The Maple Leafs would have been saving a little bit (emphasis on little bit) of money by dealing Gunnarsson, who has a $3.15 million cap hit over the next two seasons, while Polak has a $2.75 million hit over the same term. But according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, the Leafs retained $200,000 in salary.
The players are similar in age and style as well, but they are different in that Gunnarsson is a left-shot D and Polak is a right-shot D. That matters to some teams and probably to the Leafs.
Polak is likely a bottom pairing defenseman on a team that needs some improvement on the back end. He is a physical guy who put up just 13 points in 72 games, while being credited with 151 hits and 131 blocked shots. He seems like the kind of player that Randy Carlyle likes within his system, but Polak’s mobility or lack thereof should be a concern for a team that really struggled to control the puck last year.
Gunnarsson, meanwhile brings a little more mobility and perhaps a bit more offense on the back end, but has similar numbers in the hits and blocks department. So in that regard, it’s questionable to have given up both Gunnarsson, the pick and to retain salary.
This move may not do much for either team, but the Maple Leafs apparently wanted to get a bit more rugged on the back end and can accomplish that partially with Polak. The cost for doing so is questionable, however.
Gunnarsson, meanwhile could flourish on a highly-mobile defensive group in St. Louis and makes them a bit more fluid. It’s hard to know how much Gunnarsson was responsible for in the disaster that was the Maple Leafs’ possession numbers over the last few years. It could be interesting to see how he performs on a team that can control the puck a bit more and he’ll likely slot down the lineup a bit as well, giving him a bit less responsibility.
Day 2 trades at the NHL Draft aren't always the sexy ones, but this could end up being a really interesting deal for the Blues.