I’ve said for a while that the biggest indictment of the Maple Leafs’ current woes is the fact there isn’t a single player, on the NHL roster or in their development system, who anyone in their right mind would consider as “untouchable.”
Upon further reflection, that’s not quite true. The majority of Toronto’s roster is, in fact, untouchable; the problem is, it’s the 29 other teams that don’t want to touch Leafs players in any potential trade.
Where does that leave interim Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher (and his eventual replacement) in their efforts to better the team? Not in the land of sugarplums and rainbows – but, contrary to popular belief, not past the point of no return, either.
For many reasons, Fletcher will have more options after the season ends. So let’s look at some of the Leafs’ bigger names and see who has the best odds of getting dealt, and who will be back no matter what.
Pavel Kubina In his first 1½ seasons in Toronto, Kubina looked like the biggest waste of $5 million a year since Mila Mulroney’s shoe budget came off the books on Parliament Hill. However, the strangest thing has happened of late: the guy is playing (a) well, and (b) consistently well. (And no, I wasn’t drinking as I wrote this.)
When you consider a top-level defenseman such as San Jose’s Brian Campbell will get a $7-million-a-year contract on the free agent market, a $5-million blueliner isn’t nearly so overpaid. And since there’s a window this summer where Kubina’s no-trade clause is suspended, you can start waving bye-bye to the Big Czech/Cheque now.
Jason Blake If the NHL kept stats on shots on net taken from the blueline that have no chance of going in, Blake would be the runaway winner. He’s got four years and $15 million left on his contract ($4 million cap hit each season), which all but guarantees he’ll be back in town next season.
Darcy Tucker The tough winger suffered through a host of injuries and under-whelmed observers with his on-ice performance most of the year. Like Blake, he’s difficult to deal, unless Toronto plans on accepting another team’s undesirables in return.
Andrew Raycroft Two words: contract buyout.
Bryan McCabe Just messing with you. McCabe and his $5.75 million-a-season contract will be in Toronto until he becomes a free agent in 2011. Stock up on Kleenex supplies while you can.
This Column also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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