Thursday, February 10, 2011

Farewell, Francois

leafs francois beauchemin fight
I'll remember you for this and not the egregious giveaways.
Brian Burke doesn’t like waiting for the NHL trade deadline. Last year he made a major splash on January 31st, acquiring Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, and J.S. Giguere (uh, and I guess Fredrik Sjostrom). This year he made another deal, albeit less significant.

Gone is the much maligned Francois Beauchemin. In his place is Joffrey Lupul, probably best known for being traded for Chris Pronger on two separate occasions. The Leafs also get former first round pick Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth round pick. According to Pierre LeBrun, the pick is a fourth rounder if Lupul plays 40 games for the Leafs next season, if not, it becomes a sixth round pick.

This is a pretty good trade for both the Anaheim Ducks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

First, let’s examine Anaheim’s end of the deal.

Beauchemin unfairly bore the brunt of the criticism from Leafs Nation this year, despite logging the most (and hardest) minutes of any defenceman, all while making a reasonable salary. Beauchemin was somewhat miscast as a number 1 defenceman in Toronto, but if you consider he was making second pairing money he was actually providing the Leafs with a lot of value. Of course he was a turnover machine, but he was a pretty good player overall. And that’s why he was traded.

Beauchemin was one of the only Leafs with trade value that Burke would actually consider moving. Trading Grabovski or MacArthur didn’t make too much sense considering they’re both young, affordable, and provide the team with the offense it desperately needs. Other players like Schenn and Kadri aren’t going anywhere, neither is Komisarek, although that’s for the wrong reasons. Beauchemin only has one more season left at a shade under $4 million, which only increased his value.

Beauchemin would be best suited for a second pairing, which won’t matter in Anaheim where he’ll probably play a similar role he did in Toronto. However, the Ducks defense is extremely thin and they traded from a strength to address this need.

Toronto gets Joffrey Lupul, who has scored 20 goals three times in seven NHL seasons (two cut short due to a back injury, while another was an abysmal campaign in Edmonton). He once scored 28 goals as a member of the Ducks in 2005-2006, which was what got him traded to the Oilers during the off-season.

The Leafs are hoping that Lupul can revert back to the 20-goal player he was in Philadelphia and his first stint in Anaheim, otherwise they have $4.25 million tied up for the next two seasons.

The last time Lupul played in a Canadian market he had his worst season, which isn't exactly encouraging. But two of his best seasons were in Philadelphia, which is certainly more intense than Anaheim.

However, Lupul is only 27-years-old and was once a seventh overall pick (uh…almost 10 years ago). I think if he’s healthy Lupul can become a 20-goal player. He’s got a big frame (6’1, 206 lbs), and should provide the Leafs will some grit upfront in addition to his scoring abilities. Even considering his injury history the Leafs can afford to take a chance on Lupul because they don’t exactly have a long list of forwards that are capable of filling the net. Lupul will take a roster spot from John Mitchell. Ya, I think we can deal with that.

However, Lupul isn’t the centrepiece of the deal. That distinction would belong to Jake Gardiner, a swift skating defenceman taken 17th overall in the 2008 draft and currently honing his skills in the NCAA.

Gardiner is playing his third season for the University of Wisconsin and has scored 30 points in 30 games. He was also selected to the 2009-2010 US World Juniors team where he scored three points in seven games.

For a more in-depth scouting report check out Hockey’s Future. Bob McKenzie also has an article on TSN that includes quotes from Gardiner’s college coach.

If you want a brief summary of Gardiner based on my quick internet scout it would be potential power-play quarterback type defenceman who needs to get bigger in order to compete against grown men in the NHL.

I like this trade for the Leafs. They take a gamble on a forward that could help them now while acquiring a former first round pick in the process that can help them long-term.

The Leafs have called up Keith Aulie to take Beauchemin’s roster spot and the rest of the Leafs’ defence will have to all play increased minutes to make up for Beauchemin’s absence. That isn’t really a bad thing. Hey, maybe Mike Komisarek will actually find his game while he’s out there.

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