January 31, 2010
When the news broke yesterday that the Anaheim Ducks had signed Jonas Hiller(notes) to a four-year, $18 million extension, the rumors of Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) coming to Toronto to reunite with Brian Burke and former goalie coach Francois Allaire began rumbling. Things picked up a bit last night as soon as Daniel Sedin(notes) scored to complete the Vancouver Canucks comeback against Toronto after being down 3-0 in the first period. A CBC shot of Brian Burke at the end of the game last night showed that the Maple Leafs GM wasn't happy and change was-a-comin'.
Change came this morning in a big way as the Maple Leafs announced two deals that greatly change the face of their current roster. Deal number one sent Matt Stajan(notes), Ian White(notes), Jamal Mayers(notes) and Niklas Hagman(notes) to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf(notes), Fredrik Sjostrom(notes) and Keith Aulie(notes).
Phaneuf's name has been in trade rumors for most of this season and earlier this month Flames GM Darryl Sutter went out of his way to deny that the Calgary defenseman was on the trading block. Since Sutter denied the rumors, the Flames have gone 2-7-2 and slipped to the bottom of the top eight in the Western Conference standings. Calgary also has the chance to free up salary cap space over the summer, as Mayers and Stajan are unrestricted free agents, while White is restricted come July 1. Mirtle has a good breakdown of the cap ramifications over at the Globe & Mail.
Deal number two has the Leafs acquiring Giguere in exchange for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. It's no secret that Toskala has struggled in net this season for Toronto and with Jonas Gustavsson(notes) on a one-year deal, Burke felt the need to upgrade the goaltending position and take on Giguere's $6 million cap hit which runs through next season. Anaheim takes on two more seasons of Blake with a $4 million cap hit while Toskala and his $4 million salary will become an unrestricted free agent in July.
There was a lot of excitement around Toronto this past summer when Burke brought in players like Mike Komisarek(notes), Phil Kessel(notes) and Francois Beauchemin(notes), but those moves and shaky goaltending have rewarded the Leafs with the last spot in the Eastern Conference as of today. With 26 games to go in the regular season and Toronto 11 points from the eighth spot in the East, the excitement from the summer is back, but expectations to make the 2010 NHL playoffs have been replaced with confidence in next season's team.
Burke is already being lauded for the moves as what went down this afternoon could be a domino that sets off plenty of other movement around the league as the Olympic trade freeze and March trade deadline creeps up.