NHL Trade Rumours: Top Trade Scenarios for Kris Versteeg
As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to toil in whatever falls just below mediocrity, it's that time of the year to ship out the few pieces that still have some value.
The Leafs currently sit 27th in the 30-team NHL, and have only a second-round pick in the first three rounds of the NHL Entry Draft this summer.
Kris Versteeg, who came to Toronto during the great dismantling of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, is one of the players the Leafs may choose to trade before the deadline on February 28th.
Versteeg has 12 goals and 18 assists in 39 games so far this season, but his plus/minus rating is a dismal minus-10. He's been a bright spot in several games, but has completely disappeared frequently as well.
Despite his inconsistent play, Versteeg is an attractive option for many potential playoff teams looking to bolster their forward lines.
On top of that, his experience winning the Cup with the Blackhawks last season could be invaluable, especially to young teams with limited playoff seasoning.
Let's take a look at some possible Versteeg destinations, and what kind of return the Leafs might expect.
Washington Capitals: Trade for Eric Fehr
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Kris Versteeg to the Washington Capitals for Eric Fehr could be a winner for both sides.
The Leafs would receive a big, physical winger who hasn't quite lived up to the expectations the Capitals had when they drafted him 18th overall in 2003.
Fehr had back-to-back 50-goal seasons in the WHL, including a 111-point performance in his final junior year. Since turning pro, he's only had 20 goals once, but the potential to become a great player is still there.
It won't happen in Washington though, because he's stuck on the third line behind the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin.
He could be a great fit for Toronto.
Washington would receive a proven winner, which is something they've lacked as they've developed a reputation of being perennial playoff chokers the last few seasons.
Versteeg's versatility as a reliable player on a checking or scoring line would fit well in Washington's lineup, and his agitator status would be effective in drawing penalties to put the Caps potent power play on the ice.
New York Rangers: Trade for Mats Zuccarello Aasen
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Mats Zuccarello Aasen, the Norwegian Hobbit, had his way with the Swedish Elite League, winning the SEL equivalent of the Ted Lindsey (Lester Pearson) Award last season as a 22-year old. In a league that only counts primary assists, he put up 23 goals and 64 points in 55 games.
If that isn't the kind of young, offensive potential the Leafs desperately need, I don't know what is. He could be the left winger feeding Phil Kessel on Toronto's top line for many years to come.
At only 5'7", size is a concern, but according to Eliteprospects.com, he has fantastic technical skills, great passing ability, great vision, is defensively responsible, and doesn't mind heavy traffic.
So far MZA has four points in eight NHL games, including three points in his last three games.
As for the Rangers, they would get a capable replacement for the injured Ryan Callahan, and a player who could fit in almost anywhere on the Rangers top three lines.
Versteeg would give the Rangers an offensive and defensive boost as they try to hang on to their 6th-place spot in the Eastern Conference.
Finally, the annoyance of playing against both Versteeg and Sean Avery would drive any opponent crazy.
Los Angeles Kings: Trade for Brandon Kozun and a Third-Round Pick
Kozun in the 2010 WJHC.
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Brandon Kozun, much like Zuccarello Aasen, is small (only 5'8") but sublimely skilled.
Kozun put up back-to-back 100-point seasons in the WHL and lead the entire CHL in scoring last year, over Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and several other now-NHLers. He also put up seven points in six games for Canada in the 2010 WJHC.
There are concerns that Kozun won't be able to handle the size and strength of the NHL game, but if given an opportunity in the right situation, he has the skills to become the next Danny Briere-type player.
The Kings would get Versteeg to play a checking line role with offensive upside, similar to what he did for Chicago last year. He would combine with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds to make a very difficult line to play against.
Because of the worries about Kozun's size, the Kings would add a third-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft to balance out the trade.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Trade for Teddy Purcell
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In Teddy Purcell, the Leafs would receive a budding power-forward who has put up great numbers in the AHL but hasn't quite translated that success to the NHL.
If Purcell was dealt to Toronto, he'd get substantially more than the 13:53 ice time he's averaging with the Bolts. He'd also probably be given every chance to play on the top line, rather than the third line in Tampa.
Purcell could easily be a point-per-game player in the NHL within the next few seasons if he's given a chance to play on a scoring line.
In exchange, the Lightning would get a player with Cup-winning experience who can play on any of the top three lines, and fit in well.
Versteeg would most likely add some scoring punch to Tampa's third (checking) line with Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore. He'd also probably see some time on the second power play unit with Simon Gagne and Steve Downie.
Atlanta Thrashers: Trade for Niclas Bergfors and a Fifth-Round Pick
Versteeg and Ladd together again?
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Niclas Bergfors hasn't quite panned out as the speedy NHL sniper he was touted to be, but he is off to a pretty good start offensively this season, with 23 points in just 33 games.
His defensive prowess, however, has been a problem, and he's been a healthy scratch several times because of it.
What Bergfors would bring to Toronto is enough speed and skill to play with Phil Kessel. At just 23, Bergfors still has great potential, but needs a fresh start in a place where he can get offensive ice time.
Atlanta would really bolster its forward lines with the addition of Versteeg, especially considering that their captain, Andrew Ladd, and leading scorer, Dustin Byfuglien, both played with Versteeg in Chicago last season.
Atlanta has become a breeding ground for Blackhawk cast-offs to become NHL stars, and Versteeg could very well be the next one.
St. Louis Blues: Trade for a Second-Round and a Fifth-Round Pick
TJ Oshie - out for three months with broken ankle
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The St. Louis Blues have been devastated by injuries this season, such as TJ Oshie's broken ankle, David Perron's concussion, Andy McDonald's concussion, and Paul Kariya's post-concussion syndrome.
They have been desperate for goals as they try to keep up in the Western Conference playoff race. Currently, they're only one point out of a tie for seventh, but they sit 12th due to the tightness of the Conference.
The Blues at this point can only offer up draft picks because their prospects are either phenomenal (see Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko) or not good enough to trade for Kris Versteeg.
However, a second-round pick is a fair asking price; that's what Toronto got for Nik Antropov, when he had similar numbers to Versteeg's. They can also snare a fifth-rounder because St. Louis is so desperate for help.
For the Blues, Versteeg provides instant offense. He would be second on the team in both goals and points, and would likely get a chance to play on the top line with David Backes and Alex Steen.
It could be a good fit for both teams, as the 2011 Entry Draft looks like it should be a good one.
Why Won't Versteeg Be Dealt?
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The biggest possible problem holding up a Versteeg trade is if Brian Burke goes the way of so many previous Leafs general managers and severely overvalues Versteeg.
Like what has happened with Tomas Kaberle recently, it's possible Burke will expect far too much in return.
Kris Versteeg is a good player, but he won't bring back a premiere prospect, or a first-round draft pick. If Burke understands that, expect him to make a move.
If not, Versteeg will play out his contract with the Leafs next season, then walk for nothing as a free agent.
My bet is on St. Louis or Washington if the deal goes down.