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Maple Leafs Watch: Looking forward to the trade deadline

Trade deadline season is always a blast for hockey fans; the nervous speculation of comers and goers ramps up into a frothing frenzy, a guy who knows a guy swears Ryan Smyth is coming to town, then the day comes and nothing is ever as predicted. Rumors of the overall demise of deadline day naturally dissipate when the trades start to come down in the morning and the inevitable letdown completes the process when your team doesn’t get The Guy you were anticipating.

Once again this year, the Maple Leafs will be sellers at the trade deadline. The name of the game will be shedding contracts and the veterans who hold them, and in return, hopefully, will come a bevy of future draft picks and perhaps some blue chip prospects.

But let’s first address one of the current rumors that truly cements the legacy of deadline day, which we in the business often call “silly season.” The rumor? That GM Brian Burke will bring in one of the main pillars of his Stanley Cup champion team from Anaheim, behemoth defenseman Chris Pronger.

While the big man may be moved by the struggling Ducks (though both the blueliner and his team looked good in thrashing upstart Phoenix earlier this week), sending him to the Leafs makes no sense based on the traditional parameters of a deadline deal.

Acquiring Pronger, while likely shedding other veterans on the current lineup, neither makes the Leafs good enough to be a contender, nor helps them rebuild. And for those pro-tanking fans out there, it certainly doesn’t make a run at the John Tavares draft sweepstakes any easier to win. Under no scenario do the Leafs benefit from a Pronger acquisition, as good as he is. So let’s just lock that one away.

Having said that, the Leafs do have blueliners to move and Tomas Kaberle is the most attractive. His contract is reasonable for a contender to pick up and he has the much-vaunted puck-moving skills that made Brian Campbell the darling of last year’s trade deadline.

Up front, the Buds are also looking to unload talent, but that talent hasn’t exactly been helping them out lately. Nik Antropov, he of the big body and so much potential, has been in a desolate funk lately, dropping his stock on the open market. The lanky Kazakh hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 20 against Pittsburgh and doesn’t even have a point in the past three games. At 28 years of age, it’s unlikely Antropov will get any better than he is now and that ceiling seems to be of a 20-goal scorer, 25 tops.

The main goals of the Buds at this year’s deadline is to replenish draft picks lost in summer pickups of role players such as Ryan Hollweg and Jamal Mayers. It may be hard to stomach losing Antropov, who is essentially the one offensive weapon opposing teams look out for right now. The truth of the matter is Burke would probably be satisfied with a second round pick and maybe one later selection, too.

Kaberle would naturally reap a bigger reward and a late first round pick is not out of the question. If the buyer is particularly desperate, maybe a prospect gets thrown in for good measure. Then we’ll have the hard evidence of what Burke can do for this team.

This article also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.

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