By: Adam Gretz
The Toronto Maple Leafs needed an upgrade in their ability to win faceoffs and on Tuesday afternoon picked up one of the best players in the NHL when it comes to winning draws.
The team announced that it acquired veteran center David Steckel from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL draft. The 29-year-old Steckel has played four full seasons in the NHL and every year has steadily climbed the faceoff leader boards, going from 7th in 2007-08, up to 5th in 2008-09, 2nd in 2009-10 and finally to the top of the league this past season, winning over 62 percent of his draws.
His ability to control the puck off the draw is clearly his biggest value, while he typically averages around 12 minutes of ice-time per game and chips in between five and six goals per season. Originally a draft pick of the Washington Capitals, he was traded to New Jersey, along with a second-round pick, in exchange for veteran forward Jason Arnott last season.
Steckel is signed through the end of next season at an average annual salary of $1.1 million. The Maple Leafs have some major questions at center. Tim Connolly, their big free agent signing of the summer, appears to be questionable for the season opener with an upper body injury, while Matthew Lombardi, acquired in a trade with Nashville, is still recovering from a concussion that cost him all but two games of the 2010-11 season. Steckel isn't going to remedy their problems down the middle or be a top-line player, but he does bring some depth and some value as a faceoff specialist.
According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, the deal from New Jersey's point of view allows the Devils to open up a roster spot that could be filled by veteran Petr Sykora, who was in camp on a tryout deal, or perhaps a player like Adam Henrique or Brad Mills.
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