TORONTO – Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has finally started the process of making the NHL team his own.
In what was by far his busiest day since joining the club in late November, Burke dealt Nik Antropov to the New York Rangers and fellow forward Dominic Moore to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, both for second-round draft picks.
There were also significant changes on the goaltending front.
Martin Gerber was picked up off waivers from the Ottawa Senators, Vesa Toskala was shut down for the season with a hip injury and Olaf Kolzig was acquired from Tampa Bay.
It’s all part of Burke’s plan to put the building blocks in place to get the franchise back into the playoff mix in the years to come.
“General managers don’t view snapshots as far as where an organization is going,” Burke said. “We’re looking at the movie and we want to see the guy ride off at the end on a white horse with the girl and have a parade.
“That’s what we want and that’s going to take some time and I think people in this market understand that, I really do.”
Many hockey observers expected Antropov (46 points) and Moore (41 points) to be dealt as both players have enjoyed productive seasons.
The goaltending decisions, however, caught some people off guard. Toskala played one of his best games of the season in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils a night earlier and hasn’t lost in regulation since Jan. 19.
While nothing specific happened in the New Jersey game, Toskala is scheduled to undergo hip surgery next week and should be 100 per cent for training camp.
“We’ve been knowing what’s going on for a while,” said Toskala. “That’s it – we made the decision together. We need to start healing (it) as soon as possible because recovery might take quite a long time.”
Toskala went 22-17-11 on the season with a 3.26 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.
Gerber, 34, will likely get most of the starts for the remaining 18 games with Curtis Joseph as the backup. Gerber went 4-9-1 with a 2.86 GAA and .899 save percentage for Ottawa and spent about half the season with Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
Gerber is making US$3.7 million and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Leafs will pay half his salary for the remainder of the campaign.
In the Lightning deal, the Leafs picked up Kolzig, defencemen Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a fourth-round draft pick for defenceman Richard Petiot.
With Kolzig out with an upper-body injury and the other players not expected to skate in the NHL any time soon, the Leafs essentially used cap space to acquire a fourth-round pick.
Toronto also picked up defenceman Erik Reitz off waivers from the New York Rangers, assigned forward Tim Stapleton to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and announced that blue-liner Tomas Kaberle would miss 10-14 days with a hand injury.
All in all it was quite a day for Burke, who gave himself more options when draft day rolls around this June.
“The trainer is not going to have to tape my wrists from doing cartwheels but I’m pleased with what was done,” Burke said.
Entering Wednesday’s games, Toronto was 11th in the Eastern Conference and nine points out of a playoff spot.
Antropov has played 509 career NHL regular-season games with Toronto, who drafted him with the 10th overall pick in 1998. The Rangers also gave up a conditional draft pick in 2010 in the deal. Moore, picked up off waivers from Minnesota in January 2008, posted career highs of 12 goals and 29 assists this season.
“It was a good day for us long term,” Burke said. “Short term, we are saying goodbye to a couple of pretty good hockey players.”
Gerber, a native of Bergdorf, Switzerland, has played in 214 career NHL games for Anaheim, Carolina and Ottawa. He has a 104-73-21 career record with a 2.61 GAA, .910 save percentage and 10 shutouts.
Reitz, 26, has two points (1-1) and 65 penalty minutes in 42 games this season with the Rangers and Minnesota Wild.