Sell, sell, sell: That's what it is all about now for the free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who once again teased fans for a while with their playoff aspirations before crashing spectacularly down to earth.
Maple Leafs fans are so used to the meltdown by now that they're almost numb to it. What's different this year, however, is that team president Brendan Shanahan is in his first season in charge, and Shanahan had already seen enough weeks ago to know it was time to bring substantial change to the roster.
This group is not going to win as it is currently set up. While Shanahan's long-term vision is based more on drafting and development (there's Detroit Red Wings blood in him), in the short term there's no question his marching orders to the rest of the front office -- led by general manager Dave Nonis -- are to get the best return on pending unrestricted free agents the team won't be re-signing.
Available: There's almost nobody on this roster who isn't available, to be honest. Most available, obviously, are pending unrestricted free agents such as David Booth, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik and Cody Franson.
There have been contract talks of late between the Leafs and Franson's camp, but the team's apparent three-year offer around $4.5 million a year is below what he could get on July 1 on the open market, in terms of both length and dollars. Unless the Leafs change their offer, you can bet on Franson being moved.
Franson is a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman with a high hockey IQ, so he will be in high demand and the Leafs can do well here in terms of returning assets.
Toronto would certainly like to see if there are any takers out there for Joffrey Lupul and his $5.25 million cap hit. The Leafs have been trying to move him for a long time, and the oft-injured Lupul has three more years on his deal after this season.
Finances: With so many contending teams tight against the salary cap, this is where the Leafs could find some takers. Their pending UFAs have mostly cheap cap hits, such as Booth's $1.1 million, Santorelli's $1.5 million and Winnik's $1.3 million. There are a number of contenders looking for a forward who can play anywhere from the second line to the fourth, and Santorelli and Winnik are effective players who fit the bill, and their cap hits are low.
Scouting the GM: Nonis is the GM, but Shanahan will have an important say during his first trade-deadline dealings. No question the Leafs will be ready to make bigger deals at some point in time to reshape the roster -- including potentially listening to offers for captain Dion Phaneuf and forward Phil Kessel -- but those types of blockbusters normally occur in the offseason around the June draft, when more teams can get involved.
Back to Nonis, though, whose own future is in doubt. Some people wonder if he'll be back as the GM next season, so this is an important trade deadline for him to show his new boss he can bring back some nice assets as the Leafs commence their roster remodeling.