Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Pavel Kubina, Tim Stapleton to Atlanta Thrashers for Garnet Exelby, Colin Stuart

Yesterday the Toronto Maple Leafs traded defenceman Pavel Kubina and minor leaguer Tim Stapleton to the Atlanta Thrashers for defenceman Garnet Exelby and forward Colin Stuart. The Leafs do free up some cap space this season as all of the contracts save for Stapleton's expire at the end of the year. With this move, the Leafs cleared up about $3.124M in cap space according to NHL Numbers which they then promptly turned around and used to sign Mike Komisarek. However, the biggest consideration is probably a desire to have Kubina's minutes go to defenders that will form the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs rather than a player at the end of his contract. Steve thinks that the overloaded blueline means that the Leafs might still be looking to make more trades

To tell you the truth, this deal doesn't pass muster in terms of what we previously expected from a Kubina trade. Part of that is likely that we saw Glen Sather dump salary and receive the Habs' top prospect. Now, obviously not everyone can be a terrible GM (Habs still suck no matter what you say) but Burke was trading with Don Waddell. DON WADDELL! He gave away Braydon Coburn for a shot at getting swept out of the playoffs. Adam Gretz points out just how rare it is to see Waddell come out on top:

As for the Kubina-to-Atlanta aspect: It's not everyday that we get to say this, but it's a hell of a trade by Don Waddell and the Atlanta Thrashers. To land a legitimate, proven top-four NHL defenseman, while only giving up, essentially, a couple of spare parts/fourth-liners is nothing short of a steal.

Not to mention that the Leafs didn't really need to give away salary. They had tonnes of cap space but what they did not have in spades was roster spots. This trade opens up a spot on the Marlies top two lines. We'll see what the Leafs do with the extra cap space since Burke said that he would be spending to the cap AND make the playoffs.

Looking around the league there are a number of teams that are close to going over the cap while still needing a number of signings. There are still three months until training camps open which means that Burke has a lot of time to look for trading partners that need to do some cap manoeuvring. The Leafs are still very well positioned to act as a salary dump for a team looking to free up some space in order to improve their team. The question is which teams are running out of cap space and still have roster spots to fill? Here's a list based on numbers courtesy of NHL's Cap:

Team

Cap

Space

Players

Needed

Philadelphia

$1.83M

3

Calgary

$2.06M

4

Boston

$2.27M

4

Pittsburgh

$4.76M

4

San Jose

$4.85M

7

Edmonton

$6.64M

4

Let's take a look at the individual pieces of the trade after the jump. Share your thoughts in the comments.

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Pavel Kubina 82 14 26 40 -15 94 9 0 4 0 184 7.6

Pavel Kubina leaves the teams three years after being one of John Ferguson Jr.'s marquee free agent signings. Though Pavel had a no trade clause there was a window open where it was voided because of the Leafs' failure to make the playoffs. As he makes his way to Atlanta he will likely think back to the vetored/rumoured trade to San Jose that never happened.  Then again, maybe he'll like his reunion with the Southeast Division. Over the past season Kubina faced the 4th toughest competition at even strength and still managed to finish -15. Maybe we were just overrating him a tad? Not knowing the market for a defender making $5M a year perhaps a salary dump was the best deal that Burke thought that he could make.

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Tim Stapleton 4 1 0 1 -3 0 0 0 0 0 9 11.1

Stapleton is 5'8" and used to run the Finnish SM-liiga for Jokerit  Basically, for him to play for Brian Burke he had to fulfill one of the top six forward spots with the Leafs or the Marlies. He was never going to do it for the Leafs so why bother having him clog things up with the Marlies? 

To get to know the players coming from the Atlanta Thrashers I asked The Falconer of Birdwatchers Anonymous to provide us with some insight on the newest Maple Leafs: 

Colin Stuart

#49 / Left Wing / Atlanta Thrashers

6-2

205

Jul 08, 1982

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Colin Stuart 33 5 3 8 3 18 0 3 0 0 54 9.3

Colin Stuart: Brother of Mark Stuart and Brad Stuart. Father works at Mayo Clinic and will be a doctor for Team USA at Olympics in 2010.

Stuart has ++ speed and +size. Not much in the way of hands so he's a checker. He scored a couple of shorthanded goals but don't be fooled, he basically just threw the puck at the goalie's feet and each SH goal allowed was an ugly goal.

Already 27 he's as good as he's ever going to be right now but he should make the Leafs roster out of camp as a checker. He could be a serviceable PK guy for the next 5 years.

So he sounds like a player that could replace Jamal Mayers at the end of the year. 

Garnet Exelby

#2 / Defenseman / Atlanta Thrashers

6-1

210

Aug 16, 1981

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Garnet Exelby 59 0 7 7 -2 120 0 0 0 0 42 0.0


Garnet Exelby: I'm not a fan at all. Even at his peak he tended to get out of position going for the bit tattoo hit and created a lot of 2-on-1s for the opposition in the process. You're not going to intimidate many teams if they're celebrating a goal after you ran over their teammate along the boards.

He's toned down the hitting lately and reduce the odd man rushes against but lacks NHL passing skills. If he has the puck in the neutral zone he will just dump into the offensive corner. If he has the puck in the defensive zone he usually just chips it out allowing the opposition to re-group in netural and attack again. Did I mention that he's a poor penalty killer.

I can't tell you how happy I am to see him depart. My wife was laughing at how insanely pleased I am tonight. Sorry, to be the bearer of bad news.

Oh brother. I wish there was a video that could make me feel better about this trade...oh, here's one:

Obviously no one is going to be encouraged by seeing this trade. We all had hoped that Kubina would bring back a decent return and two players that could fill out the team's fourth forward line and the third pairing for the next few years isn't as bad of a return as draft picks that might turn into nothing. Then again, at least they'd have a chance to be something better. In the end, Kubina was taking up far too much ice-time that could have been better used for developing other players.

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