The first domino appears to have fallen prior to the NHL trade deadline as the Toronto Maple Leafs have shipped defenceman Francois Beauchemin back to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenceman Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in the 2013 Entry Draft.
"I'm excited to get back in a playoff race. I never really wanted to leave Anaheim," Beauchemin told TSN on Wednesday. "It's been a frustrating season. We just couldn't get any consistency."
The 30-year-old Beauchemin struggled during his time in Toronto after signing as a free agent in 2009, however he helped the Ducks capture the Stanley Cup in 2007.
A stay-at-home defender, the Sorel, Quebec native has two goals and 10 assists in 54 games this season with the Leafs.
"I wish I could have scored more goals here," Beauchemin told TSN. "But I played as hard as I could have defensively."
Originally selected in the third round, 75th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Beauchemin has 27 goals and 99 assists in 373 career games split between the Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ducks and Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke told a press conference that the deal for Lupul had been about three weeks in the making, and that he had tried to acquire the forward while he was still with Philadelphia up until the end of the 2008-09 season.
Lupul, 27, who missed 24 games earlier in the season following back surgery, has five goals and eight assists in 26 games this season. Although his numbers are down this season, Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson expects him to contribute immediately.
"We've been trying to look for goal scoring, both inside and out (of the organization), and an opportunity to pick up Joffrey Lupul presented itself," Wilson told the CANADIAN PRESS. "We think that we're deep enough as an organization to give up a player like (Beauchemin), who's played well for us and who was a leader on and off the ice.
Lupul believes that he will thrive in an expanded role in Toronto.
"I think definitely I have a lot to prove to a lot of people now," Lupul told the CANADIAN PRESS. "The Anaheim Ducks kind of just let me go after 20 games. I don't know if it's injury-related or what it is. But I have a lot to prove to myself and to the team that just let me go and, first and foremost, to the new organization and my new teammates.
"I want to step in and help make an impact."
Burke also explained that Lupul had a serious infection following his back surgery, and that he remains on antibiotics. Lupul is scheduled to have a physical tomorrow.
The Leafs reviewed his case with their doctors and have no concerns with his past back issues.
Originally a first round pick (seventh overall) by the Ducks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native has 117 goals and 121 assists in 421 career games split between the Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers.
The 20-year old Gardiner, who is among the Ducks' top defensive prospects, currently plays for the University of Wisconsin where he has seven goals and 23 assists in 30 games this season. He was selected in the first round, 17th overall, by Anaheim in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Burke told media that he prefers to try to make trades in advance of the deadline, which falls this year on Feb. 28. He also said that when a roster spot becomes available, the club will recall defenceman Keith Aulie from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Burke explained that he also believes that Aulie will eventually be a top-four defenceman for the Maple Leafs.
"You can expect more moves...we're not done," Burke added.