Pity poor John Mitchell, possibly the only Leaf to ever fall under the radar.
The third-year Leaf’s placement on waivers yesterday – effectively signalling the end of his Toronto tenure – was quickly overshadowed by Brian Burke’s ensuing trade of Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim, a worrisome heart scare on the part of Jonas Gustavsson and other rampant trade speculation on what was a newsworthy day for Leafs Nation.
The trade, while hardly a home run, is a winner. The Leafs unload Beauchemin, hardly their worst defenceman but also not a player who was part of the team’s future plans, in exchange for youth in the form of 27-year old winger Joffrey Lupul and 20-year old defensive prospect Jake Gardiner, along with a conditional 2013 fourth rounder.
The trade is of two-fold benefit for Toronto: it allows Lupul the opportunity to rediscover his scoring touch and stay healthy and productive for the Leafs up front while they get to see if Gardiner can use his slick skating ability to transform into a formidable two-way presence. There is reason for hope in both cases, with Lupul having tallied 20+ goals in three of his five NHL seasons and Gardiner showing flashes just two years removed from being a first-round draft pick (No. 17 over-all).
Beauchemin’s exit will likely result in some short-term pains and could offer a hint at Burke’s feelings towards his team’s playoff potential this season. But his strong play of late offered the club a chance to sell high and bring in the first among a group of Marlie d-men working for a shot at full-time NHL duty (Keith Aulie will get the first call-up once Mitchell clears waivers).
Other trade talk coming out of Toronto had the Leafs hot on the Jack Skille trail before he was dealt to Florida. Burke seems to still be working the phones feverishly, with Kris Versteeg being a prominently bandied about name (why you’d want to dangle a contributing 24-year old is beyond me) and Gustavsson being involved in trade discussions before his health scare yesterday (another young player who has enjoyed success at the NHL level, but one with health concerns attached and who finds himself falling down an increasingly competitive goaltender depth chart in the organization).
More Heart Woes for the Monster
Speaking of Gustavsson, even if the elevated hear rate that prompted Marlies coaches to remove him after one period of a 9-2 victory over Connecticut yesterday proves to be a minor setback (and it appears to be, given that he is accompanying the team on its upcoming road trip), it drew the attention of many in the organization.
Gustavsson’s stock may be falling of late, having played poorly and demonstrated poor body language while James Reimer continues to stake his claim as Leafs’ goalie of the future. But that takes nothing away from a stellar rookie campaign that saw him arrive in Toronto from Sweden and promptly wrest the starting job away from Vesa Toskala before Jean-Sebastien Giguere came along.
Whether or not ‘The Monster’ has a future with the club, most just want to see him remain healthy and have a chance to display his talents at the NHL level. His rookie season saw him contend with pre-season heart surgery and the distractions of adjusting to a different country and different hockey rules, and he hasn’t caught many more breaks as an NHL sophomore either.
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Written by Ben Fisher