The morning after the Kris Versteeg trade, Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate Leafs GM Brian Burke's next move:
Burnside: Well, my friend, hope you are warming your bones down in Tampa and getting ready for what should be a good tilt Tuesday between the Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers.
You'll get a look at the newest Flyer, Kris Versteeg, who was acquired Monday night from Toronto for the hefty price of a first- and third-round pick in this June's draft. My question is: Are there going to be any players left to move on the Feb. 28 trade deadline?
Versteeg was made expendable by the Leafs' acquisition of Joffrey Lupul. Will Versteeg be better on a deeply talented Philly roster? Not sure, although I think the Flyers hope he'll boost the power play. As for the Leafs, they aren't done, at least according to GM Brian Burke. He's already put the third-rounder in play and would like to add a forward. Have to believe defenseman Tomas Kaberle will be the next Leaf to leave the center of the hockey universe.
LeBrun: When I spoke with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren this past Saturday, he indicated his wish was to add a forward before Feb. 28. Little did anyone know he had already contacted Burke about Versteeg at that point. When I spoke to Versteeg on Thursday he was wondering where he'd end up, and the Flyers weren't among the guesses, but he was beyond thrilled when we traded texts last night after the trade. He has joined the top team in the East and has a chance at a second straight Cup. We shouldn't be surprised the Flyers wanted to make this move. Holmgren obviously had the need for a forward in his head after failing to acquire Jamie Langenbrunner from New Jersey earlier this season.
As for the Leafs, Kaberle's days should be numbered unless he blocks a deal via his no-trade clause, but I don't think he'll do that.
As for Feb. 28, there will still be plenty of activity, always is! It's also worth pointing out that the four players who have moved over the past week -- Versteeg, Lupul, Mike Fisher and Francois Beauchemin -- all had contract terms past this season. The rentals tend to move closer to the deadline.
Burnside: You and I were chatting recently that the days of GMs trading first-round picks for players at the deadline was over. Well, in the past week two players, Fisher and Versteeg, have commanded packages that included a first-round pick. The reason is obvious: Both players have time on their existing contracts, so Nashville and Philadelphia know they will have assets moving forward, but not past the end of the current collective-bargaining agreement. So Nashville GM David Poile and Holmgren thought it was an acceptable risk.
I'm still not sure what the market is going to be for a straight rental, but we'll find out when players like Chris Phillips in Ottawa and Kaberle move. There is a high demand for defensemen, but with half a dozen teams looking to add a puck-moving defenseman, there is a very small group of players who fit that bill (Kaberle and Carolina's Joni Pitkanen are the top guys). So how great will the demand be for Kaberle, assuming he waives his NTC?
I'm guessing he will be on the move, and it's a question of how much teams like Montreal and/or Boston will pony up. Burke has made no secret he wants players who can play now, or in the very near future, so the ground rules have been set.
LeBrun: The Fisher deal really helped set the price for Versteeg. Burke would have preferred an actual roster player in the deal (in a perfect world, James van Riemsdyk), but once the Preds and Sens made their deal, the Flyers knew they could get Versteeg for a lower first-round pick as the main carrot.
I think Burke was being honest last night when he said it wasn't his priority to get a first-round pick back to make up for the picks lost in the Phil Kessel deal. First of all, the Flyers' pick is closer to a second-rounder than a lottery pick. But whether Burke cares or not, the Leafs getting that pick from the Flyers will play well in Toronto from an optics standpoint. Now Toronto has 10 picks overall in June; that's what fans want to see.
Burnside: Versteeg will be an interesting fit in Philly. He should help an already deep team, but this is his third team in less than a year, so you wonder how his confidence will be. I don't think it's a given that he'll light it up in Philadelphia (see: Nikolay Zherdev).
The Kaberle deal is where Burke has a chance to hit a home run, though. He told reporters last night Kaberle and his agent Rick Curran have insisted on total secrecy, but this is the guy Burke has to move given his failed attempts to get something for the asset in the past. I think Burke will score big because the market is so thin for this type of player. Hard to see the Habs giving up a Max Pacioretty or the Bruins giving up on a player like young Brad Marchand, but you know Burke will be asking for the moon. Will he get it?
LeBrun: The impediment for Burke is Kaberle won't go just anywhere. Montreal, Boston, Tampa, Philadelphia, the New York Rangers ... not sure if Kaberle would OK a deal anywhere else. We'll see. But there's big-time pressure on Burke; he can't let Kaberle walk away for free July 1.
As for Versteeg, I don't share your doubts about his fit in Philly. He'll fit right in, whether it's alongside Mike Richards or Claude Giroux, and be effective. Versteeg showed last spring he can step up in big games. And like last season in Chicago, he'll be protected by the higher-end talent on the team, which will allow him more room to do his thing. In Toronto, he was forced into a first-line role he just wasn't up to. Now he's back to the kind of role he thrives in. Until tomorrow, my friend.