First reported earlier in the evening by TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Toronto Maple Leafs later confirmed they have dealt versatile forward Kris Versteeg to the Stanley Cup runner-up Philadelphia Flyers, in exchange for what general manager Brian Burke calls a "future's package," first and third round picks in 2011 draft.
Both draft choices are for the upcoming 2011 NHL entry draft.
Versteeg, 24, played just 53 games for Toronto after being one of Burke's key offeason acquisitions. He scored 14 goals and 35 points during his 53-game stint with the Maple Leafs.
Though his statistics and 82-game pace are above what he did in Chicago, Versteeg never seemed to settle into a definitive role with Toronto, bouncing between the first and third lines and all special teams units.
His noticeable discomfort led to a horrendous minus-13 rating and lower ice-time totals each game for the last two months.
Versteeg has also been playing uninspired hockey as of late. Mixed with rumors of wanting out of Toronto and a diminished role with the team, the writing was on the wall for the young, scoring winger.
Nonetheless, even with a certain degree of poor play, Versteeg was still one of the Maple Leafs' top forwards at such a young age, so the question being asked is what the motive was behind the deal.
There could be a slew of reasons why Versteeg was dealt, here are a few:
- His rumored unhappiness in the city of Toronto. This seems to be the most likely motive for the deal, as when he was asked about what he'd miss most about Toronto, he replied in so many words, "My teammates and that's about it." It's clear he wasn't satisfied with his tenure in the pressure-cooker Toronto is, and that may have been a deciding factor into Versteeg being traded or not. It also would have played a big role in determining his market value should this be true (example: Burke settling for picks instead of James Van Riemsdyk).
- Burke realizing his rebuild-now plan isn't working. This is most likely the most unlikely option of the three motives I've thought of. If we've learned anything from Burke during his time in Toronto, it's that he's a very stubborn man, and the chances of him suddenly giving up his plan to do a quick-rebuild, are very slim. However, there is logic behind it all, as Burke also dealt Francois Beauchemin for essentially a "future's package" a week ago. It could be more of a "behind closed doors" type decision, so expect Burke to continue reiterating that making the playoffs is the goal.
- A precursor to another deal, landing him a coveted need. It's doubtful the first round pick is going anywhere between now and the entry draft, but it's very likely the third rounder acquired could be another trading chip. Perhaps the final piece to a blockbuster landing Toronto their No. 1 center-man? Unlikely to be that big a return, but still a possibility nonetheless, considering what Burke's previously done with essentially nothing to trade with.
It'll be interesting to see what other moves Burke completes between now and the deadline, as the type of return many expected for Versteeg to fetch was surely to exceed this. We also know about Burke's stubbornness and knowing he virtually lost this deal must be eating at him, so more coming is almost a guarantee.
Also, in an ironic twist, "Verbeauty" goes to the team he helped defeat for Stanley's mug last season.
Until next time.
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