Sean Leahy

Brian Burke really, really wants John Tavares on the Leafs

Sean Leahy
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Just because Armageddon between two rivals is going down tonight doesn't meant we can't talk a little NHL Entry Draft, right?

Besides the playoffs and the Jim Balsillie-Phoenix saga, one story of interest around the National Hockey League has been Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs' never-ending quest to draft John Tavares, even though the Buds aren't slated to make a selection until pick No. 7.

As soon as Bill Daly announced that the New York Islanders had won the Draft Lottery, Leafs general manager Brian Burke was on the phone making his intentions known that he wants to draft the London Knights wunderkind. Islanders GM Garth Snow, keeping his cards close to his chest (likely covered by an oversized chest protector like he wore in his NHL days), has not announced whether or not the franchise will take Tavares, Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, or Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene, who's been slowly creeping up the draft board for many teams.

With Burke not finding any luck in trying to forge a deal with Snow, he's set his sights on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who hold the No. 2 selection. Rumor had it that the looking-to-dump-salary Lightning would be trading Ryan Malone(notes) and his $4.5 million/year salary along with the second overall pick to Toronto for the Leafs pick at No. 7.

Then yesterday, Sportsnet reported that if the Leafs wanted to move up to No. 2, the deal would have to also include defensemen Tomas Kaberle(notes) and Luke Schenn(notes). Burke refuted the rumors and said that Schenn isn't going anywhere.

So who does Burke think he can give away in order to get a prospect who's been highly touted since his early teens? Jason Blake(notes) or Jeff Finger(notes) with their bloated contracts? Lee Stempniak(notes)? Jamal Mayers(notes)?

The pieces that would even have Tampa Bay or New York give a moment's thought about trading away their spot in the Draft would be if Schenn and/or Kaberle were involved in the talks. The Leafs also aren't exactly the late-1990's Montreal Expos stock-piled with high-level prospects.

Is this Burke's way of playing with the Toronto media and giving them the impression he's truly attempting to get the hometown boy?

This process might be a tad easier if Garth Snow and the Islanders would just come out and say they're taking Tavares. Despite covering all bases and inviting Hedman and Duchene to New York to meet with Islanders brass, the Islanders need to draft Tavares, as I've written before.

Instead, Snow isn't saying who the team is leaning towards and decided to poll their fans on who the Islanders should take with the No. 1 pick.

That move prompted Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber to offer Snow a little advice when the Hall of Famer writer appeared on TSN's "The Reporters":

"There are great hockey scouts right there, and they know what they're doing. This is an insult - one, to your scouts. Garth Snow's team is going to look at John Tavares, maybe make him number one, or the tall drink of water from Sweden named Victor Hedman. But if you are listening to your fans, it's an insult because you're pandering people who don't know what they're doing. It was Marv Levy who once said, 'If you start listening to fans, you end up sitting with them.' Listening is a bad idea.'"

Not necessarily a bad thing, Michael, when those same fans are the ones who will decide whether or not they want to fork over the cash to show up at Nassau Coliseum next season to see Jeff Tambellini(notes) or John Tavares.

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