TORONTO – Even though Joffrey Lupul is looking at being traded to the Maple Leafs as a fresh start, he’s also hoping to draw on his past in Toronto.
Lupul and Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur were teammates when they played for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers a few years ago and will skate together on a line with Tyler Bozak in Toronto.
Lupul was fitted for some new equipment Thursday prior to making his Leafs debut against New Jersey—a 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils. Toronto acquired the 27-year-old winger from Anaheim on Wednesday in exchange for Francois Beauchemin. The Leafs also received a prospect and conditional draft pick in the deal.
“I started to see this deal coming down and was able to make some adjustments to our lines in anticipation of this happening,” said coach Ron Wilson. “I think for the beginning, you might as well play a guy who is familiar with someone in the past. … Hopefully, we can blend him in and get him feeling at home right away.”
Lupul is two years older than MacArthur and was the Tigers’ top player during the season they were teammates. When they shared the ice back then, it was clear who was running the offence.
“I think he almost scored a goal every game in junior,” said MacArthur. “He was a guy you were trying to get the puck to. I remember we played the power play together a lot and my sole job was basically to load him up for one-timers.
“I know he’s a great shooter. I’ll be looking for him.”
Lupul arrived in Toronto on Wednesday night and went through a physical almost immediately after landing. That was important because he sat out nearly a year with a back injury and subsequent blood infection before working his way back into Anaheim’s lineup Dec. 5.
He was unable to participate in the Leafs morning skate on Thursday because Beauchemin had yet to be put through a physical by the Ducks.
“I’m anxious,” said Lupul. “In a perfect world, I would have liked to have skated and tested out this new equipment. … I just want to get out there for the first one and I can’t wait to play.”
There were times during Lupul’s long layoff when he thought his career might be over. The serious infection required him to receive intravenous treatments for months and he continues to take antibiotics to this day, according to Leafs GM Brian Burke.
However, Lupul indicated that he’s completely moved on from the injury.
“A year off is a long time to miss,” said Lupul. “You miss the training, you miss a lot of those aspects. But I worked really hard from a weight room standpoint to get my body back in shape. I think my timing and everything’s back, I’m ready to go.
“You won’t hear one comment about my back from me. It’s not an excuse, it’s behind me and in the past.”
This is the fourth time he’s been traded since the lockout—although two of those deals saw Chris Pronger heading the other way.
In Toronto, he joins a team that is in need of some scoring help and will likely give him plenty of opportunity to contribute with ice time. He’ll also reunite with MacArthur, who is in the midst of a career season.
The two have maintained a friendship since they last shared a dressing room.
“I used to work out in Edmonton and he used to live there in the summer so I would hang out with him quite a bit then,” said MacArthur. “Obviously now it’s going to be back to how it was in Medicine Hat. He’s a great guy, a great guy for the team and I’m just glad he’s here.”
But the person who is perhaps most enthusiastic about the deal is Joan McDonald. She billeted both players in Medicine Hat and the three remain in touch. Last month, both MacArthur and Lupul visited McDonald in Phoenix when the Leafs and Ducks faced the Coyotes in back-to-back games.
“We both got a chance to see her,” Lupul said. “I’m sure she’ll be watching tonight. We’ll have to maybe send her an email or something or maybe a picture of us in our Maple Leafs gear.”