Morning Mashup: Silly Season Speculation


Photo: Getty Images

Of course, the acquisition of Jeff Carter by the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t simply put to bed the rumours surrounding one potential Leaf trade target, it sprung to life another. Word broke yesterday that, in wake of the Carter acquisition, Kings GM Dean Lombardi could be open to moving power forward and captain Dustin Brown if the price is right.

Now, every name that hits the rumour mill gets dressed in an imaginary Leafs uniform, but a name like Dustin Brown strikes me (and surely Burke) with considerable intrigue. At 27, signed for two more seasons at 3.175 million, the possibility of Brown’s availability must make Burke’s eyes light up. A member of his Team USA silver medal winning 2010 Olympic team, Brown brings experience, leadership, a physical presence for the top six (2nd in the NHL in hits, and he hits hard), and could add a new dimension to the Leaf attack. Not to put too much value or significance into any one player, Brown poses an attractive solution, or at least part solution, to many of the Leafs deficiencies in the forward ranks with his skill and toughness package. It’s no wonder there’s consensus among the insiders that Burke would have a major interest in the 27-year-old if available.

Now, the numbers aren’t particularly flattering and it’s easy to dismiss Brown as just any 20 goal guy (and to some teams, he would be just that). It tells you something that Dean Lombardi, with his job on the line, has opted to take on Jeff Carter and potentially move out his Captain in Brown. His team is better on paper than it is in the standings, largely thanks to offensive underachievement, and Lombardi appears to be considering a change to his team’s leadership. As far as the Leafs are concerned, this is less about production and more about player type and filling needs specific to them. They need more forwards capable of engaging physically, winning a board battle, setting a physical tone, and bringing dogged puck pursuit to the rink. They need more physical momentum turners. Brown is a great start, and he’s a safe bet to net 20-25 goals in the process. That has way more value than you think, particularly to the Leafs.

For instance, Brown probably won’t score as many as Clarke MacArthur will this season, but Brown will be more noticeable not scoring than Clarke MacArthur is when he does. This Leaf team’s problem is not offensive production, it’s in their lack of diversity and options up front. A game like Thursday’s against San Jose (and there have been many like it) is precisely the type of game where you need a few players who can go out and get the team involved physically by disrupting the other team’s rhythm. Sometimes this Leafs team, as skilled and fast as it is, struggles to get “into” a game and has a tough time sustaining offensive zone pressure. The easiest way to get into a game is with some hard physical play. The opponent thinks twice, bounces start going your way, turnovers happen, mistakes are forced. The current forward group simply does not offer enough of this, and too often we’re left looking to bad bounces or a hot goalie as an explanation as to how we ended up on the wrong end of a scoreline like Thursday night’s.

The question, as always, surrounds the price; Lombardi is showing intent this season after much patience for many a season in Hollywood, and dealing his captain and an offensive leader won’t come without its cost. As well, the Kings added Carter and took on a risky contract with the idea of adding to the offense. The premise around Brown’s potential availability is that, in wake of the Carter deal, Dean Lombardi will need to move out a contractual commitment or two to compensate for such a mammoth obligation. As well, the hole in the blueline left behind by Jack Johnson could be filled with an asset retrieved in the trade.

The price Pierre Lebrun listed in an article yesterday was Luke Schenn and Matt Frattin. Matt Frattin has the capability of growing into a Brown-lite, both in terms of production and physical play. He doesn’t quite have Brown’s build, but uses the frame he has effectively and could easily become a 20-20-40 secondary scorer down the line. Frattin alone isn’t the sticking point, but combining him with a 22-year-old top four defenceman with top five draft pedigree constitutes a considerable overpayment.

Don’t get me wrong, Brown is an asset Burke would pay a stiff price for, and rightly so. Burke has shown he isn’t hesitant to move out futures if he’s receiving an established core asset with years left in his prime – that was the premise behind the Phil Kessel trade. But if that’s the price, there clearly needs to be more impetus on Lombardi’s end to move Brown in the next few days. It’s a move he doesn’t necessarily have to make before the deadline as the Kings gear up for a playoff push. Lebrun suggests Lombardi is listening and would move Brown at the right price. If that’s accurate, “right price” simply means he’ll move him if a general manager panics before the deadline and overpays.

The report from Elliotte Friedman that the Kings have pulled back in the sweepstakes likely comes as a backtrack response to how Brown’s availability was reported; it was rather surprising to hear Brown may be moved with a playoff push looming, and it all come out rather quickly and aggressively (McKenzie described Brown as being “absolutely shopped.”) My guess is that Lombardi is doing exactly what Lebrun reported initially; he’s listening and open to the idea if it’s for a big return, but has no real urgency to move him.

