What a difference 48 hrs will make.
Apparently blowing a 3 goal lead at home (on a Saturday night) to the visiting Vancouver Canucks (to add insult to injury – in front of a Hockey Day in Canada national audience) was the final straw that broke the camels back – or in this case, persuaded GM Brian Burke it was time to pull the trigger on a series of blockbuster deals early Sunday morning.
Heading west to Calgary is a lengthy list that includes defenseman Ian White, along with forwards Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan.
New Leafs in the fold includes defensemen Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aullie, along with forward Fedrik Sjostrom.
In a deal that went down later Sunday morning, Brian Burke found a taker for Jason Blake’s inflated multi-year contract in a familiar place, swapping Blake and goaltender Vesa Toskala for veteran backstop Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Certainly a lot of information to digest on a sleepy Sunday.
It strikes me that the last time the Leafs dealt with their Alberta rival in Calgary it marked a watershed moment in the struggling franchises fortunes. When Cliff Fletcher acquired a package of flames incuding future captain Doug Gilmour, it started the team on a run in the early 90’s of successive conference final appearances and a course of prosperity in various degrees over the next decade – never culminating in a single finals appearance. Time will tell if this transaction can have the same effects on a team approaching its fifth consecutive spring watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The real coup of the day was getting out from underneath one of the long term salary anchors; in this case of Jason Blake. In the process, Burke acquired former Conn Smyth trophy winner – and Leaf goaltending coach Francoise Allaire pupil – Jean-Sebastien Giguere and his $6 million dollar salary cap hit ($7 million salary) while sending Blake and beleaguered goaltender Vesa Toskala to Anaheim.
The jury is still out on whether the Leafs are a better hockey team this season as a result of these deals, but no one can argue whether or not Brian Burke is still looking to put his stamp on this franchise. He has now acquired two legitimate ‘elite players’ in trades this season, and with yesterdays house cleaning, the blue and white vault to the top in terms of youth on the active roster.
All signs seem to be pointing north for the blue and white.
Stay tuned, it should get more interesting this month…
About the Author
Written by Mike De Petrillo
Leafs fan; former OHL LW; Live in Toronto