Last night Brian Burke kicked off the free-agent frenzy a little bit early with a big trade with last year’s Stanley Cup champions. In a 5-player deal with the Chicago Blackhawks Toronto landed its (first of many?) much sought-after top-6 forwards. Colby Armstrong was also signed earlier today signaling that Brian Burke is trying desperately to assemble a team that will be ready for a playoff run next season.
Forward Kris Versteeg was traded to Toronto along with the rights to prospect Bill Sweatt. Versteeg has played just 3 NHL seasons but he’s already shown a lot of talent and an ability to find the back of the net. Kris recorded his second-straight 20 goal season last year with the Hawks. He finished in 6th place in scoring on Chicago last season. Versteeg also has shown a lot of talent in the playoffs which is something that the Leafs hope will come into play next season. Kris has 26 points in 39 career playoff games.
Bill Sweatt was drafted in the 2nd round, 38th overall, back in 2007 by the Blackhawks. He has spent the last four seasons at Colorado College. He’s been a consistent scorer at Colorado College but one can’t help but wonder why he has yet to see NHL action. Leafs fans will have to wait and see if he will make the jump to “the show” with Toronto.
The trade for Versteeg did not come cheap. The Maple Leafs had to give up Viktor Stalberg and prospects Chris DiDomineco and Philippe Paradis. Stalberg showed a lot of promise last season playing on the ‘Frat-Pack’ line with Bozak and Hanson. Paradis was a 1st round, 27th overall, pick by Carolina back in 2009. DiDomineco was a 6th round, 164th overall, pick by the Leafs back in 2007. DiDomineco was a great late-round find by the Leafs. He scored 95 points in 70 games in the QMJHL in 2007-08 playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Colby Armstrong was signed by the Leafs just two hours after ‘open-season’ began on NHL Free Agency Day. Armstrong struggled last season recording only 29 points in 79 games played but he has reached the 40-point mark twice in the past. Leaf fans hope he’ll be able to regain his scoring touch on one of the top 2 lines in Toronto.
The Versteeg and Armstrong moves prove that “patience” is definitely not in Brian Burke’s game plan. Burke has swapped a lot of draft picks and a lot of prospects in an effort to get better now. I can’t wait to see how Toronto performs next season. One thing is certain though: if Toronto fails to make the playoffs for the 6th straight season, Brian Burke will be under fire.
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