Cam Fowler, Emerson Etem, Brett Connolly, Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall attend the Top NHL Draft Prospects At The Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 23, 2010 in Hollywood, California.
Photograph by: Maury Phillips, Getty
TORONTO — When Brian Burke sent out an e-mail a month ago stating that Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause becomes void Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager did not eagerly wait by his phone for the offers to flood in.
Instead, he circled June 25 on his calendar took a mental nap.
Burke knows how general managers think. They procrastinate. They stall. They wait until the 11th hour. And then, and only then, do they get serious and make a decision.
“We didn’t expect to see anyone’s best cards until we got here,” Burke said a day after arriving in Los Angeles for Friday night’s NHL entry draft. “I didn’t get any serious offers until (Wednesday) night. Now a couple of teams have put their cards on the table. We’ll see their best cards probably some time (Friday).”
It is unlikely that the Boston Bruins, who own Toronto’s first two selections (second and 31st overall), will lay those cards on the table. But here are four questions as the Leafs head into what could quite possibly be a quiet day at the draft:
• Will Burke finally trade Tomas Kaberle?
As of Thursday night, the Leafs had received “four firm offers” for the puck-moving defenceman. But they were being viewed as starting points in what the team believes will become a bidding war that could last most of the summer.
Kaberle’s trade window closes on Aug. 15, so Burke is not in a rush. And while Leafs Nation desperately wants to recoup the first- and second-round picks the team gave up to acquire Phil Kessel from Boston, Burke has other plans.
He wants a top-six forward — “preferably with some size” — as well as a blue-collar forward who can provide added toughness. Not, he said, a teenaged prospect.
“If we were trying to get a first-round pick for Tomas Kaberle, I’d have about 24 hours to do this,” Burke said “But I’m trying to make us better now. An 18-year-old doesn’t do that for me.”
• Will scouts have a reason to show up for tonight’s first round?
The Leafs, who have the 62nd overall pick, will not make their first selection until the Day 2. How boring — not just for fans, but also for the team’s scouting staff who, in the words of Burke, have to “sit there with their thumbs up their butts.”
Does this mean the Leafs will move up in the order? Maybe.
“Historically with Brian, you do have to be prepared for anything,” said Dave Morrison, the Leafs’ director of scouting. “He’s proven it in the past. So we’re going to be prepared for any kind of scenario.”
One scenario is dealing a player other than Kaberle. Restricted free-agent forward Nikolai Kulemin, whom the team is having difficulty re-signing, is a possibility. So is defenceman Luke Schenn, who has slipped down in the team’s depth chart.
“We’ve got some inquiries about some other players,” Burke said. “When you finish 29th, your list of untouchables should be pretty damned short. And it is.”
• Will Burke go shopping in Europe?
The Leafs had seven selections in last year’s entry draft. And aside from being the type of guys who do not back down from a challenge, they shared at least one other characteristic: they were all born in North America.
“We call out the names the scouts give me to call out. And nowhere on our scouting form is a spot where we check off nationality,” said Burke, whose current roster contains six Europeans. “If he’s Czech, he’s Czech. If he’s Canadian, he’s Canadian. And if he’s American, he’s American.”
Still, Burke likes his players — whether they are on the first or fourth line — to be big and play with an edge. More times than not, those people usually hail from Brampton rather than Bratislava.
With no first- or second-round selections, expect Burke to stay within North America. Also expect him to stock up on what he describes as “pick-and-shovel men” who can protect the skilled stars.
• Will Burke be the centre of attention?
Burke loves the spotlight. It is part of the reason why he was attracted to Toronto. And it was the reason why he is always the man to watch at the draft.
In 1993, he traded up to select Chris Pronger. Six years later, he orchestrated a series of complicated deals in order to pick both Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
But with no picks in the first two rounds, the bombastic GM warned that he might have to learn to sit in the shadows this weekend.
“If you can be a major player at the draft, it usually means you’ve had a poor season,” Burke said. “The times when I’ve been able to make a lot of noise at the draft, it’s because my team had a poor season. I don’t mind that it’s someone else’s day tomorrow. That’s fine.”
Of course, this is the same person who wore a hidden microphone for TSN during the first round of last year’s draft. So do not expect him to be too quiet.
© Copyright (c) National Post