There’s always been a lot of buzz about the Leafs making bad deals by giving away draft picks and prospects.
For example, Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft (still hurts) and the infamous Phil Kessel deal (was it really that bad?).
One thing that doesn’t get talked about as much – deals the Leafs pulled that they won by a landslide. Here’s an ode to all the great deals that brought players to the current Leafs roster.
5. James van Riemsdyk, Winger
The Team We Robbed: Philadelphia Flyers
To PHI: D Luke Schenn
To TOR: F James van Riemsdyk
At the time of the trade, I think the majority of the hockey world called it a “hockey trade”. A decent player going both ways to fill an organizational need. Fast forward to now, and it really does seem lopsided.
JVR has established himself on the top line with Phil Kessel, and like Joffrey Lupul before him, has been putting up career numbers there. He looked promising while with Philadelphia, but with so many young talented forwards, someone had to go.
The winger continues to impress with his mix of goal-scoring and physicality. and was on pace for 30 goals last year. He’s still only 24, and still has room to grow.
On the flip side, Luke Schenn struggled to find his game in Toronto and has improved since the move. However, his play certainly hasn’t been eye-popping, and the 23-year old defenceman will have to grow in order to justify anything.
He is known primarily for his defensive game, and his +3 last year was respectable considering how bad the Flyers were on defense. The main reason why this trade made the list is the logjam the Flyers find themselves in on defense.
The Flyers are more or less in salary cap hell. They have 6 blueliners making more than $3.5M, and that’s not including Chris Pronger. And all that money is going to a defense than I think we can all agree is simply not that great. Mark Streit making $5.25M when he’s 39? No thanks.
I know it’s a bit of a stretch to call this deal “lopsided”, but in my opinion, it’s pretty clear the Leafs won it so far, especially considering the depth Toronto still enjoys on D.
4. Jonathan Bernier, Goaltender
The Team We Robbed: LA Kings
To LA: F Matt Fratin, G Ben Scrivens, 2nd round pick (2014/2015, Toronto’s choice), Leafs retain $500k salary
To TOR: G Jonathan Bernier
Okay, so it might be a bit early to call this trade a robbery, but I’m going to call it one anyways.
The Leafs haven’t had this much certainty in the crease since the days of Curtis Joseph. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Leafs don’t need to worry who’s in net. The Leafs have had a revolving door of goaltenders that rivals the drama in Philadelphia. It’s fantastic to see two young, NHL-quality tenders in Toronto for the first time in forever.
Bernier, along with James Reimer, have been the main catalyst for the Leafs’ dominance of late, leaving this team at the top of their conference. They continue to win even throughout all the possession woes.
Bernier was the most prized goaltender on the trade market this year, arguably more so than Ryan Miller. Miller, 33, is reaching the part of his career where he should decline. Bernier, on the other hand, has yet to reach his prime.
He was stuck in a situation in LA where he simply could not take the reins away from Jonathan Quick, and let’s be honest, not many goaltenders can. Now he is primed for success with a great shot at the starter job in Toronto, and this season could be the start of several solid years in the biggest hockey market in the world.
Frattin will likely be a career middle-6 forward, and there was no room for him in Toronto. Scrivens is a career backup. LA did get some pieces for Bernier, and there was no way they were keeping him. Still, you wonder if they could have gotten something better.
3. Dion Phaneuf, Defenceman
The Team We Robbed: Calgary Flames
To CAL: C Matt Stajan, F Niklas Hagman, F Jamal Mayers, D Ian White
To TOR; D Dion Phaneuf, D Keith Aulie, F Frederick Sjostrom
Calgary fans are still mad about this one, with good reason. Only one of the players going Calgary’s way – Matt Stajan – is still with the team.
Stajan spent several years facing criticism for being overpaid, and never really quite played well enough to justify this trade at all. Stajan did spent parts of last year on the top line with Iginla, but has settled back into the role of depth player for the Flames. Hagman is no longer in the NHL, and White and Mayers are both currently free agents looking for a job. This trade brought literally nothing to Calgary, and they lost the only star-quality they had drafted in many, many years.
