I have a fairly short list of Maple Leafs that should be untouchable come the trade deadline. The Robbie Earle trade a few weeks back was an indication that the focus on bonafide NHL-caliber prospects that will see time in some role with the organization was now in effect. Robbie had some value to the last administration, but apparently not the current one. Below is a list of my untouchables and why:
Luke Schenn: I don't think I need to say why to Leafs fans, but I will. Luke's big and will get bigger. He's kinda fast and will get faster. He's already crushing NHL sized men with open-ice hits and hips into the boards. What's not to love?
Nikolai Kulemin: I can't say enough about this kid. It keeps me scratching my head how Kulemin gets scratched over some others. Nikolai is fast has decent hands and loves to bang in the corners. He is one of very few Leafs that finish their checks. Two or three more years of seasoning and he could be a pretty good two way player that can score 20 goals.
Nik Hagman: Eighteen goals on the season and he can play with whoever you line him up with. Niklas looks great quarterbacking the powerplay from the sideboards. He just turned 29 and has a good 5 or 6 years left of 50 pts/season.
Mikhail Grabovski: Mikhail has been showing more and more maturity as the season goes on. Hopefully, the days of demanding first class tickets are gone. If Grabs can get his ego under control he can put up some decent numbers in this league. They will need to find him some top 6 level wingers to play with on a consistent basis, though.
Lee Stempniak: Lee has his best years ahead of him and I believe the criticism he garners is mostly unwarranted. He looks good handling the puck and likes to throw the body a bit for a lighter guy. I'd say keep him til he's 29 and see how it plays out.
Ian White: I'd love to keep him, but I don't consider him a franchise player. He might bring back someone who's better down the line if the right deal is made. An Ian White for Brad May trade wouldn't look great, but I'd consider a package deal that brought a solid, young top 6 player in.
Jonas Frogren: I think he's coming along nicely, even though he coughs a puck up once in a while. He's a servicable 5th or 6th defenseman. I don't think he has enough of a reputation yet to bring anyone better than him in a trade.
Jeff Finger: I don't think we've seen enough of Finger yet to make a decision on dumping him. His contract isn't being earned yet, but veryt well could be before it is over. I don't mind watching him crunch people. I could deal without the give-aways, though.
That's pretty much my whole list. Anyone else is fair game. The veterans can be ably replaced by similar veterans. I'd like to see a better back-up goaltender solution, as much as I love Cujo. I still vote him taking over for Corey Schwab.
P.S. Down Goes Brown is hilarious....keep it up. I think Burke privately finds it funny as hell.