Numbers Game: Remodeled Blueline in Toronto

Scott Cullen
7/2/2009 1:21:56 PM
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The Toronto Maple Leafs remodeled their defence with some significant moves, none of which included Tomas Kaberle.

Numbers Game looks at the Leafs-Thrashers trade as well as the signing of D Mike Komisarek.

The Maple Leafs Get: D Mike Komisarek, D Garnet Exelby and LW Colin Stuart.

Komisarek, 27, can be a beast on the blueline, but that description was much more fitting for his play in 2007-2008 rather than 2008-2009, when he lost some of his edge after getting thumped by Bruins winger Milan Lucic.

He's also not much of a puckhandler, finishing last season with just 11 points in 66 games and ranking worst on the Canadiens in giveaway-takeaway differential (minus-67), so it's at least fair to question whether it's worth a five-year, $22-million investment for a strictly defensive defenceman.

Working in Komisarek's favour, in Toronto, is that he will surely have enough muscle in the lineup that 6-foot-5, 240-pound Komisarek can focus his attention on hitting and shutting down the top opposition forwards and, even in a down season, he led the Canadiens with 191 hits and 207 blocked shots.

One of the guys who will add some toughness to the Maple Leafs blueline is Garnet Exelby, the stocky 28-year-old who led the Thrashers with 151 hits last season.

Exelby isn't terribly mobile, and has yet to surpass 10 points in an NHL season, but he's a battler and punishing hitter for the third pairing.

Perhaps an underrated part of the deal is soon-to-be 27-year-old Colin Stuart, who has only played 51 NHL games in his career, but he's a big body, willing hitter and inexpensive contract ($483,333 against the cap) who should be useful in a third or fourth-line role.

The Thrashers Get: D Pavel Kubina and C Tim Stapleton.

32-year-old Pavel Kubina can be an effective defenceman as he's huge (6-foot-4, 244 pounds) and has a heavy shot from the point that helped him score 40 of his 80 points over the last two seasons with the man advantage.

However, Kubina is also erratic defensively and last year's minus-15 rating was his worst since 2001-2002.  While some of that is obviously attributable to the strength of the team in Toronto, it's not like the Thrashers necessarily represent a massive upgrade in surrounding talent.

Going into the final year of his contract, at $5-million, Kubina is a valuable asset for the Thrashers, since he can handle top-four minutes next season and, if the Thrashers happen to fall out of playoff contention, he could well be a tradeable commodity before the deadline.

Stapleton, 26, is a restricted free agent, but the undersized pivot could have some value as a playmaker for the Thrashers after leading the AHL's Toronto Marlies with 79 points in 70 games last season.

In the final analysis, the Maple Leafs are a better team after making this deal, because they used the cap space to turn around and get Komisarek, though losing a capable offensive defenceman like Kubina could make the Leafs more reluctant to deal Tomas Kaberle at some point this summer, but if he's not part of the rebuilding plan, Kaberle should net a good young forward.

Scott Cullen can be reached at

Mike Komisarek (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
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