Brian Burke’s cult of youth: Leafs trade a tarnished present for a (possibly) shiny future

Brian Burke’s cult of youth: Leafs trade a tarnished present for a (possibly) shiny future

François Beauchemin is taking the beautiful path to California (Image: Bridget Samuels)

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke pulled the trigger on a deal that sacrifices the current season at the altar of brighter seasons to come. Known for his penchant for making moves in anticipation of the trade deadline, Burke sent stalwart defender François Beauchemin to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for winger Joffrey Lupul, prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional draft pick in 2013 that will be a fourth- or sixth-round selection. While Lupul has the potential to help the club today with his natural scoring touch, make no mistake about it, the key piece in this deal is Gardiner. He’s a promising young talent who can help the Leafs tomorrow.

In Lupul, the Leafs are getting a proven scorer, a player who has three 20-goal seasons under his belt. However, he’s also a player who has been involved in four trades over the course of his NHL career and who has a knack for getting injured. He’s played in only 26 games this season—pocketing five goals and eight assists along the way—and 49 games in the past two seasons. He is the proud owner of an inflated $4.25-million contract that will make him the second-highest paid forward on the Leafs, behind Phil Kessel. But, as the Star’s Damien Cox points out, Burke really paid that tiny sum to get Gardiner.[WHAT? They’re paying Lupul $4.25 mil so they can get Gardiner?]

It was Burke who drafted the University of Wisconsin defenceman when he was the Ducks’ general manager, and he sees Gardiner as another piece in the youth movement he has tried to create since coming to Toronto. Gardiner will join an organization depth chart that already includes blue-chip prospects Keith Aulie, Jesse Blacker, Juraj Mikus, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer and Barron Smith. One trade does not a movement make, but Burke also says there are going to be more deals before the February 28 deadline.

This all means that the Leafs’ faint playoff hopes are all but extinguished (did anybody really think they were going to jump four places in the standings and make up eight points in less than 30 games?). Although Burke claims the trade isn’t a concession on a playoff spot, more moves will entail trading more of today’s talent for tomorrow’s. But gambling on an ill-defined future is probably a better strategy than holding out hope for a present that will never be.

Cox: Leafs trade about building a better future, not a better now [Toronto Star]
Expect more moves, Burke says after Beauchemin trade [Toronto Star]
Leafs deal Beauchemin to Ducks [Globe and Mail]
Maple Leafs banking on Lupul rebound [Globe and Mail]
• Brian Burke gets a jump on the NHL trade deadline [Globe and Mail]
Leafs: Adding by subtracting [Toronto Sun]
• Brian Burke looking unsure in the saddle [National Post]