Apr 12, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) tries to clear the puck following a block by goalie James Reimer (34) in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs looking to move up in the draft?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet another offseason of fretting ahead of them after another disappointing season. After a promising start to the 2013-14 campaign, the wheels fell off so badly that the team now sits poised to pick 8th in the upcoming NHL draft in Philadelphia. They hired Brendan Shanahan to run the show and fans expect to see some changes made. If the wild rumors surrounded the team’s offseason are even remotely close to the truth, the team could be making drastic moves on draft day.

Howard Berger writes that rumors are swirling about Toronto possibly looking to move up to the #1 slot in the draft to take stud prospect Aaron Ekblad. The Florida Panthers currently hold the pick, but are rumored to be shopping the pick, or at least gauging offers for it. The trade itself is pretty crazy as proposed in the article. The Leafs would give up captain Dion Phaneuf, center Nazem Kadri and their 8th overall pick for Florida’s first overall pick and defenseman Ed Jovanovski. If completed, the Leafs would then likely draft Ekblad, who would form a small core of young defensive stalwarts around which Toronto would look to build.

The problem with this idea is that it doesn’t really seem to make the Maple Leafs better next year. Given that the team is mired in the purgatorial middle ground of the standings, their first move shouldn’t be to make a trade. It should be to establish an identity. Are they rebuilding for the future or retooling for the playoffs next year? They have wingers Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk to build around, but their defense has been a sieve and has been responsible for the team’s mediocre possession numbers. That said, the team was in playoff position until a late season collapse laid waste to all of that. If anything, the Leafs need more goal scorers and possession players to turn around a squad that clearly has some talent.

If the Leafs are giving up the prime-aged services of Dion Phaneuf, that would be a sign of a rebuild and a clear message that they’re not planning to compete in 2014-15. If they have such a mindset, expect more prime aged players to move in an effort to speed up their efforts to get the Leafs back in the NHL playoffs down the road.

Tags: Toronto Maple Leafs

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