While it’s often tough to forecast a busy or casual summer for most NHL franchises, there tend to be a few who almost always find a way to captivate the hockey world with their bold moves. (The Philadelphia Flyers rank among the most aggressive traders around draft time, for example.)
One of the league’s most daring GMs is Toronto Maple Leafs executive Brian Burke, an outspoken team builder with the credibility of law degree. When you combine Burke’s candid nature with a rabid hockey market like Toronto, it’s not surprising that his words often carry a lot of weight around this time.
Maple Leafs fans want results – especially since the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the lockout ended – which puts the onus on head coach Ron Wilson (who must be sweating a bit after the team shuffled members of his coaching staff) and Burke to get things done. Who knows how much Burke can really get done considering the general perception that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft might not boast the talent of previous years, but he’s certainly talking a good game so far.
Appearing on the Bryan Hayes Show on TSN Radio on Monday, Leafs general manager Brian Burke made it clear that everything from current players to draft picks to cap space will be on the table if he can add to the roster for next season.
“We intend to use these assets and whatever assets are available on July 1 to improve our hockey club,” said Burke. “We do not intend to be an idle bystander on either day.”
However, if nothing can be worked out on the trade front, Burke is confident he can stockpile for the future in a draft where the Leafs currently possess the 25th and 30th overall picks. While many are talking about the likes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog, Burke feels the talent pool is deep this year.
“Once you get through that group, there’s a good pile of players that goes well past 50,” said Burke. “So if we keep those picks, we think we’ll get good prospects. It’s a deep draft that lacks star power but there’s plenty of talent there.”
An expected $64 million salary cap ceiling will give the “rich” teams like Burke’s Maple Leafs some interesting leeway this summer. Who knows if Toronto will use all of the $22+ million of cap space they currently own on a big-time free agent (*cough* Brad Richards *cough cough*). Don’t put it past Burke and his flair for the dramatics, though.