Phaneuf takes a lot of flak in Toronto, but so does every player. That goes double for the captain. But regardless of what has been said about Phaneuf, he is still a top-2 quality defender that can play multiple roles.
He’s a fantastic hitter, and he has an absolute bomb of a slapshot. You can throw him out there to preserve a lead at the end of a game, or when you’re trailing and you need some offensive spark.
Phaneuf’s time in Toronto COULD be coming to an end this summer, but until then, Phaneuf will continue to be a key cog on the Leafs’ back end.
Toronto got their best defenceman in this deal. Calgary got the crumbs at the bottom of the chip bag. A robbery if there ever was one.
2. Cody Franson, Defenceman
The Team We Robbed: Nashville Predators
To NAS: D Brett Lebda, F Robert Slaney, 4th round pick
To TOR: D Cody Franson, F Matthew Lombardi
To be entirely fair to the Preds, this was a salary-dumping move. They needed to get rid of the oft-injured Lombardi, and the only way they could do it was by packaging Franson in the deal. But, who would have thought that Franson would turn out the way he did?
The 6’5, 26 year old defender has grown by leaps and bounds since being acquired by the Leafs. He now boasts an impressive skillset, bringing both size in front of the crease and dangerous offensive talent. His passing game on the powerplay makes him the perfect quarterback, and his strength and big frame in his own zone provides stability on the back end. He led all Leafs defencemen in points in the shortened season last year, and after signing a one-year $2M deal this year, could be in for a huge payday next summer.
Lombardi played primarily bottom-6 minutes for the Leafs, before moving on to Phoenix and then Europe. The only negative from his inclusion was that the Leafs had to pay his salary.
On the flip side, Nashville got literally nothing from their two acquisitions. As mentioned, it was a salary dump. However, imagine if the Preds had kept Franson.
Shea Weber and Franson as the top pairing? A behemoth first pair that would be zero fun to play against.
GM David Poile probably wants this one back pretty badly.
1. Joffrey Lupul, Winger/ Jake Gardiner, Defenceman
The Team We Robbed: Anaheim Ducks
To ANA: D Francois Beauchemin
To TOR: F Joffrey Lupul, D Jake Gardiner, 4th round pick
Brian Burke’s finest moment as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There’s nothing not to like about this deal from a Leafs perspective.
Beauchemin is a fine defenseman, but he never played as well for the Leafs as he did for the Ducks. Anaheim missed his dearly after he left via free agency, and had to pay the price to get him back.
At the time of the deal, it seemed pretty fair. Lupul was oft-injured (still is), and Gardiner was only a prospect.
But Lupul ended up becoming an NHL All-Star, and Gardiner is now one of the most highly-touted young defencemen in the game.
Lupul has been hampered by multiple injuries since his time in Blue and White, but has been over a point-per-game player (85 points in 82 games). He is naturally charismatic, and some (myself included) believe he is the perfect candidate for captain if Phaneuf walks this summer.
Gardiner has taken a bit of flak from management recently, but is still a young, promising player that could make a huge impact in this league. Don’t forget that he is still 23 years old, and that he put up 30 points in 75 games back in ’11-’12.
Anaheim didn’t lose out entirely, however. Beauchemin finished 4th in Norris voting last year, and is easily their best defenceman.
However, the key here is that Toronto acquired Beauchemin for nothing in free agency, and then cashed in for multiple assets when they dealt him back to Anaheim. Reminds me of “Be A GM” mode in NHL 14.
-Sad to see Marty Biron go out the way he did. So many years in the league, and he served faithfully as Lundqvist’s backup for the past few. He deserved better retiring because he got waived.
-Goodbye also to Roman Hamrlik. Good defenceman for a long time, which people may forget after his twilight years. Something else people forget – he was drafted first overall.
-Crosby vs. MacKinnon tonight. Two teams at the top of their divisions. Should be a good one.
Alex is a Lead Writer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since joining the Hockey Writers, he has also briefly covered the Carolina Hurricanes. He also currently works as an assistant for the Western Mustangs at the University of Western Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @alexmai11.