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Leafs Acquire Plekanec, Baun from Habs for Valiev, Rychel, 2nd

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The Leafs have their 4C!

Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that they have acquired centre Tomas Plekanec and AHL forward Kyle Baun in exchange for defender Rinat Valiev, winger Kerby Rychel, and a 2018 second-round pick.

The main point of interest here is obviously Tomas Plekanec, who at 35 is still a reliable defensive centre. He’s much declined from his career highs (70 points in 2009-10), but he’s still more than capable of pulling down a fourth-line shift, and should be an upgrade on Dominic Moore. Plekanec is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so this is a rental unless the Leafs negotiate an extension with him. Of note is that the Habs retained 50% of Plekanec’s remaining contract to make the money work; given that Plekanec only has about a quarter of a season left to go in the final year of his deal, this reduces his cap hit to a tiny number, and leaves the Leafs freedom of action for further deals.

Baun is a 25-year-old AHL forward who has 16 points in 54 games for the Laval Rocket. He is also an unrestricted free agent in the summertime, and seems included to even up the contract slots.

The Leafs lose two players who look not to be regular NHLers in this deal, although both Valiev and Rychel are closer than Baun. Rychel has routinely tantalized teams with his work as a volume-shooting power forward and his pedigree as a former first-round pick, but he wasn’t going to crack the Leafs’ lineup soon and he already cleared waivers earlier this year. The Habs might get some utility out of him in a rebuilding year, and he may get a chance to show he deserves a roster spot with the big club.

Valiev is a capable AHL left defender, aged 22, but he wasn’t close to the Leafs, who have a plethora of LD. He has improved from a penchant for taking penalties and might well be a functional 7D somewhere, but a more likely career outlook seems to be the KHL.

The bottom line here is that, for the second year running, the Leafs traded a second-round pick to upgrade the roster with a 4C rental. The Leafs seem to think that future assets are to some extent worth giving up for present gain. We’ll see if this leads to any more trades.

One final note: this trade suggests the Leafs are no longer pursuing Luke Glendening.

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