Matt Stajan

Brian Burke told reporters over the past weekend that making the playoffs this season is still his priority.


The Leafs have the 28th most wins in the NHL with 17. Their average offence (2.60 goals per game has them sitting in 18th) is completely overshadowed by an abysmal 3.40 goals against. Heading in to the season, the defence that Burke constructed was supposed to be among the stingiest in the league. However, due in large part to a combination of abysmal goaltending and an unfathomably bad penalty kill, the Leafs simply can’t keep the puck out of their own net.


Sure, we believe you Brian.

Burke’s most valuable trading asset (aside from the 2012 1st round pick) is Tomas Kaberle. However, Burke claims he won’t pressure Kaberle to waive his no trade clause, and Kaberle has emphatically stated that he does not want to leave Toronto.  However, if the Leafs miss the playoffs this year, Kaberle’s no trade clause becomes void and they are free to move him in the summer.


After Kaberle, the Leafs have a number of decent players who will undoubtedly be made available at the deadline. Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, and Lee Stempniak are all impending unrestricted free agents. Jamal Mayers, Wayne Primeau, and Rickard Wallin are as well, but the Leafs would be lucky to get a mid round pick for any of them. The only free agents on defence are Mike Van Ryn, and Garnet Exelby. Van Ryn, who is currently on the mend from a serious knee operation, may never be a solid NHL defenseman again, and Exelby has never even been one. Vesa Toskala is a free agent, and his value is around nothing at best. The Leafs may get creative and move him out to make room for an overpaid, underperforming goalie (JS Giguere, for example), but a salary dump is probably the only reason any other NHL club would take Vesa on at this point.


Alexei Ponikarovsky is a solid top six forward who will be coveted by a number teams on deadline day. He plays a simple game and is willing to go to the dirty areas to get his goals. He is on pace for 28 goals and 210 shots on goal. Contending teams that need a top six forward include Pittsburgh and Colorado. The Leafs are hoping that Ponikarovsky is able to fetch them a 1st round pick, but considering that Nik Antropov only went for a 2nd last year, that line of thinking is probably on the overly optimistic side. Look for the Leafs to deal Ponikarovsky for a 2nd round pick and a solid prospect. Pittsburgh would be a great fit, and Ponikarovsky’s fantasy value would obviously shoot up drastically playing with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.


Like Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan is a solid top six forward. He is dependable defensively, and is starting to blossom offensively as well. He is on pace for 23 goals and 59 points, although those numbers a bit inflated as he is playing a bigger role on Toronto then he would on most other teams. Still, he has taken advantage of extra ice time and that deserves some praise. Teams looking for a steady 2nd or 3rd line center will have interest in Stajan, but his value won’t be much higher than a 2nd round pick.


The St. Louis Blues sold high on Lee Stempniak when they dealt him to the Leafs early last season, after recognizing that his 27 goal season in 2006-07 was probably a bit of an anomaly. Since posting career totals that season, Stempniak has only 40 goals in 208 games split between St. Louis and Toronto (approximately a 16 goal pace over 82 games). Stempniak doesn’t contribute much else when he isn’t producing. He has been playing the point on the Leafs power play at times, but that is more of a reflection of Toronto's lack of skill. If he gets moved, expect the Leafs to get a 3rd or 4th round pick in return.

 

The Leafs and Burke are in a tough situation. A rebuild makes obvious sense, but any selling done at the deadline will only worsen the sting of not owning their 2010 1st round pick. Additionally, the Leafs have lots of salary committed to players that have little-to-no trade value. Leafs fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for an impressive haul on deadline day. A few new draft picks, some decent new prospects, and a lot of Brian Burke interviews would be a reasonable and logical outcome to expect.


Toronto would be able to fetch a decent return for Ian White, but speculation around Toronto is that the team would like to lock White up long term. He has been the most consistent Leaf all season at both ends of the ice. White's rapid development from press box fodder (Ron Wilson healthy scratched him numerous times early on last season) to arguably the team MVP this season has been nothing short of amazing.

