Leafs prepared to trade up for Tavares

 

For the second straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are slated to select seventh overall at the NHL entry draft. But when Brian Burke was asked whom he intends to choose, the general manager said John Tavares.

 
 
 
 
 

TORONTO — For the second straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are slated to select seventh overall at the NHL entry draft. But when Brian Burke was asked whom he intends to choose, the general manager said John Tavares.

It sounded more like a warning than wishful thinking.

Though Tavares is expected to be chosen no later than second overall, Burke believes he has the resources — and reputation — to pull off a major coup and land the potential franchise forward.

“We’re going to talk to everyone between us and the first pick and see what the landscape is,” he said in a season-ending news conference at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. “We’re going to see what it costs, and we’re going to try to move up.”

The New York Islanders, who finished with the worst record in the regular season, won Tuesday night’s draft lottery. They will pick first at the June 26 draft in Montreal, followed by Tampa Bay, Colorado, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix

The Leafs had the seventh overall pick last year, but were able to trade up and draft defenceman Luke Schenn at No. 5. Of course, improving by two positions is easier than six.

Burke’s history of swinging successful draft-day deals — while GM of the Hartford Whalers in 1993, he moved up from sixth to second overall to select Chris Pronger — is the reason why he is being so candid about his intentions this summer.

“We’re not going to ambush anyone,” he said. “I’ve done this a couple of times. I’m not going to be able to sneak up on anyone, so we’re just going to announce it today. If I thought there was a tactical advantage to doing this quietly, I wouldn’t be telling you guys what the strategy is.”

Burke’s strategy is pretty straightforward.

Anyone not named Schenn is likely up for grabs. So, too, are the two second-round draft picks he acquired at the trade deadline. And, with Toronto operating well below the salary cap, the Leafs might also be willing to take back costly contracts.

“It’s like farming,” Burke said. “A lot of work goes into farming and the harvest only takes a couple of days. Well, it’s like that with the draft.”

Before Burke starts planting seeds, he first needs to find out whether teams prefer Tavares or six-foot-six Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman.

“I’m not confident that everyone has John Tavares at No. 1,” he said. “If they’re going to take a different guy, then you don’t have to get the first pick. You have to talk to the people involved and see how candid they will be.”

“We’ll see what we can do.”

National Post

mtraikos@nationalpost.com
 
 
 
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