What a day yesterday. Now that some of the dust is settled, I still don’t think I’ve fully come to terms with the fact that Burke just grabbed a Cup-winning goalie and former Conn Smythe winner in the same afternoon he snagged a former top 10 pick on defense. To be sure, play in our own end was the biggest struggle for the Leafs all year, but with this trade, things suddenly look much more secure defensively. To let me get my head fully around the situation, I’m just going to break it down as simply as I can and show you what the Leafs actually gave up and what they got back in return, both in terms of players and salary.
What the Leafs Got
Dion Phaneuf: $6.5 million, 4 years remaining
Clearly the biggest asset moved yesterday, Phaneuf is a stereotypical Brian Burke player. He’s big, he’s mean, he’s young and he’s got a freakin’ cannon of a shot. This has been his worst year statistically since entering the NHL in 2005. In each of his first four seasons, he had at least 45 points. He had 20 goals in 2005-06, and scored 60 points in 2007-08. He has 125 hits already this season, more than any current Leaf.
Keith Aulie: $758,333, 1 year remaining
Another young defender, Aulie gives Burke another young monster to add to his re-tooled blueline. He is projected to join the Leafs as soon as next season. He excelled in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, scoring 33 points in his final season with the club in ’08-09. He had 80+ penalty minutes in each of his 3 full seasons in the WHL. Aulie impressed at the 2009 World Juniors, winning gold with Canada and spending most of the tournament paired with current Sabres rookie Tyler Myers.
Fredrik Sjostrom: $750,000, 1 year remaining
Sjostrom will be expected to jump right in on the Leafs’ PK and should bring some much-needed stability. He won’t be replacing much of the offense lost with Stajan and Hagman, but his experience on the kill may be even more valuable.
Jean-Sebastian Giguere: $6 million, 1 year remaining
Jiggy was guaranteed to be searching for a new home after the Ducks opted to re-sign young Jonas Hiller to a a big money, multi-year deal. Hiller stole the starting job out from under Giguere this year after an impressive showing in the playoffs, while Giguere has struggled for most of the year. A couple possibilities here, all of which are much more acceptable than sticking with Toskala. First, a reunion with Francois Allaire and a new home could jumpstart Jiggy’s play, and he takes full advantage of the opportunity to become a legit number one goalie again. Second, Giguere plays well enough to split time with Gustavsson, and helps Allaire mold the young Swede into the Leafs’ franchise goalie. Or, Giguere is a bust and can’t stop a thing. We already had that in Toskala, anyways, and by getting Jiggy, we get a chance at a legit goalie, while ridding ourselves of The Human Sieve and the hardest working, least effective $4 million player in the league.
What the Leafs
got rid ofgave up
Jason Blake: $4 million, 2 years remaining
Blake is a tough player, and it’s difficult to dislike a guy that battled through leukemia to play every game for your team. But at $4 million a year, you’d like to be getting a lot more than the 26 points that Blake currently has this year. Good riddance to that contract.
Vesa Toskala: $4 million, free agent after this season
Possibly the worst Leaf goalie in recent memory, I didn’t think Burke would be able to convince anyone to take this jackass. I’m guessing he’s got dirty pictures of someone over in the Anaheim front office. Actually, the move makes some sense for the Ducks – they couldn’t keep both Hiller and Giguere at their given salaries, and Toskala will be free to pursue his career in the California beer leagues at season’s end. Never been so happy to see a player leave Toronto.
Niklas Hagman: $3 million, 2 years remaining
A lot of people wondered if Burke would agree to give up one of the few players that could be considered a top-six forward on the Leafs. He’ll be a good fit in Calgary, providing some depth offense, and would probably mesh well with fellow Finn Olli Jokinen, if Jokinen isn’t headed out the door to New York in the next 24 hours or so.
Matt Stajan: $1.75 million, free agent after this season
I’m disappointed to see Stajan gone, but it was unclear whether the Leafs would even have been able to re-sign him after the season, considering the lack of available centers this year. He’s having a career year playing alongside Kessel, but I doubt he’s truly a number one center. In a perfect universe, I’d have loved to see him as the number 2 center for the Buds, but he’s a necessary casualty of the rebuild.
Ian White: $850,000, free agent after this season
Another player I’d have liked to see stay in Toronto, but understand why he had to be traded now. White’s value has never been higher, as he’s in the middle of another solid season, both offensively and defensively. He’s due for a big pay raise, and it’s much better for the Leafs to get something for him than lose him to free agency. The Mustache will be missed.
Jamal Mayers: $1.75 million, free agent after this season.
An aging enforcer, Mayers had received permission to seek a trade earlier last week. He was a solid fighter and decent 4th liner at best, but I doubt he would have been re-signed, especially with Colton Orr already locked up and Jay Rosehill punching his way into the lineup.
Overall, it was a great day for the Leafs. They took on a total of just under $14.1 million in salary, while moving out $15.35 million. The biggest salary move was the removal of Blake’s contract, as that $4 million could be put to much better use. Burke’s not done yet, and the Leafs should have a whole new look in the very near future. I would have to think Kaberle will present another list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to, as the Leafs will be able to trade him wherever they choose after the season is over, during a short window in his no-movement clause. With Phaneuf, Schenn, Komisarek and Beauchemin, the Leafs have all the defense they need, and Kaberle will be in high demand. Garnet Exelby has been seeking a trade, so he’ll likely be on the move, possibly to Los Angeles, while Ponikarovsky has been another Leaf that Burke has gotten plenty of interest in, apparently. After disappointing losses to New Jersey and Vancouver, this was the perfect time for a major shakeup.