The NHL entry draft, my favourite day of the year.
This year's draft in Pittsburgh looks especially promising, with many big-name players available and a few teams drafting in the top five willing to move their picks.
With Brian Burke’s future in Toronto possibly in jeopardy if he fails to get the Leafs into the playoffs for yet another year, the pressure is on Burke. Because of this, being aggressive with trades at this year's draft is a must.
The Leafs' biggest organizational need is a big first-line center to play between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
Jordan Staal, at 6’4,” 220 lbs., is the big first-line center the Leafs have needed since the days of Mats Sundin. Plus, he’s still only 23, despite already having won a cup and played six full NHL seasons. Staal has been toiling away on the third line in Pittsburgh for his whole career behind NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and many believe he is ready to take the next step in his career and be a first-line center man.
Obviously, Staal cannot do this in Pittsburgh. So, with only one year remaining on his contract before he hits unrestricted free agency and the cap crunch the Penguins are in with Crosby also a year away from unrestricted free agency, now is the time for them to deal Staal.
Staal obviously has tremendous value and many other teams, the Carolina Hurricanes especially, would be very interested in him.
That is why I believe the Leafs must step up and make the Penguins an offer they can’t refuse.
I am suggesting the Leafs trade the No. 5 pick, Colby Armstrong and Nazem Kadri to the Penguins for Jordan Staal.
Kadri’s amazing speed, vision and hands would work great alongside either Malkin or Crosby, possibly turning the touted prospect into the point-producing NHL player we've been waiting so long for him to become in Toronto.
Armstrong, who simply hasn't been able to get it together and stay healthy in Toronto, would return to the team that drafted him and hopefully rekindle the chemistry he had with Sid the Kid back in 2006/07.
The No. 5 overall pick would be the most significant piece the Leafs give up in this deal.
Honestly, I would only make this trade if Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Forsberg are all gone by the time the Leafs draft, which is very likely. The Leafs really don’t need another good defensive prospect such as Mathew Dumba or Griffin Reinhhart, but Pittsburgh likely wouldn't say no to one.
I don’t think the Leafs should have any trouble signing Staal, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, to a long contract extension, so this deal works out great for both sides. The Leafs finally get their first-line center man and the Penguins get back a high pick, a top prospect and a veteran they know well—a very similar return to what Philadelphia got for first-line centers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
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