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Numbers Game: Blackhawks Deal Versteeg to Maple Leafs

Scott Cullen
7/1/2010 12:11:31 AM
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The Chicago Blackhawks continue to shed salary and it worked in favour of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who swooped in to land a scoring winger.

Numbers Game looks at the five-player deal that brings Kris Versteeg to Toronto.

The Maple Leafs Get: RW Kris Versteeg and LW Bill Sweatt.

Versteeg, 24, is skilled, streaky and coming off his second straight 20-goal season, though his point and plus-minus numbers decreased in his second NHL campaign as his role was cut back.

Versteeg will move into a top-six, possibly even a top line, forward role with the Maple Leafs.  While Versteeg won't have the same calibre of supporting cast in Toronto, it's fair to expect that he will have a more prominent role on a team that returns just one 20-goal scorer (Phil Kessel) from last season.

If Versteeg's ice time increases to an entirely reasonable 17-18 minutes per game (up from the 15:43 he played last season in Chicago), including more power play time, that should provide him with ample opportunity to score 25 goals.

Signed for two more seasons, after which he'll be a restricted free agent, Versteeg's cap hit is $3.083-million per season.

Speedy winger Bill Sweatt, 21, already has four seasons of collegiate hockey under his belt at Colorado College, scoring 109 points in 143 games, and is set to start his pro career. Some time in the AHL, playing important minutes and getting used to the pro grind, will prepare Sweatt for his shot in the NHL.

The Blackhawks Get: LW Viktor Stalberg, C Philippe Paradis and C Chris DiDomenico.

After dazzling in the preseason last year, 24-year-old Viktor Stalberg couldn't carry that production into the regular season and he ended up in the AHL for about half the season, scoring 12 goals and 33 points in 39 games with the Toronto Marlies.

In his part-time role with the Maple Leafs, Stalberg managed nine goals and 14 points in 40 games.  His minus-13 rating was worst among Leafs forwards, so he has room for his game to grow.

Stalberg has good size and can finish, so he could realize his potential if he gets a shot with a skilled centre in Chicago, but he may require more time in the AHL before he gets that chance.

Acquired in a trade for Jiri Tlusty last season, 19-year-old Philippe Paradis was a first-round pick of Carolina in 2009.

He didn't score enough in junior (44 points in 63 games last season) to think that he'll make an impact like that at the next level, but Paradis does play with a chip on his shoulder and could eventually earn a depth role as a checker.

21-year-old Christopher DiDomenico missed much of the season as he recovered from a broken femur, but he showed that his scoring touch wasn't lost with all that time off, scoring 43 points in 26 games between the regular season and playoffs with Drummondville in the QMJHL.

With time to prove himself in the American Hockey League, DiDomenico holds at least a little potential value down the road for the Blackhawks.

The fallout for the Cup-winning Blackhawks has been significant enough, with several cost-cutting trades required to get the team to a more manageable position under the salary cap for next season. 

As a result -- and barring additional acquisitions -- a couple of wingers like Stalberg, Jack Skille or Troy Brouwer should have a chance to fill scoring roles.

For the Maple Leafs, moving out prospects for a proven young goal-scorer is a way to improve immediately and, since the Leafs can afford to take on Versteeg's salary, it's a no-brainer. 

Versteeg alone is hardly going to turn the tide for the Maple Leafs, but if he's the first part of several off-season moves to address their needs up front, then it's a step in the right direction.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

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