Yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Alex Berry and Stefano Giliati to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Lashoff. Andy Strickland of the site that shall not be linked actually broke the news on Twitter which led to a lot of questioning especially since none of the Leafs' beat writers were on the case. Which, in retrospect makes sense because this was a deal for the Marlies beat to uncover. Stop laughing!
Anyway, it's a bit of a curious move. The Maple Leafs have lots of theoretical depth on the blueline. Besides having eight NHL defencemen signed they also have four top prospects set for the Marlies. I guess a fifth doesn't hurt. The players leaving were the definition of nobodies so from the Leafs' angle it seems like something for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. The respective AHL salaries of the players involved likely played a part. Giliati is set to make $65,000 in the AHL and Berry will earn $62,500 in the minors. Meanwhile, Matt Lashoff is set to earn $575,000 regardless of where he plays this year. With a team like Tampa and their poor finances it's not a stretch to think that saving $447,500 played a part.
Since this is where you come, in part, to find as much information as possible on the smallest details with regard to the Leafs I have asked a couple of writers more familiar with the principals than myself to provide some insight.
First up, the newest Maple Leaf Matt Lashoff through the eyes of Bolt Prospects' Pete Choquette:
I think Toronto got themselves a player with some fantastic potential. I think Lashoff's a breathtakingly good skater. Fantastically mobile. He's got skating ability that's probably a quarter notch above the likes of Victor Hedman and Paul Ranger. He's that fast and that smooth. He also has feathery soft hands as far as distributing the puck from the point on the power play. He doesn't have the cannon, but if you've got triggermen setup in the circles, he'll get it to them in their wheelhouse and they will score.
Those are the positives. The negatives are that he's spindly. He's not strong in his upper-body and he's never seemed terribly interested in getting stronger. Because of that, he's not a guy who seems interested in getting involved physically along the wall, at all, even though he's got the frame that he could pack muscle on and he could play more physical. In that way, I'd say he's the antithesis of a "Brian Burke player." His positioning and decision making in his own end have not improved very much in four seasons of pro hockey, and they are subpar, too, which makes the fact he won't even lean on opposing forwards that much worse.
The Lightning acquired him from Boston at the deadline two seasons ago and he played fantastic hockey on the power play once Cory Murphy got shut down for the season in the last dozen or so games of that year. Based on that performance, I think Lashoff thought his spot on the team was solidified and he was very lethargic in camp last year and he didn't make the team. Then it snowballed. He got discouraged and had some nagging injuries and he had an awful first half with Norfolk in the AHL. His minus rating was disgusting halfway through the year. He picked it up a bit in the second half and was closer to an even player and eventually got a call-up at the end of the year, but he was unimpressive in his time up in Tampa.
If I were a Leafs fan, I think I'd look at this move as Burke preparing for Kaberle's departure by getting a player who could potentially do some of the things Kaberle does. Not that Lashoff's anywhere near that good a player, but with his mobility and his hands, if you can get him to the point where he stops being a liability defensively, he can log a ton of minutes and has 30+ point a season potential. Good luck getting it out of him, though. Both Boston and Tampa Bay have already given up.
Sounds like Matt Lashoff has a little bit of Kyle Wellwood in him. Hopefully he can actually become a legitimate NHLer and not a makeweight. Hockey's Future has Lashoff rated 7.0 C with a scouting report that jives well with Pete's assessment. For now, Lashoff will likely be earning an NHL salary to learn the NHL game at the AHL level.
For more on the players the Marlies gave up Clayton Hansler of Marlies HQ has agreed to provide some more background. You can read his farewell post here:
When a player’s biggest highlight is the fact that his middle name is Steele, you know it’s time to go. Alex Steele Berry was the Marlies agitator, known for his uncanny ability to rack up minor penalty minutes. He aggressively pursued the puck especially on the forecheck, but was rarely able to convert the play into a viable scoring opportunity. Spending most of the season on the fourth line with Rosehill, the tandem provided a bash-brothers line with very little depth to their game. Through 63 games spread over two seasons, Berry only collected a total of seven points in the AHL and left little hope for improvement.
Hockey's Future has him rated 5.0 D which means that he'll top out as an AHL star and isn't even likely to reach that level. Based on what I saw of him (or rather didn't) in the games I saw the D seems very accurate. Onto Giliati:
Stefano Giliati’s 55pt production over 46 games with the ECHL’s Reading Royals last season would have likely earned him a starting spot with the Marlies third line this year, but his leash would be tight if he could not elevate his game to the AHL’s level. Giliati is yet to prove he can push himself hard enough to produce on the Marlies, contributing only 9 goals over a total of 79 games. A little lost on the ice, Giliati often seems overwhelmed by the pace of the AHL and not able to handle the offensive or defensive skill of his opponent. A life as a career-AHL’er playing a style similar to Marlies veteran Alex Foster would be a fortunate outcome for the undrafted Montreal born winger.
Hockey's Future rating of 4.5 B backs up the assessment that Giliati was just off the pace of the game. In the end it appears that the Leafs have traded half a million dollars and two AHLers for a lottery ticket in a former first round pick. That it came originally from the Bruins just adds another layer to the connection the two clubs have developed. Hopefully Lashoff can provide Leafs fans with a counter to Seguin, Knight, and Rask but with what we've read about his attitude it doesn't seem likely. Still, at least it's one more SPC for Burke to play with I guess.