Toronto general manager Brian Burke has stated that he prefers to make trades well ahead of the NHL trade deadline and, for the second straight year, he's made a significant deal in early February.
Numbers Game looks at the Leafs-Ducks swap that sent Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for a player, prospect and pick.
The Maple Leafs Get: LW Joffrey Lupul, D Jake Gardiner and a conditional pick in 2013.
Lupul, 27, is coming off back surgery that limited him to 23 games last season (10 goals, four assists) and he's played 26 games so far this year since returning to the ice, scoring five goals and 13 points.
A three-time 20-goal scorer, Lupul is an upgrade for Toronto's top six forwards, presuming that he remains healthy.
Considering the Leafs' lack of scoring depth up front, Lupul should see more than the 13:13 of ice time he was getting in Anaheim this season and, with more power play time, could reasonably be expected to tally 15-18 points in Toronto's last 28 games of the season.
The commitment to Lupul, however, goes well beyond this year, as he's signed for two more years at a cap hit of $4.25-million per season.
If he can score 20-25 goals and 50 points, then he's meeting expectations; maybe not providing good value for the money, but at this point, it's unreasonable to expect a guy coming off back surgery to suddenly turn into a 30-goal scorer for the first time.
Gardiner is a high-quality prospect. The 20-year-old was a first-round pick of the Ducks (and current Leafs GM Brian Burke) in 2008 and is scoring at apoint-per-game pace (30 points in 30 games), with a plus-20 rating, as a junior at the University of Wisconsin.
A tremendous skater, who played forward before hitting the collegiate ranks, Gardiner will have to get stronger before he's making a difference at the NHL level, but his pedigree suggests that it's at least possible that he could become a quality NHL defenceman.
Maybe Gardiner is a year or two away, but it's not like the Maple Leafs are overrun with strong-skating, puck-moving defencemen in the organization.
In the end, the Leafs' primary objective here was to acquire Gardiner and could afford to take on Lupul's pricy contract in order to make the deal work.
Further to that point, the condition of the pick, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, is that the Maple Leafs get a fourth-round pick if Lupul is on the Maple Leafs' roster for at least 40 games in 2012-2013; if not, the Leafs get a sixth-rounder.
By dealing Beauchemin, the Maple Leafs open up a lot of playing time on their blueline. Since Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle and Luke Schenn are all averaging more than 22 minutes per game this season, there is only so much more that they can be expected to play.
That leaves Mike Komisarek and Carl Gunnarsson -- both playing under 15 minutes per game -- as prime candidates for bigger roles on the Leafs' blueline.
The Ducks Get: D Francois Beauchemin.
Returning to Anaheim, where he had his most success, 30-year-old Beauchemin is a workhorse defenceman who struggled in his two seasons with the Maple Leafs, recording a minus-18 rating in 136 games.
However, Beauchemin has proven that he can handle big minutes, with this season's 23:36 per game his lowest average ice time per game since he joined the Ducks the first time in 2005-2006.
Anaheim had a desperate need for a top four defenceman to join Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman and rookie Cam Fowler, so Beauchemin will be a good fit for a team making a playoff push in the competitive Western Conference.
Beauchemin is signed through next season, with a cap hit of $3.8-million, though his actual salary next season will be $3.65-million so, in addition to addressing a position of need, the Ducks save some money when it comes to the NHL players involved in the deal.
Though Lupul wasn't playing a lot for the Ducks this season, his absence will create more opportunities for young wingers Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and, if he gets recalled from the AHL, Matt Beleskey.
If none of those young wingers can step up and produce in a complementary role, Anaheim might need another top six winger, but it figures to be easier to find an inexpensive scoring winger than it is to find a defenceman that can play 24-25 minutes a night.
Anaheim is a better team after making this deal, because Beauchemin addresses such a prominent area of need, but it makes sense, long-term, for the Maple Leafs to take a shot on Gardiner's potential.