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The Beauchemin deal: 24 hours later, what was Anaheim thinking?

I've been as critical as anyone of the Devils this season, for that matter dating back to the Kovalchuk trade last year and subsequent re-signing.  But it's clear they are a very different team with Lemaire.

I'm still not sure what their long-term future is, but they are hot right now, and while it would seem unlikely they would skate their way into serious playoff contention, who knows?

The Leafs may have deserved a better fate, though as I've often posted, I'd be happy to see regulation ties in the regular season.  That would have been a fair outcome on Thursday night at the ACC.

What I really like about Reimer is that, after his rough (though he had precious little support) outing in Buffalo on the weekend, he has bounced back with two high-end performances, including against the Devils.  That is very encouraging.  A goalie who can not only build on good performances but leave poor outings behind has the right kind of make-up for that high-stress position.

And how about Aulie?  Not to canonize him before he has played ten NHL games, but if he can play at the level he displayed against the Devils, well, not too many Leaf fans will miss Francois Beauchemin.

In any event, one regulation loss in the last six games is not too bad.  Maybe most importantly, we have seen consistent effort, save the outing in Buffalo.

The fact that Beauchemin has been moved is not a shock.  We knew contending teams would be interested in a minute-eating defenseman who, when he is on his game, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. (Toronto may be fighting for a playoff berth, but we would be hard-pressed to suggest that they are legitimate “contenders”.)

But recognizing today's cap realities,  I’m still baffled as to Anaheim’s particular rationale in this deal.

Yes, they are fighting for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference, and Beauchemin gives them another experienced rearguard. A playoff round or two means a lot more money in the owner’s pockets.  Maybe Beauchemin can help get them there.

But here’s where I’m puzzled.  Things change, I realize, however the 30 year-old defenseman left Anaheim as a free agent after the 2008-’09 season.  Now, the very contract he couldn’t extract from the Ducks, they will now assume.  (Maybe their cap situation is better now?)  And, they give up Lupul, a versatile (if over-priced and sometimes injured) forward and a recent first-round draft choice in young Gardiner (plus a 4th rounder).

In other words, had Anaheim just re-signed him in the first place, they would still have Beauchemin, and they would not have lost three additional organizational assets.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the oft-traded Lupul will thrive with the Leafs, or that Gardiner will indeed become, as Burke forecast on Wednesday, a “top-four” defenseman with the Leafs.

Those who follow this site know that I said throughout last season, Beauchemin’s first year in blue and white, that he would be better this season, when he was more comfortable as a Maple Leaf.  I think he largely has been better this season, and has on many nights logged a ton of ice time.  I like his attitude and professionalism.  He brings a lot to a team.

But I will say this:  if either Gardiner or Lupul deliver in the years to come for the Leafs, they are the big winners in this deal.  If they both ultimately play well, cap issues aside, it’s not even close.

As with Calgary and then General Manager Darryl Sutter a year ago when the Leafs grabbed Phaneuf, I’m left wondering, what was Anaheim and Bob Murray thinking?

As for the Leafs, what I like best is the acquisition of a young defenseman who already is two years beyond his draft year.  The Leaf brass (who drafted him in Anaheim) have an even better idea now if he is the kind of player they still really want.

As with adding Aulie in the Phaneuf deal, the Leafs have, in the past year, obtained two young defensemen with potential (and I stress potential) star quality. 

And that, in many ways, is much better than waiting on some upcoming draft choice that could well be a crap shoot.


  1. Nice article I definitely agree, this is as close as you can come as a general manager to full out admitting you made a mistake

  2. There are so many "what-ifs", it's difficult to assess a trade until a lot of hockey's been played. That said, I thought Beauchemin settled into a solidly dependable role this year - after a rocky start - but going for yout' is definitely the way to go for the Leafs, and I like the way Burke is building the team. As a long-time fan, it's been distressing to realize just how disastrous the previous management regime had been.

  3. Thanks Ben, I just sense the Ducks could somehow have avoided giving away so many assets for a guy they already had, even considering any cap implications.

    Gerund, I agree that it is always difficult to assess the long-term impact of a trade for both teams until well down the road.

    What I like about the Phaneuf and Lupul deals is that, in each case, the Leafs acquired a young defenseman who may well become a fixture in the line up for years to come. It's great to have high draft choices, but sometimes, as I mentioned in my post, it's even better to pick up guys a couple of years after they have been drafted so you have an even better idea of how they are developing.