The Toronto Maple Leafs (still featuring Kris Versteeg) hit the ground running on Wednesday, Feb. 9, acquiring Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2013. Making moves in late January and early February isn't something new for Leafs GM Brian Burke.
"I've always tried to beat the deadline," says Burke.
This year's move brought plenty of speculation that another trade was going to be completed that day. Reliable sources such as Pierre Lebrun, Darren Dreger and James Mirtle all stated they expected an additional deal to be announced at the press conference.
As time wore on, they all retracted their statements saying there was a deal on the table, but no movement.
The question is: Why?
Many speculated that the reemergence of Jonas Gustavsson's heart problems perhaps nipped any deal scheduled for that day. While this remains to be seen, Burke has stated that there will be more moves to come. The question remains, what will Burke do next?
The dream of acquiring a top-line centre to complement Kessel are nothing more than exactly that, a dream. The Leafs simply do not have the pieces to swing a deal for a true top line centre that Leafs Nation has been screaming for (see Brad Richards).
The pieces needed to bring in such as centre (a first-round or second plus additional picks, a great prospect and an established NHLer) are simply too high for the Leafs to pay.
At this point in his career, Versteeg is only a few month away from his 25th birthday and has already won a Stanley Cup. During his run with the Hawks, Versteeg played mostly a third-line support scoring role for the club.
After being expected to log serious minutes on the Leafs top-six, he simply didn't have the extra gear or skill level to play against the oppositions better defensive lines.
With over $6 million tied up between the two third-line wingers on the Leafs, it would make sense to clear out some of that cap space to acquire a true top-six centre to replace to snake bitten Tyler Bozak.
Trading the Leafs resident rapper and maybe a pick or prospect should be able to acquire the additional centre needed to solidify the new second line of Lupul and MacArthur.
While this isn't the ideal situation, in the new cap world where fewer and fewer top free agents hit the market each year, this is the reality. Finding a 60+ point centre in a trade for Versteeg will certainly be easier than going after the only big fish this offseason in Brad Richards.
It would also provide time for players like Bozak and Kadri to better familiarize themselves with the pro game. Not the best case scenario, but it might just be the best scenario for now.