This a major head-scratcher for a variety of reasons that shall be touched upon in this article.
I will gladly eat a generous portion of crow if this turns out to be an excellent trade.
There was a lot of speculation earlier in the calendar year about a potential Schenn-for-JvR deal, especially at the trade deadline, but nothing materialized.
The trade deadline, as it happens, was roughly around the time when the Leafs' season went off the rails.
Luke Schenn was one of my favourite Leafs (RIP Schenn jersey), but I can't help but wonder what could have been had Brian Burke made up his mind back in February.
Does JvR fill some hole that wasn't there four months ago?
It is entirely possible the Leafs would have made the playoffs in 2011-12 had they made this deal prior to the trade deadline.
Now, have a gander at the video from the press conference where Brian Burke formally announced Schenn's five-year contract extension.
Luke's happy to stay in town and Burke and Co. are happy that Luke is staying.
Forget your opinion on Luke Schenn as a player for a moment.
Burke signs this kid to a big contract and less than a calendar year after the fact, trades him for an unproven commodity in van Riemsdyk.
The Leafs GM loved Schenn. This kid was a homegrown talent, one who had the potential to be a captain for the Blue and White someday.
The best teams have a core group of loyal homegrown talent.
Look at the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10 with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (to name a few).
Look at the Boston Bruins in 2010-11 with guys like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Look at the Los Angeles Kings this past year, Stanley Cup champions, with Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown, among others.
The longest-serving Leaf is Nikolai Kulemin, and he has only been around for four seasons.
No knock on Kulemin because this has nothing to do with him, but continually trading away homegrown talent (or draft picks, for that matter) is not a recipe for success.
Now let's look at what Schenn brought to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a person and as a player.
To begin with, he's a character guy. Very open with the media, both after wins and after tough losses. He has the potential to be a very good captain someday.
Many Leaf fans became impatient with his long development curve and didn't like his lack of speed, his below-average puck-handling skills and his inconsistent defensive play.
However, he was one of only two defensemen on the team who were big and play a very physical game. The other is the oft-maligned Mike Komisarek.
Schenn brought nastiness to the game and delivered punishing body checks. With him gone, the Leafs' defensive corps just got a whole lot softer.
And how about James van Riemsdyk, the newest Maple Leaf?
He was a former second-overall pick, so he must have some skill. He certainly has good size at 6'3", 200 pounds, but since entering the NHL in 2009 has not managed to score more than 21 goals or 40 points in a season.
If he keeps it up, the Leafs will either have a perpetually underachieving second-liner or a grossly overpaid third-liner.
On the flip side of the coin, he could develop into the big top-six forward the Leafs have been craving for years.
For now, the Leafs have traded a promising homegrown talent (oh, don't give me that look) for an unproven player who, after three years of trying, hasn't lived up to his draft position.
Lastly, where does JvR even fit in?
Does he bump Nikolai Kulemin down to the third line where he doesn't belong, or does he make Clarke MacArthur a very expensive third-liner?
Assuming he does end up playing on the second line—and he better, given his $4.25 million cap hit starting this coming season—he will also be taking a potential roster spot away from other homegrown players like Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin.
Kadri and Frattin are ready for full-time NHL duty, but once again, there doesn't seem to be much room for them in the lineup.
I would legitimately be happy to be proven wrong on this one, but until then, I will maintain that the Leafs have lost a valuable and irreplaceable part of their future in Luke Schenn.
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