Whenever I hear of a big-name baseball player requesting a trade, or a rumour that some star player is being shopped around, I always immediately wonder if the Blue Jays can get him. I think about what position he plays and if the Jays could use some improvement there, can he be used as a DH and would that improve the team, that kind of thing. Sometimes I dismiss it pretty quickly; when the Rangers were shopping Alex Rodriguez and his $120 million dollar salary, I knew very quickly that he wouldn’t end up in Toronto, since the Jays simply couldn’t afford him, though I did think it would have been great it that were possible. Other times, it wouldn’t really improve the team anyway – a couple of years ago, if some big-name first baseman was being shopped, it probably wouldn’t have made much sense for the Jays to look at it, since we already had Carlos Delgado at first, and giving up a ton for a part-time first baseman and DH would have been too much. But in any case, the thought always came up.
So it would seem logical that I’d do the same thing with the Maple Leafs, but for some reason, I don’t. When it was announced the other day that Chris Pronger wanted to be traded from the Oilers for “personal reasons”, it didn’t even occur to me that the Leafs might be interested. I did not think “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if he ended up with the Leafs?”, even as a passing fantasy. I thought it interesting — I can’t imagine why he’d want to be traded off of a team that he led to within one game of the Cup, but maybe there are people on the team (or in coaching or management positions) that he just cannot work with, or something like that. Anyway, it was rumoured this morning that the Leafs are offering Tomas Kaberle and Matt Stajan to Edmonton for Pronger, and that Edmonton wants Alex Steen instead of Stajan. The possibility of Pronger in a Leaf uniform came as a total shock to me, and I don’t really know why. Is it because the Leafs GMs have a history of going after aging veterans past their prime, rather than trying to get a superstar player in his prime? When was the last time the best player in the league played for the Leafs? An awful long time ago, I assure you. Now, given the fact that the best player in the league has been named Gretzky, Lemieux, or Jagr for the vast majority of the last 25 years, that doesn’t mean much, but still.
But more central to the Pronger thing, when was the last time the Leafs acquired someone who was, at the time he was acquired, one of the best in the league? You could argue for Mats Sundin in 1994. Other than that… well let just say it was before the Ballard years, and Ballard gained control of the team in 1971, according to Wikipedia.
In other Leafs news, they traded for Andrew Raycroft the other day. I have to say, I’ll be more confident with him in net than with the 40+ oft-injured Ed Belfour. With Raycroft as the starting goalie and J.S. Aubin as his backup, the Leafs should buy Belfour out (as I’ve said before), and either trade (good luck) or release Mikael Tellqvist.