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Leafs acquire Versteeg from Blackhawks in 5-player deal

The Canadian Press

7/1/2010 12:26:06 AM

TORONTO -- The Chicago Blackhawks unloaded another key player from their Stanley Cup-winning roster Wednesday night, sending right-winger Kris Versteeg to Toronto in a five-player deal.

The Maple Leafs also acquired the rights to left-winger Bill Sweatt in exchange for forwards Viktor Stalberg, Christopher DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis.

The trade came just hours before the start of the NHL's free agency period. It helps Chicago in its effort to get under the US$59.4-million salary cap for next season, while the Leafs get a much-needed offensive boost without giving up a key player from their roster.

Versteeg, 24, recorded 44 points (20 goals 24 assists) in 79 regular-season games for the Blackhawks. He added 14 points (six goals eight assists) in 22 post-season games.

The deal came a week after Chicago shipped playoff star Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta along with Brent Sopel and Ben Eager. The Blackhawks also recently shipped Colin Fraser to Edmonton.

Led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks beat Philadelphia for their first Stanley Cup title since 1961. Chicago had one of the deepest rosters in the league last season but changes were expected this off-season due to cap issues.

"I've been trying to warn our fans that this team that we've fallen in love with isn't going to stay the same," general manager Stan Bowman said on a conference call. "But no championship team does. It's kind of the nature of the world that we're in.

"We're doing the best we can to keep our core together."

Kane and Toews signed contract extensions in December while Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet are also signed to lucrative long-term deals.

Over parts of the last three seasons with Chicago, Versteeg has 101 points (44 goals 57 assists) and 96 penalty minutes in 170 regular-season games.

Bowman said Versteeg really blossomed over the last year.

"He can play really across the board in terms of penalty killing, power play," Bowman said. "A very versatile player, he's got a good attitude, he works hard."

Of the three players going to Chicago, Stalberg is the best bet to crack the Blackhawks' roster.

He had 14 points (nine goals five assists) in 40 games with the Leafs last season, his first in the NHL. The 24-year-old added 33 points (12 goals 21 assists) in 39 games with the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies.

Paradis, 19, spent the last three seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 44 points (24 goals 20 assists) in 63 games last season.

DiDomenico, 21, had 22 points (seven goals 15 assists) in 12 regular-season games with the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs. He added 21 points (seven goals 14 assists) in 14 post-season games.

"We've got a plethora of very good players," Bowman said. "But in order to maintain your level as a very good team, you've got to have young players to fill in around those."

Sweatt, 21, was selected with the 38th overall pick of the 2007 NHL entry draft. He has completed four seasons at Colorado College and has 109 points (46 goals 63 assists) in 143 NCAA games.