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Numbers Game: Maple Leafs add Liles

Scott Cullen
6/24/2011 5:26:31 PM
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Toronto, seeking help for their 22nd-ranked power play, made a deal for an offensive defenceman that should make a difference.

Numbers Game looks at the Maple Leafs' deal for John-Michael Liles.

Leafs Get: D John-Michael Liles.

Liles, 30, is a proven puck-moving, mobile defenceman who was off to a sensational start in the 2010-2011 season before the wheels fell off for the Avalanche as a whole in the second half.

After opening the season with 23 points in 23 games, Liles had 34 points and a plus-12 rating through 46 games in late January. Then, as Colorado's season went off the rails, Liles had 12 points and was minus-21 in his last 30 games.

To be fair to Liles, however, his overall minus-9 rating was affected to some degree by Colorado's subpar goaltending. Among Avalanche defencemen that played at least 25 games, Liles had the best shot differential per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations (www.behindthenet.ca).

While that doesn't mean he should be confused with a shutdown defender, Liles isn't a complete defensive liability either. He's not big, so Liles doesn't play a particularly physical game, yet at the same time, he led Avalanche defencemen with 153 blocked shots.

In the end, Liles played a career-high 22:01 per game, scoring a career-high 46 points.

Coming to Toronto, he'll be needed to quarterback the power play and Liles had 18 points on the power play last season, the sixth straight season that he recorded at least 15 power play assists.

After trading Tomas Kaberle to Boston, the Maple Leafs really didn't have an established offensive defenceman that they could lean on to run the power play and that's why they were discussing a trade with Colorado for Liles prior to the NHL trade deadline.

Going into the last year of his contract, Liles has a $4.2-million cap hit, which is entirely reasonable for the skills he provides.

Avalanche Get: A second-round pick in 2012.

The second-round pick that Colorado gets will be the pick that Toronto acquired from Boston in the Tomas Kaberle trade. The standard second-round pick has a 25-30 percent chance of turning into an NHL player, but Liles' departure leaves the Avs with an immediate significant hole.

Barring additional summer acquisitions, the defenceman most likely to benefit for the Avalanche could be Kyle Cumiskey, an oft-injured, smooth-skating blueliner who has been playing nearly 20 minutes per game over the last two seasons, yet has played a total of 79 games due to concussions, foot and shoulder injuries.

Erik Johnson will certainly be the focal point on the Colorado defence but Cumiskey, even if he's not quite as offensively gifted, may be able to play a role more similar to the role that Liles plays.

Colorado now sits about $20-million under the salary floor for next season, but they have nine restricted free agents to deal with (Cumiskey included) in addition to any consideration of unrestricted free agents, so they have plenty of financial flexibility to go about building their team this summer.

Since Toronto is further along in their rebuilding plan, with expectations of competing for a playoff spot next season, Liles makes more sense in the Toronto lineup next season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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