Brian Burke Addresses Maple Leafs’ Needs After Draft
(AP Photo, Chris Young)
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
Brian Burke has an answer as to why the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t able to acquire Jordan Staal.
“We didn’t have a brother named Staal and that was part of the problem,” the Toronto Maple Leafs GM explained, somehow doing so with a straight face.
It was a quiet draft weekend for the Leafs, other than dealing goalie Jonas Gustavsson to Winnipeg for a conditional 7th round pick next year.
So while teams like the Hurricanes got better, and the Penguins appear to have cleared cap space to make a push for Ryan Suter and/or Zach Parise in free agency, the Maple Leafs stood pat. None of the players they drafted are expected to be in Toronto’s lineup next season.
But Burke had this to say to an anxious and concerned Leafs nation:
“First off, what’s the date today, the 23rd of June?” Burke asked. “We’re not starting for a while, so I’d say it’s a work in progress and we need to do some things. This (draft) is a starting point for the summer; not an ending point.”
Burke feels he has improved the team’s depth this weekend, especially on the blueline.
Picking up Guelph Storm defenceman Matt Finn continued a trend started Friday when he drafted Morgan Rielly from Moose Jaw.
Finn was sixth in scoring among Ontario Hockey League defencemen (10 G, 38 A) and is a Toronto kid who grew up a fan of the Leafs.
Among the more interesting picks, feisty winger Ryan Rupert of the London Knights. His twin brother Matt wasn’t drafted but has been invited to Leafs rookie camp where he will be given a chance to make an impression. The Rupert twins are – in the words of Burke – “junkyard dogs.”
“They don’t let their size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) hold them back from anywhere they have played,” said Burke. “They only have one gear and it’s high. They only have one attitude and it’s surly. I like players like that.”
Burke has been looking to improve his team through trades. He insists the asking prices are too high. According to Burke, every team asks for Jake Gardiner and Burke says “he’s not going anywhere.”
He did make it clear he would like to improve his goaltending, but again the price has to be right.
“If you can get a goaltender who makes you better and it costs you 15 first round picks, would you do it? No. So somewhere between 15 first round picks and something that makes sense. We’re not there yet. I’m not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. Rather than strip the organization to fill one positional need, we’ll go with what we have.”
That means James Reimer, returning from a neck injury that he struggled with for much of the season, and Ben Scrivens who spent most of the year in the American Hockey League, could start the season as the Leafs netminders.
“We are encouraged by the medical reports for James Reimer,” said Burke after the draft was over. “He has a clean bill of health and he’s working out like a madman. He has made it very clear to us that he has no intention of giving up the net and that has changed our thinking a little bit.”
Burke also wants to get bigger up front. By adding prospects to what appears to be a deep group of defenceman in the organization, Burke does have assets he can use to address that area.
“We’re prepared to trade to do it,” Burke said. “I think for the first time since I have been here we have assets that people want. We have young assets and we’re in a position to upgrade if we decide to do it.”
Buckle up, Leafs nation, for what could be an interesting few weeks ahead.
After all, the Leafs last made the playoffs in 2004, and Burke knows his job is on the line.