I don’t agree with Damien Cox often – and I disagree with the majority of this piece – but I will say that he’s right in the sense that his general managing brethren have to be viewing this as an opportunity to get a rich return out of Burke. With a Capitals win over the Habs dropping his slumping group back into tenth for the time being, the team’s recent play has done him no favours and neither does a buyers-dominated marketplace. This slump couldn’t come at a worse time as far as the playoff hopes are concerned, or as far as Burke’s bargaining power goes in any trade negotiations. I hope Burke takes couple serious stabs at Brown before 3 p.m. on the 27th and keeps Brown on the back burner if it doesn’t happen. As far as this deadline goes it might be, as Cox put it, “prudence over action” for Brian Burke and his Toronto Maple Leafs.


Mikhail Grabovski update:

Fom The Fourth Period:

“Burke and Mikhail Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, have hit an impasse in contract negotiations, in regards to the length of term.

Grabovski is believed to be seeking a contract that would pay roughly $5 million a season and take him into his mid-30s, which could make it the longest deal Burke has ever agreed to.

It is unlikely the 28-year-old will be moved before Monday’s deadline, but the chances of him walking away in the off-season increase the longer the stalemate goes on.”


Boyce and Rosehill on waivers, recall pending:

With Boyce and Rosehill returning to the Marlies, it’s expected the Leafs will recall a Marlie shortly after noon today when both clear waivers. Leafs brass is doing its shuffling before the recall limit rule sets in after the deadline; NHL clubs are only allowed four recalls from their AHL affiliate after 3 p.m. Monday.

The good money is on the red hot Matt Frattin returning to hopefully provide a boost to the Leafs bottom six.

From Lance Hornby:

The Maple Leafs can talk all they want about not letting the trade deadline distract them the next 72 hours.

But two newly-emptied stalls on Friday were a stark reminder that this is break-up time for many NHL teams. Forwards Darryl Boyce and Jay Rosehill were on waivers, with one Marlie coming up the road, and more significant moves likely by 3 p.m. on Monday.

In the middle of this uncertainty is one of the most important games of the year (we really mean it this time) on Saturday against the Washington Capitals. It’s possibly the Last Chance Saloon for one or two bubble players or an unsuspecting bloke who didn’t think he was moving. General manager Brian Burke, who was talking about bulking the Leafs up to go for a long playoff run not too long ago, could now be forced into making a deal just to save face and get a playoff spot.

“There is a lot swirling around,” winger Joey Crabb agreed after practice. “I think you can make a pretty big case out of every game and this is obviously a big one.”

Forwards Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri are among the candidates for promotion at noon Saturday when Boyce and Rosehill presumably clear. Frattin’s $1.3 million cap hit is equal to the total of Boyce and Rosehill combined.


Some more links for your Saturday morning:

Sorry Rick Nash, Dustin Brown just became the pretty girl at the trade deadline dance. From Greg Wyshynski.

Pierre Lebrun’s rumour roundup from yesterday. Lebrun says Ott is another person of interest for Burke. Intriguing given the Leafs’ needs, but Dallas’ win last night put them into eighth and within three of the division lead – doesn’t sound like a seller’s position to me.

Oilers sign Hemsky for $5 million per. Over at Copper ‘n Blue, Oilers fans are liking the deal.

Reaction to the Marek Zidlicky deal at In Lou We Trust. Gotta wonder about the blog name after that deal.

More trades to come from LA. McKenzie says Brown is “absolutely being shopped.” Lebrun says the Kings “may not move him in the end but are seeing what’s out there for him.” I hope McKenzie’s right.

Who, if anyone, do the Leafs move? From Michael Langlois at VLM. Mike’s guess is we’ll see a smallish move from Burke as he mostly sits this one out.

Maple Leafs wise to deadline day pitfalls. As the fans have fun spinning themselves in circles with speculation, the players will be breathing easier come 3:01 p.m. Monday.


Game Day Recipe:
w/ Jason Kelly (aka Ensign)

This week I decided to do a slow cooker chili. Its hard to say if it is spicy or not as people have different tolerances. Adjust for preference. If you can, check it half way through cooking to see if its hot enough as you want the spices to age in there.


Serves: 10

4 pounds coarsely ground beef or rib roast cubed

2 large onions

1 (8 ounce) bottle jalapeno peppers, drained and chopped

2 (16 ounce) cans hot chili beans

1 (20 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (16 ounce) can tomato paste

2 tablespoons hot sauce

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

2 tablespoon chili powder

Water, to taste

Preparation method

Place beef, onions, and peppers in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until brown. If you suck and have a small skillet (frying pan for you rookies) cook it in batches so it’s manageable. Doing it all at once in a small bad is brutal. Drain the meat (break it apart if using ground beef so it doesn’t clump). Add to 6-quar slow cooker. Cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours.

To thicken the chili, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into stew with slow cooker set to HIGH, then repeat until desired thickness is reached.