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Leafs Moves Were Made Before Deadline

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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What you see is what you get.

The Toronto Maple Leafs made only one minor move at Monday’s trade deadline, sending centre John Mitchell to the New York Rangers for a seventh-round choice in the 2012 draft.

The Leafs enter the final 19 games of their schedule with a playoff berth within reach and if you think this season has been uneventful, you have overlooked the cavalcade of roster players obtained in the summer and through the course of the regular season.

That would be Clarke MacArthur, the team’s leading scorer and most enticing trade bait, dependable forward Colby Armstrong, Joffrey Lupul up to now a strong two-way player, Tim Brent, an astonishing addition to the power play, grinder Joey Crabb, free agent defenceman Brent Lebda, Keith Aulie and of course, James Reimer who is as close to a franchise netminder as a 10-win goalie can be. Add in a pair of late first-round 2011 draft choices and a third rounder. Now blend in two more blue chip prospects, centre Joe Colborne and defenceman Jake Gardiner are wintering with the Marlies and the University of Wisconsin Badgers.

Gone are Francois Beauchemin, Kristopher Versteeg and Tomas Kaberle.


Maybe there is something to Brian Burke’s notion that while he would listen to offers, the major brushstrokes have already hit the canvas.

“I’m not disappointed or surprised we weren’t able to do anything today,” said the Leafs’ GM.
“We set our prices, threw our lines in the water, but didn’t get a bite.”

The major target for rival GMs was MacArthur ditched by Atlanta after an arbitrator set his salary at $2.4 million a season. Signed for $1.1 million by the Leafs, MacArthur has produced a career-high 19 goals and 48 points.

MacArthur was also a player who cost the Leafs nothing but money and whose salary will increase somewhere around three times over the next several seasons.

“We got several calls on Clarke.” Burke said. “We are going to continue to try to sign him and if we go to arbitration we are prepared to sign him through that too.”

As demonstrated so amply in Atlanta when Reimer went down with a two-goal lead and the Leafs were lucky to extricate a point, the team’s glaring weaknesses move a little closer to incidental with him in net.

Weaknesses aren’t fixed by doing nothing.

Phil Kessel still doesn’t have an ideal centreman. Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers was said to be on the market, but all Kessel has done is score eight points in four games and win the NHL’s player of the week honours. Maybe he doesn’t need a centre.

The Leafs crave a mobile defenceman. Burke repeatedly listed a slick rearguard as his number one wish, but they have 2.78 goals against after the all-star break so something is being moved somewhere.

Having spent better than two years securing a young, upwardly mobile roster and an improved prospect list allowed Burke to take a conservative tack on deadline day. He said he had absolutely no idea if any of the proposals he put out were close to being accepted.

“You make the call and the other GM is mulling it over,” he said. “You don’t know if they had a heated debate or a good laugh. I couldn’t tell you.”

What this relative inactivity means is hard to ascertain. Four points out of the playoffs, the Leafs play 15 times in March and face Philadelphia, Boston and Buffalo twice each. They play Pittsburgh and the Carolina Hurricanes once. If they win, it won’t be against strangers.

Let’s try to put Monday in perspective.

Only one of the players who changed teams, Dustin Penner, could be defined as a game-changer. Bringing Penner, a hulking if inconsistent forward to L.A. cost the Kings, a first rounder, a conditional second and minor league defenceman Colten Teubert.

So if that was the deal, a first, a second and say Keith Aulie, would Burke have been wise to grab a 28-year-old player who will deliver 25 or so goals for $4.2 million next year and then hits free agency.

Hard to say but apparently not too hard for him…at least not now.
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