It’s a move! The Toronto Maple Leafs were in need of an offensive injection at centre, and found a way to do so without breaking the bank. Taking the "prospect shuffle" approach, the Leafs sent Jesse Blacker and two draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks for Peter Holland and Brad Staubitz. It’s of my opinion that if a move were to be made, this was the right scenario. Here’s why:
Peter Holland is the centrepiece of this trade, make no mistake. Drafted 15th overall in the 2009 entry draft, the 22 year old centre is known for the potential that his size should theoretically bring. Sound familiar? Add a year and a draft position and there are shades of recently departed Joe Colborne, but that’s where the similarities end for the most part.
Holland is a shoot-first centre who uses his 6’2, 185lb frame to make space for himself. He’s not incapable of passing the puck, though, with more assists in every year of his career (other than this one, so far). HockeysFuture has him listed as Anaheim’s #1 centre prospect, and tied for #2 overall. He’s also a childhood Leafs fan born in Toronto, which is fun.
Brad Staubitz comes in as a warm body, for the most part. Known more for dropping the gloves than contributing points, Staubtiz has spent NHL time with San Jose, Minnesota, Montreal, and Anaheim in his five year career. Hopefully this doesn’t lead to an attempt at a McLaren-Staubitz-Orr superpuncher line, but it gives options when the team has forwards missing.
The Leafs give up Jesse Blacker as the main piece going to Anaheim. I wrote about him in September when we ranked him as the #6 prospect in the organization, and personally had ranked third. Blacker is a reliable defensive defenceman who can occasionally contribute production, finishing with 11 points in 61 games last year.
Overall, I felt he was the Marlies’ most improved player due to his increased discipline and his positional awareness, but an injury in Leafs camp set him back on the depth chart. When the Marlies six man unit dominated to open the season, there was simply no room to slot him in. As such, he’s only played five of the team’s thirteen games this year, despite my original speculation that he would get heavy minutes.
Also given up were two 2014 draft picks, a third round pick that can become a second round pick (probably conditional on Holland’s GP), and a seventh rounder.
Short Term Look
The Leafs get a much needed bailout at centre. As it stands, there aren’t any offensive pivots available to play for at least another five days, with Nazem Kadri suspended, Tyler Bozak injured for a little while, and Dave Bolland injured for a long while. James van Riemsdyk has put in his best efforts to learn the position, and Jay McClement has tried his hardest to score, but the team needs an offensive injection immediately and Holland brings that. It also makes the defensive choices a lot easier for the Marlies, not feeling that they’re wasting quality talent in the press box.
Holland is also off to a hot start with the Norfolk Admirals, with nine points in his first ten games, including a three point performance last night. Today, he gets to play for his hometown team, on Hockey Night In Canada. We’ll see if he carries the momentum.
Long Term Look
As much of a fan as I am of Blacker, a trade was the right move, and this was the right time. Simply put, there’s a seemingly infinite supply of defencemen in the Leafs organization, and Blacker would struggle to get the minutes he needs even at the AHL level, let alone trying to break through an NHL roster that sees players like John-Michael Liles in press box purgatory. If he eventually cracks the Ducks, former Leafs defenceman Francois Beauchemin will make a good mentor for him.
Similarly, the Ducks get themselves out of a similar situation. Holland remaining in the AHL isn’t necessarily due to a lack of readiness, but more of a hesitance to turn him into a "bottom six" forward. They see potential in him to score, and there are too many quality centres on the Ducks roster to give him the chance in his natural style and position.
A move like this may not have been necessary if the Leafs looked to sever ties from more defencemen instead of centres over the course of the offseason, but of course, hindsight is 20/20. The move itself appears to be a solid one for both teams.