Another night, another team creeps up behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in the standings.
This time it was the Montreal Canadiens, who won in a shootout against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday to move to 67 points, one back of the Leafs.
Toronto now sits in a group of five teams ranked 24th to 28th, separated by only one point, with the season’s final 12 games determining who finishes in the draft lottery and who doesn’t.
Given their 17-game freefall, it’s now possible the Leafs will have as high as third spot in the lottery, which comes with a 14.2-per-cent chance of winning the first overall pick.
While there’s a sizable contingent of the Leafs fan base that is worried that Leafs GM Brian Burke will move the pick for more immediate help, he said this week it’s more likely they keep it.
Even if other GMs are already calling him about it.
“[We’re] inclined to keep the pick,” Burke said, “but listening [to offers] already.”
It obviously depends on the offers, but keeping the pick is the right decision on a number of fronts, as the top four or five players available should be able to make a fairly high impact in time for the 2013-14 season.
The only question is if Burke, who may feel his job is in jeopardy after four consecutive seasons missing the playoffs, decides he needs to improve the Leafs right away, something an 18-year-old not named Nail Yakupov likely can’t offer.
What a top five pick will give Toronto is some much needed hope for the future, with a bona fide high end prospect to add to the roster on a low entry level salary for three years.
It's all about asset management. If Burke can get a top five selection that will pay in the $3 million range (including bonuses) as opposed to a player making $6+ million in a trade than Burke is better off making the selection in the draft. Tying up money on higher priced players who are veterans is not always the smart move under a salary cap system.