Maple Leafs shake up entire organization with two massive trades…
- Updated: January 31, 2010
In deals that will certainly prompt other dominos to fall, Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke pulled the trigger on two major trades Sunday.
In the first deal, the Leafs sent one of their top point producers in Matt Stajan, their leading goal scorer Niklas Hagman, role player Ian White and tough guy Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames for defensive prospect Keith Aulie, journeyman winger Fredrik Sjostrom and – the key to the deal – premier defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
“This guy’s a warrior, he’s got a cannon of a shot and he makes our power play better,” Burke said of Phaneuf. “We’re adding an elite defenseman.”
The 24 year old defenseman is still two or three years away from his prime, putting a key piece in place for Toronto. On the flip side, however, Phaneuf hasn’t been playing up to his potential this season. His 22 points puts him on pace to tally just 33 for the entire year, a career low. His previous low was his rookie season when he posted 49. With a new home, on a new team, in a completely new environment, Phaneuf should be able to rediscover his game.
Then, if that first trade wasn’t enough, Burke held a second press conference just an hour later to announce the second move. The Leafs acquired former Stanley Cup winning goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for much-maligned goalie Vesa Toskala and struggling scorer Jason Blake.
Toskala, who had looked outstanding with the San Jose Sharks early in his career, has been public enemy #1 since playing in Toronto. Fans and media alike expected the same guy who posted a 65-28-5-5 record in San Jose to backstop Toronto. Well the Leafs wasn’t nearly as good as the Sharks and Toskala was hung out to dry on most nights. His time in Ontario, Canada came to end with a record of 62-54-20 record. A winning record on a team as bad as Toronto is an amazing feat but the Leafs faithful didn’t see it that way and Toskala suffered because of it.
All parties involved in the second deal appeared to be in desperate need of a change of scenery. Giguere has been stuck behind starting netminder Jonas Hiller the past two seasons and hasn’t been the same since surrendering the starting job. Hiller signed a 4-year extension yesterday and, in retrospect, that was the final nail in Giguere’s Southern California coffin.
Giguere, a four-time 30+ win goaltender, has posted a miserable 4-8-5 record this season after a sub-par 19-18-6 last year. For a guy who turned in one of the most memorable goaltending performances in Stanley Cup Playoffs history, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy while on the losing team, Giguere needed to find a fresh pasture.
Giguere went on to win a Stanley Cup (with Burke as the GM) four years after his Conn Smythe performance.
When the Leafs acquired the young superstar forward Kessel this past September, Burke made it a point to tell the media that he wanted to put key pieces in place and then build his team around those pieces. With the addition of Giguere in goal and Phaneuf on the blueline, it appears as if he’s done just that.
So eventhough Phaneuf is no longer in the Western Conference, guys like Blake, Stajan and Hagman are. So what does that mean for the rest of the West?
Anahiem is currently tied with St. Louis for 12th place with 57 points. Only Columbus and Edmonton are having worse seasons. Rumor has had it that Ducks sniper Teemu Selanne has been on the trade block from some time, but, if Anaheim can turn their season around with the addition of Blake, maybe the Finnish Flash stays put in hopes of a playoff run.
As far as Calgary goes, their problems have come recently. The Flames are 1-6-3 in their last 10 games but were once tied with the Nashville Predators for 4th in the Western Conference. They currently sit in the 8th and final playoff spot, but are just a single point out of the 9th place (and always dangerous Detroit Red Wings). Their current slide, along with Phaneuf’s struggles this season, made this trade possible.
The Predators are in 7th place and, with a possibly-rejuvinated Calgary team and a finally healthy Detroit team, they’ll be looking over their shoulders for the remainder of the season. Even if they make a trade of their own, the Preds will have a hard time making the post season thanks to their recent five-game slide against teams they’re directly fighting against for a playoff spot (Phoenix, Colorado, Detroit).
So what do these trades do to the Western Conference? Will they make Anaheim and Calgary better? Will we see a rash of other trades now in order to keep up?
The first two domino’s have fell. So what’s next?