The Hockey News by Adam Proteau
With the NHL’s trade deadline less than four weeks away, you’ll be hearing most, if not all, of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster mentioned in rumours. However, if you know what’s good for you, you won’t develop an ulcer or worry yourself sick over any scuttlebutt.
For starters, 98 per cent of trade rumours never become reality. But more importantly, if there ever was a time Leafs fans — and management — need to be more discerning when investing their emotions in Toronto’s players, it’s now.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see GM Brian Burke trading away building blocks for the franchise’s future. But I’ve had more than enough of the overvaluing of Leafs players (or as Burke calls it, “Blue and White Disease”).
Given the improvement of Luke Schenn and Mikhail Grabovski this season, it will be tough to hear their names bandied about in potential deals; unfortunately, this team hasn’t done enough damage in the standings to make anyone an untouchable.
In the past, Blue and White Disease has resulted in questionable contract extensions for, among others, Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi. In both those cases, Toronto was forced to buy out their contracts (and have the remaining salary cap hit spread over more years than team management originally bargained for).
Loyalty can be a good thing, but in Leafs Land, it is used as leverage by players and player agents to squeeze more money out of ownership than they would get in virtually any other market.
The Leafs can’t keep falling into that familiar trap. We know Burke won’t award free agent deals that can run upwards of 10 years or more, but will he have the intestinal fortitude to say, “No, that amount is too high” to a guy like Clarke MacArthur?
The answer to that question will be a true indication of the lessons management has learned from past Leafs administrations.
It might hurt to wave goodbye to a solid contributor. But if the alternative is tying your cap space up to an unseemly degree, waving goodbye is necessary to say hello to a brighter future.