It's been a busy week for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke; one that ended with Tomas Kaberle(notes) finally agreeing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Boston after months and months of speculation.
It was the fourth trade Burke's made in this month following his plan for the revamping of the franchise. But even after the dust settled from these Burke's moves, there's no feeling that the direction of the Maple Leafs is anywhere closer to turning things around.
Between Burke's stockpiling of draft picks and prospects, there's only hope ... hope that the likes of Joe Colborne(notes) and Jake Gardiner develop into quality NHL players and that the handful of picks Burke's collected can become valuable assets or valuable trading chips.
According to Burke, his plan is the "right way" to get to the playoffs and avoid a one-and-done April scenariol:
"Getting into the playoffs by the skin of your teeth and getting your ass kicked in the first round is not my idea of building a championship team here," Burke huffed after reporters prodded why the Leafs were selling off assets even as they moved up the standing. "We're trying to get into the playoffs the right way.
"This is a guy that walks on July 1 for nothing, and we got a prospect and a first-round pick for him. So you can score it anyway you want."
The National Post's Bruce Arthur writes that Burke now having these potential trading chips are fine, but being able to cash them in for their worth will be the biggest test of the Leafs' turnaround:
But with Burke, it's only partly about this move; it's about what he does with the next move. He is selling now, and buying later. He is trying to find young, promising, undervalued players, or restricted free agents, or young players whose teams can't afford them. Which means he is only trying to add the coin of the NHL realm, these days, plus probably Dallas's Brad Richards(notes) as a free agent July 1.
"It's not what we wanted precisely," Burke said. "But it's assets in the shopping cart and now we're going to see what we can turn them into. Ideally, we turn them into a young player."
Can he do it? Maybe. At least he is not in it for the extreme short term, but it just seems like the hardest possible route. Burke tried to pry big 21-year-old winger James van Riemsdyk(notes) from Philadelphia in the Versteeg deal, according to Tim Panaccio of Comcast Sports Net, but settled for a first-rounder which he will now try to flip.
More and more, teams are locking up the great young players before they ever hit the open market; you can get a Versteeg or even a Dustin Byfuglien(notes) in the right circumstances, and maybe better. But when free agency is dry and trades are blunted, how do you acquire the kind of centrepieces that make a Stanley Cup team? How do you filch crown jewels?