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Maple Leafs Watch: Burke lines up for the future

Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone - and with it, there’s traditionally been some residual angst among Maple Leafs fans.

This season, the angst level in Toronto was lower than in previous years, mainly because longtime Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle was shipped out of town after an interminable amount of trade speculation. Like Kaberle, now-former Leafs Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg also were dealt well before Monday’s cut-off point for trades, leaving somewhat of an anti-climactic feel to the deadline.

But once you forget about the rush of trade deadline day, it is clear Leafs GM Brian Burke did a very good job of getting maximum return on expendable assets this year.

For Kaberle – traded to Boston for prospect Joe Colborne, the Bruins’ first round draft pick this summer and a conditional draft pick – Burke finally got good value for a player who is skilled on offense, but was a black hole of responsibility and solid positioning in his own end.

For Beauchemin – a battle-worn blueliner who never seemed overly comfortable in Toronto – Burke landed another upper-tier prospect (U.S. college defenseman Jake Gardiner), underperforming-but-still-young winger Joffrey Lupul and a conditional draft pick.

And for Versteeg – a young winger who spoke openly about not being a good fit after being traded to Toronto last summer – Burke scored Philadelphia’s first round pick and an additional third round pick.

In sum, Burke dumped three players who, while decent enough individuals, couldn’t push the Leafs into clear-cut playoff contention – and in exchange, he built up Toronto’s historically pathetic stockpile of draft picks and prospects.

Of course, by the time the draft rolls around, Burke may trade Colborne, Gardiner and/or the picks he’s acquired for a player who can be of more immediate assistance to the franchise’s on-ice product. If he does make any type of move like that, he should be criticized heavily for it.

But for now, you can’t accuse Burke of mortgaging the future for a quick fix for the present. He appears to have learned his lesson – and if he continues to show patience, Leafs fans will thank him in the years to come.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.

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