3 trades the Maple Leafs should make
The Toronto Maple Leafs have gassed up the flamethrower and are prepared to aim it at their cold, lifeless roster.
But much like David Clarkson's contract, this lineup is nearly indestructible. It will take creativity - not brute force - for Brendan Shanahan and his team of statisticians to leave some promise within the ashes.
Here are three trades to get the ball rolling:
1) Cody Franson to Ducks for Devante Smith-Pelly
Cody Franson is Toronto's only expiring contract capable of yielding a first-round pick. But instead of selecting outside the lottery, take a chance on a homegrown talent that can immediately step into a top-six role.
Smith-Pelly signed a two-year $1.6-million bridge contract at the start of this season and has responded with just five goals and 16 points. He failed to take advantage of injuries to the top six, and has been scratched by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.
Much like a late-round pick, Smith-Pelly presents an inexpensive roll of the dice and one that could result in the acquiring of a durable, big-bodied skill forward who can skate and help create space for a second unit down the line.
2) Mike Santorelli and Roman Polak to Penguins for Beau Bennett
He's been limited to just 42 games over the past two seasons, experiencing myriad injuries that have prevented him from building chemistry with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins' top two lines.
The rub, however, is the former 20th-overall selection can only be effective in a top-six role. He has the skills to play on either side of his centerman, but is without the trust of either superstar in Pittsburgh.
3) Phil Kessel to Sabres for Hudson Fasching, Jake McCabe and a 2nd-round pick
Whaddya say, Tim Murray?
The Sabres don't need to admit it, but they're planning to have Connor McDavid be the face of their organization for the next decade. Now whether that comes to fruition remains, but wouldn't his presence be a perfect situation for Kessel?
With the acquisition of Evander Kane, the Sabres made their intent to contend clear the moment they place a ball cap on either McDavid or (heaven forbid) Jack Eichel and will undoubtedly be better equipped to contend with Kessel on the roster. He will score his goals and avoid media scorn without mortgaging the franchise, who sit well beneath the salary cap.
Now, the return is hardly bountiful, but for the Maple Leafs who - in planning to set themselves on fire - have decided they can't win with him, the reward isn't the personnel; it's having Kessel and his $64-million contract move on.
Fasching and McCabe are two intriguing prospects who have represented the United States at the World Juniors, with the latter likely ready to take the leap. And the pick, obviously, is just one slot away from the first round.
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