Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Leafs, Lupul and Ideas That Won't Die

Three quick thoughts about the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Joffrey Lupul:

  1. Burke's trades continue to come as complete surprises;
  2. The key to the trade might just be the prospect, not the player; and
  3. The Leafs take on more salary, cap and term than they ship out.
The first is noteworthy only in that for a long time the ACC/MLSE was leakier than a goaltending tandem of Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala.

To the second point, this deal has a lot of similarities with the Phaneuf trade.

The Leafs got a player with a bloated contract that isn't playing remotely close to his pay grade and whose arrows are pointing the wrong way. The Leafs took on additional salary, a bigger cap hit, and a longer term but by doing so they were able to add another promising prospect, Jake Gardiner, to their system. This, it seems, is the cost of replenishing the talent pool.

Which brings me to my third point...

The financial clout of MLSE may actually be starting to pay off; however, not quite in the way many had expected or predicted.

To date, teams have preferred parking their horrible contracts in the AHL or transferring them to the KHL rather than burning additional assets such as picks and prospects in order to entice another team to take them. (The idea of picks or prospects being exchanged for bad contracts is the zombie of NHL trade coverage. No matter how often it's knocked down and left for dead it just keeps coming crawling back. And like many of the NHL talking heads that raise the issue, it's in desperate need of brains.) Given the amount of air time, column space and page views the trade deadline will generate, I am certain that this oft discussed scenario, which remains rarer than a quiet and reflective moment from Pierre Maguire, will be repeatedly raised and debated before the NHL trade deadline day comes to a merciful close.

But back to the trade...

In short:
  • Lupul may be a top six player on the Leafs but this is more a testament of just how thin the Leafs top six is, than it is an indication of Lupul's so-called talent;
  • I doubt Lupul pushes the 25 goal mark as many have suggested. He's only crested that mark twice in 6.5 seasons and it's rare for an oft-injured 28 year old to suddenly find a scoring touch;
  • The Leafs' single biggest need remains finding a quality centre;
  • The Leafs will need to fill-in the 24 minutes a night Beauchemin often played (could mean more Komisarek);
  • The Leafs get an opportunity to see what they have in Aulie (not a bad thing, although with rookies, come rookie mistakes);
  • The deal crates a long-term issue on D - with Kaberle's departure all but certain (either at the deadline or as a UFA), the Leafs are going to be down two veteran, minute eating d-men;
  • The Leafs get younger by adding another prospect to their system; and
  • By the time the Leafs are actually a competitive club playing meaningful post-season games, Gardiner could be an important part of this club. Lupul will likely be little more than an entry in the Leafs annual media guide.
Burke has to get the Leafs out of a pretty big hole. Part of that process will come from assembling a group of picks, prospects and young players that can make a meaningful, collective, contribution down the road. Another part of that process will come from acquiring transitional players who can push the John Mitchells and Freddie Sjostroms down the depth chart.

Looking at today's trade, it's pretty clear to me where each of the newly acquired players fits into this ongoing process. And it appears eating $10M of Joffrey Lupul's salary is the cost of making the Leafs that much more competitive and, perhaps, getting them that much further out of a very deep hole.


  1. $10M well spent. Great post, MF.

  2. Paul Steckley12:05 pm

    Agreed, great post.

    I would add though that we shouldn't be so quick to discount the value of Lupul in this trade. He's had some bad luck with injuries the past few years but prior to that he was a decent scorer. This year he wasn't getting a huge amount of ice time behind Perry and Selanne but was still putting up a point every two games on average. With an expanded role in Toronto I expect those numbers to jump for the remainder of the season. This could turn out to be a great deal for Burke.

  3. hebsie995:25 pm

    Lupul is a bum and a bust everywhere he has been. 10m seems like a high price to pay for Gardiner, who seems pretty good but worth that cost? My concern is with any loss of financial flexibility by having Lupul's 4m+ on the books next year. i am astounded he took on a longer commitment. I would have preferred to see B traded for a 1st or 2nd pick without having to take on additional salary, but realize that may have been wishful thinking.

    how about a post looking at where the leafs would be now if all of the muskoka 5 had agreed to be traded? Carter and Philly's first for Kaberle etc would be interesting to analyze now that the value of the draft picks are better known. Best estimate of trades based on info since and other trades at the time etc. I think it would be a very interesting excercise and perfect blog fodder if it hasnt been done yet.

  4. Anonymous9:51 pm

    I have burkie's number... this isn't Beauch for Lupul, its Beauch for Pronger... third time is the charm!