Leafs, Flames make blockbuster trade; Toskala sent to Ducks

Two struggling Canadian teams. One huge, blockbuster deal.

In the wake of a humiliating 5-3 loss to Vancouver Saturday night - a game where the Leafs held at one point a 3-0 lead - Leafs General Manager Brian Burke has finally made some shake-ups with his poorly performing squad.

The Leafs have acquired star defenceman Dion Phaneuf(notes), forward Fredrik Sjostrom(notes), and defenceman Keith Aulie(notes) from the Calgary Flames. In exchange, the Flames get forwards Matt Stajan(notes), Niklas Hagman(notes), Jamal Mayers(notes) and defenceman Ian White(notes).

The trade comes as both Toronto and Calgary have been having difficult seasons. In a strange historical coincidence, the deal comes 18 years and one month after the famous Toronto-Calgary trade that made Doug Gilmour a Maple Leaf.

Burke has strongly positive comments about his new elite defenceman Phaneuf.

“(Phaneuf) is an elite player. I know him personally. I’m not worried about that at all,” Burke says. “He puts a big weapon on the blueline and makes us a lot more difficult to play against.”

The trade follows reports this season that Phaneuf was involved in a shouting match with Flames coach Brent Sutter inside the Calgary dressing room.

Burke dismissed this morning that Phaneuf wouldn’t be a good fit inside the Leafs dressing room.

“Dion Phaneuf is a warrior. He plays the game hard. I want players that are hard to play against. He makes our power play better. He’s a quality person. I think it’s an important day for us. The centrepiece of this (deal) is Dion Phaneuf.”

Leafs coach Ron Wilson also says Dion is a great addition to the Leafs.

“I got to know Dion at the NHL All-star Game in Atlanta a couple of years ago. Coached a lot against him when I was in San Jose. He adds a different dimension to our back end. Someone who’s very dangeerous on the power play,” Wilson says.

“He has a caustic type of personality. He practices just as hard as he plays. The competitiveness on and off the ice in all situations is something we need.”

It appears Sjorstrom and Mayers put the deal “over the hump,’ according to Burke.

“With Sjostrom, he’s a former first-round pick. We’ve had some difficulty killing penalties and this is one of his strong suits. He’s a quality person, has decent size and gets around the rink really well.”

Burke says Keith Aulie will not report directly to the NHL club.

“Our plans for Keith are to stay at AHL level, so he’ll report to Marlies. He’s going to be a real good NHL player down the road.”

The trade is highly significant for the slumping Leafs. Hagman leads the Maple Leafs in goals (20) this season and is tied for fourth on the team in points (33). Matt Stajan has lead Toronto in power play goals, is second in assists (25) and points (41) and fourth in goals (16). White leads all Leafs defenceman in goals (9), is second in average ice-time per game (23:47) and blocked shots (91).

Stajan will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, while White will be a restricted free agent.

Mayers, who publicly stated he wished to be out of Toronto earlier last week, has gotten his wish.

Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter will be speaking to the media today at 4:30 ET regarding the deal.

In a separate trade, the Leafs have sent netminder Vesa Toskala(notes) and veteran forward Jason Blake(notes).to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goalie J.S. Giguere.

Burke, as former GM of the Ducks, has experience working with Giguere.

“We were fortunate enough to win a championship with [Giguere]. Francois Allaire turned J-S Giguere into a top-flight goaltender in the National Hockey League. This brings us a guy that can help manage the workload and serve as a mentor for the Monster.”

Burke also had some interesting words about his wheeling and dealing today.

“We’re still open for business. We’re not done.”


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Updated Sunday, Jan 31, 2010