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With Tomas Plekanec, the Maple Leafs have vastly improved their centre depth

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He was the longest serving member of the Montréal Canadiens until today.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Deal

The payment is not steep and matches the deal the Leafs made for a rental last year when they acquired Brian Boyle.

The Habs are retaining salary on Plekanec, whose contract is in its last year and runs a whopping $6,000,000.

The Leafs only need to fit $3,000,000 into their LTIR room, and Cap Friendly is listing the still available room now as $3,423,334, which is the total cap hit of a new player the Leafs have room for.

The Leafs have placed Auston Matthews on IR to make roster room for Plekanec. The 23-man roster limit goes away at midnight tonight, so this is a fleeting problem.

The pick the Leafs are giving up is their own second rounder, and that leaves them with the San Jose Shark’s second still to use.

Tomas Plekanec

In a team sometimes in turmoil, Plekanec has been a long-term valuable member of the Montréal Canadiens who comes to the rink everyday and does his job well.

This is a lovely tribute:

The Czech centre ranks 13th in the organization in career points (605), 18th in goals (232), 13th in assists (373), and seventh in total games played (981). Given the long history of the franchise and some of the stars that passed through in their careers, it’s a testament to the ability of Plekanec to rank so highly.

That is impressive. It’s also very unusual for a long-term member of the Leafs or the Habs to cross the barrier that separates the longest standing, and I’d say the most-powerful, rivalry in hockey. We aren’t friends. Leafs fans are not going to warm up to Plekanec right away.

Not only has he been in the Canadiens organization since his AHL debut in Hamilton in 2002, he’s also played so many Czech national team games, it’s overwhelming to look at the list. This is a man with a pedigree and a history and more time in skates in meaningful games than anyone on the Leafs save Patrick Marleau.

Plekanec is 35, a left-shooting centre, and Elite Prospects lists him at 5’10” and under 200 lb. It’s funny how every new draft pick of that size is always the first draft pick of that size, but the Habs went for him 17 years ago in the third round, and they can’t be sorry they did.

But does he still have it?

He’s younger than Dominic Moore. But yes, the Leafs over 35 club is getting big here. There’s a dad for every young phenom driving the play up front.

This season, Plekanec has been playing 13:09 minutes of five-on-five hockey per game, exactly the same as last year, and in line with his entire career. He doesn’t miss games, has 60 in the books already this season, and the only sign of his age comes in his goal-scoring stats.

Recognizing that the Habs have an offensive system that stifles their own talent, you still have to take seriously his drop in Goals per 60 from over .6 for his entire career until 2015-2016. That year he had .45, last year it was .29, but this year it’s .38. This is lower than Dominic Moore, particularly this year, but it’s worth noting that Moore has a dramatically inflated personal shooting percentage this year, and a very, very low primary assist rate.

Mr. Plekanec, can we introduce you to Kasperi Kapanen? You might like him. Just swat the puck over to him whenever you have it. Plekanec should be fine at that part of the job, as his assist rate, particularly first assists, has degraded very little.

In terms of shooting, Plekanec is maintaining an individual Corsi rate near his career normal this year after a few years where it had gotten low. He is taking quite a few penalties this year, but generally doesn’t very much.

Bearing in mind that Montréal has been running an “all-Corsi, no-winning” system this year, Plekanec still impresses with a score adjusted five-on-five CF% of 51. He’s only been below 50 a few times over the years, and they coincide with a different time on the Habs, when they were outshot all the time.

He is a high event guy, however. His Corsi Against rate is Leafs-level, er, exciting, but for a depth player, he’s got a very good Corsi For rate. Dominic Moore is much duller. Although without Matt Martin, that has changed of late.

I think the Leafs fourth line just got much more fun. That is, assuming that’s where he plays. He’s very capable of helming a higher level line. You don’t want him in your top six, playing 15 minutes a night, but he could help take a share of the load with Auston Matthews out. If Tyler Bozak needs to be replaced due to injury, he can do that with total plausibility, something no one else in the Leafs lineup can handle other than, perhaps, William Nylander.

Plekanec has been playing a tougher level of competition than the Leafs depth usually sees, and a superficial look at his penalty kill results shows he’s better than the average on the Habs. The shots against rate for the Habs is very high on the PK this year, though, and Plekanec’s on-ice PK CA is not very good.

Overall, if he does play a fourth line role on the Leafs, he should be the most elite fourth liner in the NHL after Leo Komarov.

Kyle Baun

Forward Kyle Baun, grandson of former Leafs player Bobby Baun, is a career AHLer and winger who is only 25. He has one very good year on the Rockford IceHogs, and has struggled to score a bit on the Laval Rocket this season.

He is a right-shooting winger, and will come in very handy on a Marlies team now down Kerby Rychel, and not likely to see Kasperi Kapanen back. As a return for Rinat Valiev, he’s fine and fills a need. Rychel might have to be considered part of the payment for a few weeks of Plekanec’s services.

Numbers in this post are from Natural Stat Trick. Ideas are inspired by Hockey Viz, NST, and the entire internet.