Brian Burke and Public Negotiations
A day after things played out through Canadian media regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs and their quest to attain one of the top two picks in the draft, the NHL has learned what the bar is for the #2 selection.
The question is, who will meet or exceed the bar? And will it be only if John Tavares falls to the #2 slot?
Let me start by going through what did play out in the media -- two different sources and two different supposed offers. The first one plays up to the media-hysteria-hype of dire finances for Sunbelt teams and please-please-help stereotype as the laughable #2-selection-and-Ryan-Malone-with-his-bloated-contract for the #7 selection was reported on AM radio in Toronto. That's not saying it doesn't exist or didn't happen (though denials have been posted) but it remains laughable.
Of course, knowing that Lightning fans don't have confidence in ownership not to consider a deal, don't despair. The fact remains that the Bolts are the ones dealing from a position of strength - not from a position of pity or want. Nor are they the ones that announced to the world that they want to move up in the draft with such fervor as Brian Burke has, with desire of landing John Tavares.
Brian Burke went public with what is believed to be the real offer for the #2 selection: Toronto's #7 pick and defensemen Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle. It's also an offer that he called "absurd" in the press.
Before fans of either team start getting hostile (and I expect as much - because of spite for the sunbelt in Canada as well as entitlement from both fanbases), the fact remains that no one has to make a deal. The #2 pick doesn't have to be dealt, John Tavares is likely not even going to fall to #2 anyway... Victor Hedman would be a great addition to the Tampa Bay Lightning defense long-term, and this is such a deep draft that the Leafs simply need to play smart with scouting and take what's best on the board at #7.
It's a want-as-to-need chase of a top pick by the Maple Leafs organization if they are set on moving up, in which case to get what you want you need to pay a price no matter how absurd it sounds. Brian Burke has a track record as such by way of the Sedin Heist in 1999 -- a draft year that went bust-bust-bust for the highly touted Patrik "Concussed" Stefan and Pavel "Hot Dogs" Brendl along with other top draft choices (and to cover the bases, that was Rick Dudley's first draft with the Lightning - where he traded out of the first round after having started with the #1 pick, building depth in an otherwise empty franchise). Yes, Burke walked away with the coveted pair of Swedes and paid a price to achieve it - but it was a price worth paying in the end.
And a price paid in a much weaker draft.
By showing that "absurd" offer, Burke has basically clued in to the NHL what it will take to move up. Who has a desire to do so and pay such a cost remains to be seen... And of course, it doesn't mean the Lightning and Leafs will not negotiate any further.
But honestly, nothing needs to go down and nothing is truly set until Draft day when Tampa Bay goes on the clock. At that point, we'll see which pillar of this draft is still on the board -- Taveres or much-more-likely Hedman -- and find out if someone is willing to pay the price to move up. We'll find out for sure if anyone's offer is judged worthy enough by OK Hockey (if anyone's at all).