The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec in a trade on Sunday prior to the NHL's 2018 trade deadline.
Toronto also acquired prospect forward Kyle Baun from Montreal, who received defenseman Rinat Valiev, forward Kerby Rychel and a 2018 second-round draft pick from the Maple Leafs.
What Plekanec brings to Toronto
The former Canadiens forward may be past his prime, but his numbers on a struggling Montreal squad (23-29-9) this season suggests he can still contribute.
Plekanec has played in 60 of the Canadiens’ 61 games this year, recording six goals and 18 assists in mostly a checking role during that span. He also has points in three of his last five contests with Montreal.
Plekanec’s peak years include a 29-goal and 69-point campaign in 2007/08, along with a 25-goal and 70-point season in 2009/10.
The 5’11", 193lb centerman also brings depth down the middle, and teams making a playoff push can never have too much of that. Plekanec’s arrival may be handy for the blue and white as well, as star player Auston Matthews is currently out with a shoulder injury.
The 35-year-old provides a steady veteran presence to the up-and-coming Maple Leafs (39-20-5) as they prepare for their second consecutive post-season drive. Plekanec suited up for the Canadiens in their trips to the Eastern Conference Final in 2010 and 2014, and in total, he has 16 goals and 49 points in 87 playoff games.
The Maple Leafs are only Plekanec’s second team in his 14 NHL seasons. He was chosen 71st overall by the Canadiens in the third- round of the 2001 draft.
Plekanec is also a durable addition for Toronto. He has missed just 17 games in his career, in which he has played 981 games. He’ll reach 999 games played if he appears in all 18 of the Maple Leafs’ remaining games this season.
The Kladno, Czech Republic native is expected to fit into a third or fourth-line role with Toronto, where he can help kill penalties and be a solid two-way forward.
With the Canadiens retaining half of the veteran forward’s $6-million salary, Plekanec doesn’t do much damage to the Maple Leafs’ salary cap situation. He could re-sign with Montreal in the off-season when he’s a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1.
He may not be able to get a huge payday with a big raise looming for goalie Carey Price and hefty contracts for Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, among other players.
In addition to Plekanec, the Maple Leafs got Baun, another forward who can provide depth either with the big club or on the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. Baun recorded four goals and 16 points in 54 games this season with the Canadiens’ farm team, the Laval Rocket.
Many older Maple Leafs' fans may also recognize Baun as the grandson of Toronto legend Bobby Baun, whose Game 6 overtime goal on a broken ankle forced a Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings in 1964. The Maple Leafs went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
Montreal gets prospects, a pick in return
Valiev and Rychel were arguably passed on the Maple Leafs’ prospects depth chart a long time ago by other up-and-coming players. Neither player has cracked Toronto’s NHL roster... or at least not yet.
Valiev, a Russian defenseman, has five goals and 15 points in 40 contests with the Marlies this season. He’s a former Maple Leafs third-round draft pick who was held off the scoresheet in 10 games with the big club in 2015/16, the year Toronto finished dead-last in the NHL before picking Matthews first overall.
Rychel came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a draft-day deal in 2016. He was swapped for defenceman Scott Harrington and a conditional draft pick.
The Torrance, California native put up 10 goals and 30 points with the Marlies this year.
Although Valiev and Rychel are by no means blue-chip prospects, it can’t hurt for the Canadiens to develop them in their farm system as they work to restock the cupboards in the coming years after their dismal campaign this season.
The same thing goes for the draft pick. Even if it’s a late selection given the Maple Leafs’ likelihood to finish high in the NHL ranks (for once), the Canadiens need all the help they can get for a rebuild.
That pick could either be traded for another asset or used on a hidden gem if the player is scouted and developed well.
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