 

As I wrote in a recent article, keep an eye on Viktor Stalberg, Christian Hanson, and Tyler Bozak after deadline day. The Leafs will have some open roster spots up front and will want to evaluate their young talent as they head towards another summer of rebuilding.


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Logan said:

EasyL
Hagman Dreger suggested yesterday that the most intriguing name the Leafs could move (and the one garnering the most interest) is Nik Hagman. He had 27 goals last year and could hit 30 this year - that's on the anemic Leafs roster. If paired with a legitimate top forward (like Crosby or Malkin) he would immediately be considered a 35-40 goal scorer with a reasonable contract and 1 year left on his deal. Someone like that (as Dreger mentioned) could easily fetch a 1st rd pick if Burke's willing to deal him to the right team.

Combine that with Poni (2nd and a prospect) and Stajan (2nd) and the Leafs could actually end up with a few picks in the top 60 without even dealing Kaberle or White.
January 28, 2010
Votes: +1

Jon Dey said:

Sovereign
... Poni is gonna get every opportunity to increase his scoring pace. If he can "up it" to even 29 or 30 goal pace on the leafs, I think a lot of teams will be interested, and teams that are expected to go deep, like PIT, who may end up with a very low first round pick like 26+ then the leafs have that shot at getting a first for him, even if its on a conditional basis of them making the 3rd round or something like that. No way do I see them trading him to a fringe team in a 7-8 spot which will net them a 15+ pick. The same COULD be said for Stajan as almost everybody seems to play better outside of Toronto, the media pressure and constant banter of Arm-chair GMs is rediculous.

No dare I say this - in some crazy "Fear-and-Loathing-in-Las-Vegas" fantasy trip - that Burke manages to get that price for both Stajan and Poni, and then either now or at the draft table gets a high first for Kaberle.Everyone in T.O. will chime in about how he is the greatest GM ever. The fans in T.dot are that re-dunk-ulous.
January 26, 2010
Votes: +1

Nights said:

Nights
Stempy As a Leafs fan who has seen a good portion of their season up to date, I can say that Stempniak has transformed from the role he seemed to be primed for (top 6 offensive winger) into a more reliable, consistent, defensive role. Along with ?Nik Kulemin and Wayne Primeau, Stempniak was part of an effective checking line for the leafs. Stempniak works hard, checks well, is responsible defensively and goes in for the puck.

In the NHL, that makes him a solid checking forward with offensive potential (27 goals is still 27 goals). He's be a solid 3rd line checking winger with the possibility of PP production and ability to play in an offensive role if needed.

At most, a 3rd-4th round pick, but nonetheless, he has his uses when he isn't producing, which isn't something you can say about most of the Toronto forwards.

Stajan is hard to say. He's not good enough for a checking role (defensively), but not good enough to be top 2 center. He's a great depth option, and could be worth a 2nd in the right situation, but on a contending team, he's a depth forward who's on the 3rd line, ready to fill in whenever.
January 26, 2010
Votes: +1

Brandon Landry said:

littleranger
Suitable fit for Stajan As I no longer live in Toronto its hard for me to weigh in on Stajans talent as when I saw him on a regular basis he was still learning the ropes. But I think he could be a temporary fix for the NY Rangers as they desperately need to find a center for Gaborik. I'm sure Stajans talent can't match Gabbys but he played very well with Kessel which means he could almost keep up with the Slovak.

I also think Exelby could be a fit for the Rangers. The team needs some grit on the back end (as displayed by the Carcillo vs. Gaborik debocle).

Of course I am just spreading nonsense, but I believe Higgins and a 2nd rounder (maybe a little more) for Stajan and Exelby. This way Leafs get a 'top 6 player' and it would be nice if Higgins played well just to shove it in Montreal's face.

Thoughts?
January 26, 2010
Votes: +0
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