Toronto dealt defenseman Francois Beauchemin to his previous team Anaheim, for forward Joffrey Lupul, prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth round pick in 2013 in a move that helped both organizations in their present day directions.
D Francois Beauchemin, to Anaheim Ducks
Beauchemin may not have ever put up significant counting stats despite getting a ton of minutes in Toronto which is reflected in his 2.5 GVT this year, but over the last few seasons Francois has been one of Toronto's top defenders in Corsi Rel QoC at even strength without receiving favorable offensive zone starts. The loss will leave a hole in Toronto's blueline, but for a team going nowhere quickly this season, getting one of Anaheim's top prospects in Jake Gardiner is the kind of move Toronto needs to be making, rather than dealing premium future assets. With Beauchemin having one and a half years left on a $3.8M per year deal, he wasn't going to be providing any real value in a season where Toronto wasn't making a push for the postseason.
RW Joffrey Lupul, to Toronto Maple Leafs
Joffrey Lupul was basically a throw-in to make this deal work cap-wise. Lupul is currently on a $4.25M per year contract until the 2012-13 season, which is pretty large relative to his poor production this year (1.7 GVT). He's been poor for the last few seasons in both counting stats and possession stats. Both his personal shooting percentage (9.3%) and his teammates' even strength on-ice shooting percentage (6.78%) have tailed off this season, but as both were notably high last season, it seems like natural regression more so than anything else. Lupul's scoring production should increase moderately In Toronto as he likely will be used in a secondary scoring role on a team that is depleted in that department.
D Jake Gardiner, to Toronto Maple Leafs
In Jake Gardiner, Toronto got something that was desperately missing from their system, a defensive prospect with high upside who immediately becomes their number two prospect behind Nazem Kadri. Gardiner is a plus skater when moving in a straight line who extends well through his push-offs who can go blueline to blueline seamlessly. His puck-handling skills are solid. In several viewings this year, whenever he got going with a full head of steam, opposing players very rarely got a hand on him before he entered the zone. However, for a guy so touted for his skating skills, there are a few areas in that aspect he still needs work on. His stride isn't exactly the best from a standstill or when turning, which sometimes leaves him flat-footed on his first few steps. His puck abilities on the power play are solid, and he regularly displayed impressive vision with the puck during those situations. Jake's overall game isn't the best however as he tends to be bad in his decision-making process, be it with poor defensive awareness or being too risky on offense. His physical game has long been a point of issue, and while it's not pro-average yet, Jake has clearly been attempting to become a better player along the walls. His point totals this year are a tad inflated due to regularly being paired with Justin Schultz, although I consider that a two-pronged effect on both of their production rates. Gardiner is probably at least two years away from the NHL if he signs with Toronto this summer, and the holes in his game are definitely concerning, especially the hockey sense given how long it's been an issue. However the skating and puck skills are reasons to like his upside, and with the lack of ceiling in Toronto's system, this is the right kind of risk for Brian Burke to take.
From Anaheim's perspective, this trade made sense for them to do seeing as they are right in the mix for a playoff spot and Beauchemin is an asset that can provide notable present-day value. Anaheim has relied a fair amount on Jonas Hiller and his .932 even strength save percentage (though keep in mind that shot count totals in Anaheim are suspect). It's only through their elite netminder that the Ducks have remained around league-average in goals against. That defense core needed serious help if Anaheim wanted to advance in the postseason, because relying on a goaltender as one of your significant goals against assets always seems to turn out bad in a short series format. They aren't exactly weeping over the loss of Lupul either.
While giving away a prospect like Gardiner is never easy, Cam Fowler's performance has given Anaheim depth in the young defensemen department with Luca Sbisa starting to come along, and while former first rounder Mark Mitea's development has been prolonged due to injury, he's still on the radar, too. The Ducks' system has taken a notable hit this year with Fowler and Sbisa moving on to the NHL, Gardiner being dealt and Peter Holland having a disappointing year. The graduations aren't real reasons to fret seeing as it's part of the natural process with prospects, but for an organization that came into the season as one of the league's best in the farm system department, they're around league-average right after this move, with Kyle Palmieri leading the way and Emerson Etem as their number two prospect.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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