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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brian Burke's Next Trade - Part 2 - Making Room for Prospects

Brian Burke Made Room for Tyler Bozak by
Losing Staffan Kronwall on Re-Entry Waivers
Brian Burke will have to make room for at least 11 new players on his 50 Active Player Roster.  He presently has 48 players on the 50 Active Player Roster.  The 11 new players will come from the 19 prospects/draft choices on his 90 Player Reserve List (which includes the 50 Active Player Roster), Entry Level free-agents, and NHL/Pro free agents.

11 new players is a conservative estimation because Burke added 13 last off-season and 12 the previous off-season.  Brian Burke likes to keep two spots open on the 50 Active Player Roster at the beginning of the season in order to have flexibility when making trades or signing free agents.

As a result, expect Brian Burke to move at least 11 players from the current 50 Active Player Roster between now and the off-season.  Who will they be?

Hockey talent and contract status will have a big bearing on who goes.  But, there are other factors.  A player's age, waiver exempt status, and re-entry waiver exempt status.

In short, Burke will categorize players as NHLer, Prospect, or Depth Player.  As the name suggests, NHLers are the players who he expects to be on the 23-Man NHL Roster.  Prospects are the Pro Players who are waiver exempt.  Depth players are the remaining pros on two-way contracts expected to play in the minors.  Brian Burke collects a special type of depth player, which requires a closer look.

Brian Burke collects what I like to call "elite" depth players.  Borderline NHLers can be another characterization.  He acquires them by offering high AHL salaries in a two-way contract when they are free agents.  For example, Mike Zigomannis and Tim Brent have $250k as the AHL salary and Joey Crabb and Danny Richmond have $200k as the AHL salary in their two-way contracts.  Normally, any AHL salary over $105k requires a player to clear re-entry waivers when recalled by their NHL team.  However, any player with at least 320 professional games and no more than 40 games on an NHL roster the previous season or no more than 80 games on an NHL roster the past 2 seasons is exempt from re-entry waivers.  Mike Zigomannis, Joey Crabb, Tim Brent, and Danny Richmond meet the criteria making them exempt from re-entry waivers.

In addition to getting the top AHLers who are exempt from re-entry waivers, this strategy of paying high AHL salaries makes it difficult for budget NHL teams to claim these players when placed on waivers for assignment to Toronto Marlies.  Their budget has little room for the high AHL salary if the borderline NHLer can't stick with their team.

Next season, Matt Lashoff will meet the "elite" depth player criteria.  Tim Brent needs to be assigned to the AHL for at least 3 NHL games to maintain his re-entry waiver exempt status.  Newly acquired Fabian Brunnstrom will not qualify for an "elite" depth player contract.  In fact, Burke may place him on re-entry waivers before the end of the season with the hope another team claims him at half NHL salary so Toronto has room for a college free agent signing.  Brian Burke did it two years ago with Staffan Kronwell to make roster room to sign college free agents Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.

A final consideration is an AHL rule requiring each team to dress at least 11 players who played fewer than 320 professional games in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL.  This is easy for Toronto to manage with the overall youth in its organization.

Below, you see a table listing the 48 players currently on the 50 Active Player Roster plus prospects on Toronto's 90 Player Reserve list who are eligible to play in either the NHL and AHL.  We list each player's age in brackets.  NHL roster players are in bold letters.  Players who will be exempt from waivers are in italics.  "Elite" Depth contract players are identified with an *.  Prospects who become unrestricted free agents if unsigned by this summer are identified with a **.  Junior players already signed to a professional contract are identified with a ***.  AHL players trending to have fewer than 320 professional games played by the end of the season are identified with an x.

Under ContractUFAsRFAsProspects
J.Finger (31) J.S. Giguere (33) J. Mitchell (26) M. Frattin (23)**
F.Beauchemin(30) T. Kaberle (32)D. Boyce (26)x L. Komarov (23)
B. Lebda (29) M.Zigomannis(30)* D. Richmond (26)* B. Winnett (21)**
M.Komisarek (29) F. Sjostrom (27) A. Foster (26) D. Brodin (20)
C. Armstrong (28) J. Crabb (27)* C. MacArthur (25) J. Flaake (20)
C. Orr (28) T. Brent (27)* M. Brown (25) J.Blacker (19)***
M. Grabovski (27)
J. Rosehill (25) J.Devane (19)***
F. Brunnstrom (25)x K. Ryan (19)
D. Phaneuf (25)
R. Hamilton (25)x B. Smith (19)
N. Kulemin (24)
T. Bozak (24) S. Olden (18)
11 K. Versteeg (24)
C.Gunnarsson(24) P.Granberg (18)
12 P. Kessel (23)
C. Hanson (24)x
13 J. Rynnas (23)x
B. Scrivens (24)x
14 S. Gysbers (23)x
M. Lashoff (24)
15 M. Mueller (22)x
B. Irwin (23)x
16 K. Holzer (22)x
J. Reimer (22)x
17 J. Mikus (22)x
L. Caputi (22)x
18 R. Slaney (22)x
G. Scott (22)x
19 K. Aulie (21)x
L. Schenn (21)
20 R. Greenop (21)x

21 D. Mitchell (21)x

22 N. Kadri (20)x

23 J. D'Amigo (19)x

The top candidates to go are in red.  You can expect Burke to shop Robert Slaney and Dale Mitchell where he offers to take in return an AHLer in the final year of a one-way NHL contract.  This will be similar to the Mikhail Stefanovich for Fabian Brunnstrom trade.  Effectively, Toronto gives a team budget relief in exchange for roster relief.  Ideally, Toronto will acquire an "elite" depth player candidate when making this type of trade.  A perfect candidate is Edmonton's Alexandre Giroux.  The 29-year-old has a $500k one-year one-way contract.  He is second in AHL scoring and meets the criteria for a "depth" player contract.

UFAs Tomas Kaberle, J. S. Giguere, and Fred Sjostrom are unlikely to return next season.  In total, this provides us with five strong candidates to be moved from the 50 Active Player Roster.  Finding six more candidates from the RFAs and remaining UFAs will be challenging.  Of course, this number goes up if you can't move all of the top five candidates.  I have taken the liberty of identifying the top ten candidates when considering which five to move.  These players might end up as throw-ins for a bigger trade.

Be prepared to see a steady flow of prospects and depth players moved each year from the 50 Active Player Roster to make room for new prospects.  The 50 Active Player Roster is a constraint put in place to prevent large market teams from having a competitive advantage in player development over budget teams.

Brian Burke has found a way to maximize Toronto's financial strength by augmenting draft choices with Entry Level free agents.  This allows him to package prospects to acquire players such as Kris Versteeg.  Expect more of these types of trades at a minor level such as the Matt Lashoff trade.  However, the rules of the game can easily change in 2012 with the next collective bargaining agreement.  This might especially be so when the small market teams see a disadvantage when compared to Toronto.

In two weeks time, we will explore the "Catching the Big Fish" trade in Brian Burke's Next Trade - Part 3.

Post Script - Same Day

You can find frequent updates on Leafs Prospects and Entry Level Free Agents from Hockey Buzz writer Brian Huddle at  Follow Brian Huddle on Twitter @brianhuddle.

Post Script - 20-Jan-2011

In case you missed it last week Brian Burke's Next Trade - Part 1

Post Script 2-Feb-2011

Follow-on to this post Brian Burke's Next Trade - Part 3 - Catching the Big Fish

Post Script 14-Feb-2011

Brian Burke's Next Trade - Part 4 - Tomas Kaberle and the "Time Machine" Trade

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