Relying on a pair of pivots with long concussion histories is risky business, so the Maple Leafs have added depth in the form of a centreman who seems to dish out concussions rather than take them.
On Tuesday, the Leafs traded a 2012 4th round draft choice to the New Jersey Devils for David Steckel, a 29-year old centre who is perhaps best known as the guy that knocked out Sidney Crosby in last season’s Winter Classic and contributed to the Penguins star’s on-going extended absence from the game.
For Toronto, Steckel represents a two-way player who will chip in as a face-off specialist (he won an NHL-leading 62.3% of his face-offs last year) and, yes, help address depth down the middle to protect against injuries to Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi, not to mention the banged-up Mikhail Grabovski.
The move will likely inspire some questions as to whether it’s a harbinger of further deals to come (people are already wondering what it means for Tyler Bozak, who has seen his name attached to Kyle Turris speculation) or what it means for Philippe Dupuis, who will likely eventually be demoted to make room for the similarly-skilled Steckel. But Brian Burke has always said that he is in the business of asset collecting without necessarily paying full attention to need and when you can get the league’s best face-off guy for a fourth rounder, you do it.
Think about it: if Steckel can even win one key, late-in-the-game face-off for the Buds this season, doesn’t that already make him well worth the cost of a pick in the 91-120 range?
In a perfect world wherein every Leaf is the picture of health and solid contribution, Steckel could find himself on the outside looking in. He isn’t the most skilled guy out there and doesn’t boast the upside of any of Connolly, Grabovski, Bozak or Lombardi. But it’s more likely that such an ideal scenario won’t come to be and Steckel will find himself filling in for a fallen comrade.
As with the Lombardi and Cody Franson trade, Burke and the Leafs have little to lose if their end of the deal doesn’t pan out. If, however, it does, it could represent a coup.
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Written by Ben Fisher