Could it be there was red in the sight line of Brian Burke?
After all everyone knows his Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t very good. Another loss in a season that’s been filled with them, even if it officially made them the worst team in the East, well that alone should not have stirred an outsize reaction.
Then again the embarrassment of blowing a three-goal lead at home did come on national television.
And it was delivered by one of the teams Burke previously served as general manager and has a frosty relationship with now.
Worse, one of the Vancouver Canucks' game heroes was the backup goalie recently run out of Toronto.
It does sound like a ‘last straw’ kind of thing, doesn’t it? A perfect storm if you will for someone who has been itching to shake things up.
Well, hockey fans, stand up and say thank you for that. The concept of the in-season blockbuster trade has all but disappeared in the salary cap era, and if nothing else, the seven-player deal Burke pulled off with the Calgary Flames proves it still is possible.
Of course it helps to have the kind of financial leeway that Burke has to take on big salaries. Besides, Burke has never opposed making a big splash. And his centerpiece acquisitions – defenseman Dion Phaneuf from Calgary and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim – do just that. They may not actually make the Maple Leafs better, but their arrival will at least keep the people intrigued and that never a bad thing.
Toronto’s newcomers are big names. Phaneuf, who came along with forward Fredrik Sjostrom and a prospect, was the Norris Trophy runner-up two seasons ago at 22, while Giguere won the 2007 Stanley Cup with Burke in Anaheim and was the playoff MVP four years earlier when the Ducks lost in the Finals. Neither player though is arriving in Toronto at the peak of their game.
Phaneuf is a high-end talent having a decent season, but after he signed a lucrative contract extension last year, there are a lot of questions about his intensity and attitude coming from a rabid hockey market. That won’t get any easier in Toronto. Giguere, meanwhile, lost his starting job in last season’s playoffs to understudy Jonas Hiller, and has struggled in limited action this season. He has one more year left on a deal that pays $7 million per, so he became expendable over the weekend when the Ducks signed Hiller to a four-year, $18 million extension.
Scenery changes could be good for both of them, but in the meantime, Toronto’s trading partners did pretty well for themselves. Maybe even better.
The Flames have been tired of Phaneuf’s act for weeks, and wanted to leverage him into some much-needed offensive to help in their desperate drive for a playoff spot. Calgary managed that and cleared some more cap space by adding Niklas Hagman, who already has 20 goals, Matt Stajan, who is getting close, and Ian White, who has turned into one of the most under-rated two-way defenseman in the NHL over the last couple of seasons. And there was even another body thrown in with Jamal Mayers coming along.
For their part, Anaheim got Giguere’s salary off the books for next year and a veteran forward with some speed to help its drive to the playoffs.
The Ducks picked up goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Jason Blake in the deal, but Toskala will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and isn’t likely to be re-signed unless he takes a drastic cut in pay. Blake did not live up to expectations after signing a big free-agent deal in Toronto, and he has two more seasons at $4 million each. He has been a 40-goal scorer in the past and getting out of the spotlight of Toronto could re-energize him.