antropov, Carlo Colaiacovo and the entire war chest, the Leafs will regret not making the best pitch possible to bring him into the fold.

No thank-you

1. Owen Nolan, San Jose; plagued by injuries and inconsistent play Nolan will always be one of those players that looks better on paper than in the flesh. His playoff point production (18 goals in 51 career playoff games) is a red flag.

2. Aaron Ward, Carolina; the 6-foot-2, bull-like Ward is among those Hurricanes rumoured to be on the block as they plummet out of the playoff race. While his physical play will make some Leaf fans salivate his play with the puck is the reason he couldn't stick in Detroit and why Carolina is looking to shed his salary. As for awkward puck handlers on the back end, the Leafs surely have their quota.

3. Bob Boughner, Calgary; Tough as nails, yes. But the veteran rear guard would bring little to the mix.

4. Bryan Marchment, San Jose; see Boughner above. The one element that makes Marchment attractive is that he's from the Toronto area and the rest of the league hates him, which fits in well with the Leafs superiority complex.

5. Glen Wesley, Carolina; Popular defenceman is long in the tooth and while has offensive skills they don't make up for a drop off in physical presence.

Look back at other Scott Burnside columns:

  • Maple Leafs first half in review
  • Aggressive Antropov back in the swing of things
  • Kaberle shooting off at the stick
  • View More