New Maple Leaf Kris Versteeg brings a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree to Toronto. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Although the Much Music headquarters should now be placed on high alert, the Kris Versteeg to-the-Maple-Leafs trade is going to make a lot of otherwise miserable Toronto sports fans very happy.
The deal, consummated late Wednesday night between the Buds and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, sees Versteeg leave the Windy City – along with the rights to NCAA left winger Bill “No” Sweatt – in return for left winger Viktor Stalberg and minor-league forwards Chris DiDomenico (drafted 164th overall by Toronto in 2007) and Philippe Paradis (obtained by the Leafs last season for Jiri Tlusty).
Some Leafs fans may cringe at another trade that sends young players out of town, but this is not the typical youth-for-a-veteran-on-the-wane swap Torontonians are so accustomed to.
For starters, Versteeg is only 24 years old. He’s not the quintessential Brian Burke player in that he is only 5-foot-10. But what Versteeg lacks in bulk, he makes up for in determination – and let’s face facts: potential 30-goal scorers are in short supply, so anybody who tells you Toronto could’ve completed the trade for Jeff Finger and every last bit of Chris Bosh memorabilia currently sitting inside the Air Canada Centre is lying to you.
Knowing he still had salary cap moves to make – even after sending Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu to Atlanta last week – Hawks GM Stan Bowman landed a fair haul for Versteeg’s cumbersome $3.083 million cap hit.
Stalberg sporadically dazzled Leafs fans last season, mainly with his excellent speed. He still has the potential to evolve into a top-six forward and that’s really all Chicago fans should be asking for under the circumstances. The two prospects the Hawks are receiving may also contribute at the NHL level some day, but don’t believe for a second the inclusion of either one was necessary to the transaction being completed.
Meanwhile, the Leafs have added some bona fide scoring power at forward – without having to trade on-the-swapping-block defenseman Tomas Kaberle in the process. Kaberle still is going to be moved before the middle of August, mind you, but now Burke will be able to increase Toronto’s depth up front to an even greater degree than some anticipated.
Again, if Versteeg winds up securing some kind of music contract in his Toronto career, I promise to renounce my endorsement of this trade.
However, it’s virtually impossible to see the downside for the Leafs. For this moment, anyway, they get better and the Hawks do not.
Check out TheHockeyNews.com July 1st for live updates and analysis of the Free Agent Frenzy throughout the day.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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