Nearly a month ago, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke assured fans he wasn’t done seeking upgrades for his roster. Those upgrades have yet to materialize.
Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy wrote Leafs fans were impatiently waiting for Burke to add an experienced defenseman and a first-line center, suggesting the Leafs GM would have to get creative to address those needs before the start of the season.
Easier said than done.
It hasn’t been for lack of effort by Burke and his staff over the past month, but rather the lack of available talent in the trade and free agent markets.
When Martin Brodeur made his brief flirtation with unrestricted free agency before re-signing with the New Jersey Devils, he claimed he’d had several discussions with Burke and Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations Dave Nonis.
It’s believed Burke spoke with Vancouver Canucks management regarding the availability of goaltender Roberto Luongo (despite his misgivings over Luongo’s hefty contract), but reportedly found the Canucks’ asking price – rumored to include blueliner Jake Gardiner – exorbitant.
Even if Burke was willing to meet the Canucks’ price, there’s no guarantee Luongo would waive his no-trade clause to go to Toronto. If anything, he appears to be holding out for a return to the Florida Panthers.
The Leafs have been linked to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, though Burke recently claimed (through TSN’s Darren Dreger) he’d had no talks with the Kings.
That rumoured interest in Bernier highlights the lack of available experienced goaltenders.
Bernier has promise, but so does James Reimer, who was slated to be the Leafs’ starter in 2011-12 until he was sidelined by an early-season whiplash injury and, upon his return, struggled to regain the solid form he displayed in 2010-11.
Bernier could blossom into a star, but that’s not a certainty. At this stage, he’s not the experienced starter Burke sought earlier in the summer.
The lack of available first-line centers explains why the Leafs could give recently acquired left winger James van Riemsdyk a try at center during training camp.
It’s been suggested the Leafs should pursue Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, who played for Burke during his tenure as Ducks GM.
Getzlaf, 27, would be eligible for UFA status next summer. His offensive struggles last season (only 11 goals and 57 points in 82 games) prompted some pundits and rumor bloggers to suggest the Ducks could move him.
Odds are that won’t happen until mid-season at the earliest and that depends on Getzlaf’s performance and that of the Ducks, as well as the status of his contract negotiations.
Even if Getzlaf became available, there’s no certainty the Leafs would win a bidding war on the trade market for his services, let alone ink him to a long-term contract.
Burke’s supporters point to his ability to pull off blockbuster moves dating back to his years as Vancouver Canucks GM and hope he can make another one this summer to address at least one of the Leafs’ roster needs.
It’s not as though Burke has lost his ability to swing such deals, but it’s tough to make those moves when there are no willing trade partners and little available talent.
That’s why Leafs fans should prepare for the possibility of van Riemsdyk at center and Reimer and Ben Scrivens as the goalie tandem when the puck drops to open the season.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.