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Leafs “win” Versteeg trade today; longer-term, who knows? Can this be like Litzenberger in ’61?

Trades have always been one of the more “fun” aspects of professional sport- not always for the players, of course, but certainly for fans.

New players generally give renewed hope, and that’s a lot of what being a fan is—taking pleasure in the hope that your team is ever-closer to a championship.

The acquisition of young Versteeg from the cap-bound Black Hawks gives the Leafs something they obviously need: a versatile winger who can contribute many different ways, including on the long-atrocious penalty kill. Of all the players that moved in this deal—and they all are young, with promise—he is the furthest along in the development curve. (I would compare him with the yet-unsigned Kulemin in terms of his development arc.)  He has playoff experience, which not many of the kids in Toronto have, and he already has a Cup on his resume, at the still-young age of 24.

An interesting historical side note to this trade: The last time the Leafs picked up a former Hawk was right after Chicago had won the Cup was back in 1961. The Chicago captain Eddie Litzenberger (#25 in action against the Bruins in the early 1960s, at right) was traded to Detroit that summer, then picked up on waivers by Punch Imlach for the Leafs. Litz went on to help the Leafs win three Cups in a row. (If you’d like to read about Eddie, click on his name above.)

While a nice part of my memory bank, I won’t make that kind of bold prediction this time around in terms of the impact this move will have for Burke and the Leafs.

The Leafs also receive a player (Sweatt) who was once highly-enough thought of that he was a second-round draft choice just a few years ago.

In return, the Leafs give up Stalberg (who played some in Toronto this past season but lost time due to an injury) and youngsters DiDomenico and Paradis. Paradis is the former Carolina (I almost wrote Hartford, showing my age) first rounder obtained for Tlusty.

It’s impossible to know for certain how this deal with work out in the long run. If the three youngsters Toronto gave up all become solid NHL’ers, perhaps that will tilt things in Chicago’s favor.

However, what we know right now is this: Versteeg comes with an impressive history already. He is a player who is not yet in his prime and is getting better. While this is the second time he has been traded in his career already, it’s clear Dale Tallon and the Hawks made a smart move in acquiring him from the Bruins (who had drafted him) in 2007. He played under a good coach in Chicago, and he makes Toronto better now and for the next few years, apparently at a price they can easily afford (about $3 million a season).

He may not help them win three Cups in a row, but he will surely help.

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