Rumours and Decisions
So should the Maple Leafs have been the team that ended up with Wojtek Wolski?
Well, it's pretty clear they had their shot before the former first rounder was peddled by Phoenix to the New York Rangers on Monday for 32-year-old defenceman Michal Roszival.
It was about a month ago that Coyotes GM Don Maloney inquired about Leaf defenceman Francois Beauchemin, just before GM Brian Burke enforced his usual Christmas trading freeze 10 days in advance of the NHL's freeze. Maloney asked about Roszival at the same time, and given the similarities between Beauchemin and Roszival, it stands to reason that Wolski was the property dangled in front of the Rangers and Leafs.
While enticing in some ways after a 23-goal season last year, Wolski is an enigmatic forward who comes with an onerous $3.8 million cap hit. That's the same as Beauchemin, but about $1.2 million less than Roszival.
So the Rangers received Wolski and a valuable $1.2 million in cap relief. The Leafs, it's clear would have then wanted Wolski plus something (a draft pick) for Beauchemin, and that's undoubtedly where the possible transaction stalled. The Coyotes then turned to Roszival, a victim of the MSG boo-birds, knowing that New York would be interested in acquiring an offensive player after losing Alexander Frolov to a season-ending knee injury.
Maybe Wolski, who played junior for the Brampton Battalion, would have been a nice fit for the Leafs, the young centre the team was looking for. But he's no sure bet, and clearly the Leafs either felt they could hold out for a better offer for Beauchemin, or continue to believe he's an invaluable veteran presence in the dressing room alongside young captain Dion Phaneuf.
Last night in Los Angeles, Beauchemin was the choice of Leaf coach Ron Wilson to be on the ice in the final seconds defending a 3-2 lead. Beauchemin made a great play standing at the blueline with less than 20 seconds left, but it was the outstanding defensive work of Luke Schenn that really stood out as the third-year blueliner continues to show his maturity.
Schenn was on the ice for the final 1:42 of play to kill a Phaneuf slashing minor. James Reimer, meanwhile, picked up another win and fending off a hard Kings charge in the final minutes. The Leafs could be facing a roster decision this week if J.S. Giguere is ready to go, but at this point, it would be hard to demote Reimer given how well he has played.
Reimer, along with Marlie callups Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb, have been significant contributors of late for the Leafs, who won their third straight. Boyce scored the opening goal of the night for the Leafs off a pretty one-on-one rush, while Crabb set up Phil Kessel for the second Leaf goal.
It was a gritty Leaf effort in the 41st game of the season, bringing the club to the official half-way point of the season having accumulated 38 points. The win moved the youthful Leafs past slumping Ottawa into 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.