Friday, July 2, 2010

Need a Top 6 Forward? Don't SWEATT It, Leafs Land Versteeg!

The NHL's free agency period opened on Canada day. Brian Burke has been telling everyone who will listen, that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be active during this period. Unlike his predecessor, Burke didn't disappoint. He has long stated that the Leafs would be addressing their needs of filling in their top six, and bottom six forwards. The Leafs GM didn't waste any time in filling in a spot in the top six portion of the lineup. Thursday evening Burke engineered a five player deal with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Headed to Chicago, are forwards Viktor Stalberg, Phillippe Paradis, and Chris Di Domenico. In return, the Leafs receive forwards Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt.

This is a fantastic deal for the Blue and White because essential Burke has given up three AHL players, for a proven NHL second liner, who is still young. Sure, Stalberg has great speed and showed flashes that he could be a top liner in the NHL someday, but Versteeg has already proven that he is such a player. Phillippe Paradis will probably turn out to be a third line/grinder NHL'er at best. The only player I'm somewhat sorry to see go is Chris Di Domenico. He had a great showing with Team Canada at the World Juniors a couple years ago. However, he did suffer an injury that took him out of action for a long period of time, so there is always that risk involved.
In Versteeg the Leafs get a versatile player who can play all three forward position, can score, and play on both sets of special teams. In 170 career NHL games Versteeg has 44 goals, 57 assists, for a total of 101 points. Keep in mind, this is a player that, due to Chicago's tremendous talent and depth, was relegated to third line minutes. In Bill Sweatt the Leafs get a young prospect that the TSN panel was thoroughly impressed with. Burke describes the young player as speedy, having soft hands, and someone who's not afraid to hit. The 21 year old forward completed 4 college seasons, where he compiled 109 points in 143 games.

The Leafs dipped into the free agent market on opening day and strengthened their bottom six compliment as well, by signing free agent forward Colby Armstrong to a three year contract worth a cumulative $9 million. Colby Armstrong is your proto-typical Brian Burke player, and was described by some TSN analysts, as one of the best third line players in the NHL. The 27 year old forward can hit with the best of them, is good for 15 - 20 goals a season, and can play on the penalty kill. He's even capable of playing second line minutes, should the necessity arise. Personally, when I think of Colby Armstrong. I have flashbacks to Darcy Tucker. In 360 NHL regular season games Armstrong has 178 points, and a +/- rating of 32.

The latest moves made by general manager Brian Burke, have already improved the Maple Leafs as we forge towards the regular season. More additions are on the way, as Burke looks to add another top six forward, and a top line centre to compliment Phil Kessel. One thing is certain, in a sport played with a puck, Brian Burke clearly has a set of b@11$ and he's willing to do whatever necessary to make the Toronto Maple Leafs a winner again.