Two years ago today, in one of his first moves, Burke waived Staffan Kronwall.
Kronwall was basically a #7 D on the team that year, playing a significant amount of his season for the Marlies. In parts of three seasons with the Leafs Kronwall put up one point and was a -5. He was often injured. At the end of the year, he would be a free agent. Burke waived him.
On the surface this looks like the thing to do. But there are reasons to think maybe he shouldn’t have waived him. The trade deadline was less than a month away and, though Kronwall was oft-injured and didn’t have very much NHL experience, he was also 25 and the brother of Niklas. Knowing what I know about NHL scouts’ insanity over “bloodlines” (see draft positions of Sakic’s brother, Lindros’ brother etc.) that latter fact alone could have been a major bargaining chip. Kronwall had put up decent numbers in the AHL and he was still relatively young.
I submit to you that if Wade Belak was worth a 5th rounder, then maybe – just maybe – Kronwall could have fetched a higher pick. And if he didn’t, Burke could have waived him.
Instead he just waived him. I think this is barely significant because it could have been yet another draft pick that summer. That would have been important because Burke had promised us in the fan base that he was drafting Tavares come hell or high water. The price turned out to be too high (Schenn, Kadri, Kaberle + is one version I heard) but if Burke had amassed picks to swap maybe the Isles wouldn’t have been so demanding about the #7. It’s totally hypothetical, but I think any waiver move within the month before the deadline is a little ridiculous unless you’re flat up against the cap.
So, even though Kronwall played 3 games for the Capitals the rest of the year and barely played for the Flames the next, and is now playing in the Swedish Elite League, I still think that Burke could have convinced somebody (if he is so great a GM after all…) that Kronwall was going to be more.
Waiving Kronwall, seems to be, in hindsight, a mistake, albeit a very small one.