Brian Burke is about to go fishing.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the seventh overall pick tonight, along with six other selections (two in the second round, and one each in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) tomorrow at the NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
But the team's general manager, who hopes to catch the weekend's biggest fish, is looking to put more lures in the water.
"I like our scouts to be busy on draft day," Burke told reporters earlier this week. "I hate the guys to work all year and then sit on their asses on draft day."
Burke also does not plan on sitting idle this weekend.
In the past, he famously swung draft-day deals to move up and select Chris Pronger (No. 2 overall, 1993, Hartford) and the Sedin twins (Nos. 2 and 3, 1999, Vancouver). And this year, he is hoping to reel in another big one.
Here are four questions that will be answered by the time he pulls in his line:
WILL BURKE BE ABLE TO TRADE FOR TAVARES?
It might seem unlikely. But if the New York Islanders decide to select potential franchise defenceman Victor Hedman with the first overall pick, then Oakville, Ont., native Tavares could be playing for Toronto next season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have the second overall selection. Though general managers like to say they choose the best available player, regardless of his position, there is no doubt that with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos up front, the Lightning are looking to bolster their blue line.
By swapping picks with the Leafs, Tampa would be able to select the next best rearguard in the draft -either shutdown specialist Jared Cowen, offensive-minded Dmitri Kulikov or puck-moving Oliver Ekman-Larson -at the No. 7 spot. Of course, doing so will likely not come cheap for Toronto.
In addition to switching places in the draft order, Burke might have to part with one or both of his second-round choices, toss in either Tomas Kaberle or Pavel Kubina, and take back salary in the form of forward Ryan Malone (a cap hit of US$4.5-million over the next five years).
IF NOT TAVARES, WHOM WILL THE LEAFS SELECT?
Western Hockey League power forwards Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn fit Burke's criteria of big, brawny bangers. But both will probably be gone by No. 7 unless the Leafs are able to sneak into the top five.
But if Toronto is unable to move up, do not be surprised if Burke decides to trade down -as he did last year with Anaheim.
The Leafs GM characterized this year's draft as a series of waves. The first wave includes Tavares and Hedman, while forward Matt Duchene, Kane and Schenn fit into the second. After that, one scout might have a player listed No. 7 who is not even in the top 15 on someone else's list.
Two intriguing players that could be available whether Burke chooses seventh or 17th are 6-foot-3, power forward Zack Kassian (63 points and 136 penalty minutes in 61 games with Peterborough) and 6-foot-3 sniper Carter Ashton (30 goals and 93 penalty minutes in 70 games with Lethbridge).
WILL KABERLE AND KUBINA BE LEAFS WHEN IT IS OVER?
As soon as commissioner Gary Bettman takes the podium tonight, the no-trade clauses in Kaberle's and Kubina's contracts become temporarily void. So expect Burke to try and ship one -or both -of the Toronto defencemen.
Kaberle, who is set to earn an affordable US$4.25-million over the next two seasons, is the most likely to be moved. Late last night, Burke confirmed he had received a trade offer for the defenceman from an unnamed team. But although his salary is low, his price tag in the trade market is not. At last March's trade deadline, Burke would not part with Kaberle for anything less than a first-round draft pick, a roster player and a top prospect.
Kubina, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him US$5-million, may not command as much in return. But Burke still probably expects at least a second-round draft choice and a prospect for the offensive rearguard, who scored 14 goals 40 points last season.
WILL TORONTO ACQUIRE ANOTHER GOALTENDER?
The Leafs have either traded for or selected a "starting" netminder in four of the last five drafts.
In 2004, Toronto picked Justin Pogge 90th overall. The following year, Tuukka Rask was picked 21st overall. And the Leafs acquiredAndrew Raycroft (in a trade to Boston for Rask in 2006) and Vesa Toskala (in a trade to San Jose for the 13th overall pick in 2007) in the following two drafts.
Expect the trend to continue tonight.
The Leafs have decided not to re-sign Curtis Joseph and might let Pogge, now a 21-year-old restricted free agent, walk. That leaves them without a backup goaltender. Ideally, Burke is hoping that Swedish free agent Jonas Gustavsson will decide to sign with the Leafs. But a decision may not come until next week.
So the Leafs could be on the lookout for an experienced netminder who can challenge Toskala for playing time.
Of those who could be available are San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov (the Sharks are without a first-round draft choice), and Anaheim's J. S. Giguere, who won a Stanley Cup for Burke in 2007 but was supplanted this season by Jonas Hiller.
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