It must have been hard for Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke not to concede that the group that has seemingly kidnapped his team and played oh so poorly in their place since their win against Edmonton on February 6th had to be compelled with the power of the trade deadline.
However Burke has managed to see the forest for the trees and has stuck largely with his team and not moved out youth and prospects in favour of short term fixes.
On Monday the Leafs GM pulled the trigger on two deals both of which will have larger impacts on his teams AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies in the immediate future, while continuing to build depth within the organization.
The first move that Burke made in advance of today’s 3pm trade deadline was sending 6’6”defenceman Keith Aulie to the Tampa bay Lightning in exchange for power forward and former Canadian World Jr star Carter Ashton. Ashton is the son of former long time NHL journeyman Brent Ashton. This move gives Burke a power forward which he is bereft of while clearing at least some of the log-jam on the back end for the Maple Leafs. Ashton is described as a power forward with range who will need some time in the American Hockey League to hone his skills but is expected to be someone who can certainly play at the NHL level somewhere between a top and bottom 6 forward.
Burke’s second move came closer to the deadline as he moved former Oshawa General and Windsor Spitfire Dale Mitchell to the Anaheim Ducks for Former Kitchener Ranger Captain, Defenseman Mark Fraser who was drafted 84th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2005. Fraser stands at 6’3 and weighs 200lbs. The defenseman is known for his solid work ethic and leadership skills.
While many in Leaf nation may look upon today as a wasted opportunity to patch a hole in a sinking ship, it must be understood that although at times it may not appear so, Brian Burke and his army of assistants do have a blueprint in mind and today it was stuck to, while publicly boosting the confidence of James Reimer who Burke stated he believed will come out of his sophomore slump, so much so that he turned down what he described to TSN’s James Duthie as a “Good Deal” last week for the young net minder.
With the trade deadline now in the rear-view here’s hoping with the uncertainty will vacate the Locker room at 40 Bay St and that a number of solid efforts will be coupled with some consistent goal tending to bring Leaf Nation playoff hockey for the first time since 2003-2004 campaign.