Theory: Four reasons Kris Versteeg was traded to Philadelphia
The Leafs traded Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia this evening for a first and third round pick in the 2011 draft.
A member of last season's Cup-winning team, Versteeg started slowly in Toronto. Despite his speed and versatility, two traits that appealed to the Flyers, the 24-year-old struggled offensively with the Leafs. After 53 games, he was also a -13 and, in recent days, the subject of escalating trade speculation.
So why unload a player after getting him less than eight months ago? Why trade a player once believed to be a Top 6 forward for draft picks from a team that's certain to finish high in the standings?
Here now, four theories:
1. Versteeg was too casual about losing. Do you remember when the team went off the rails in November? The one word Versteeg never stopped using in postgame interviews was "fun." He was always grinning. He never seemed particularly bothered by the mounting losses.
2. Versteeg could be selfish with the puck. How many times did he wind up and blast a low percentage shot instead of pass? How many times did he carry the puck for that extra second or extra step, which often resulted in a missed shot, a botched play, a whistle or a turnover?
3. Versteeg was made expendable by the recent acquisition of Joffrey Lupul, who can also play multiple positions and be used on special teams.
4. Versteeg did not seem to have any fire in his belly, at least not when it came to hockey. Maybe this was related to already winning a Cup. Maybe it was a personality quirk. But instead of fulfilling an on-ice leadership role, which was open to him this summer, he always seemed more preoccupied with the off-ice role of practical joker.
All of which boils down to this: Versteeg was not a good fit here. Maybe the team expected too much. Maybe he expected too little. But, ultimately, his breezy attitude was at odds with a team gasping for two points most nights, a team choking under the weight of chronic inconsistency.
Kris Versteeg, in my opinion, had blue-and-white disease before he arrived in Toronto.
On Philadelphia, like Chicago last season, Versteeg's "soft flaws" will not be as pronounced. He will be given a chance to contribute offensively down the stretch and in the playoffs. But this is a close-knit team, one that tellingly did not surrender any current roster players to acquire Versteeg. If he can help, great. If he wants to crack wise, build friendships and polish his sweet ride, he won't play very much.
This was a luxury Toronto could no longer afford. And in advance of this summer's free agency dance, they now have picks that can be flipped and significantly more cap room.