First Thoughts

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    Lee Stempniak appears to be another high-cost, low-profile acquisition for Trader Cliff, who has developed a penchant for paying whatever-it-takes to land players that he feels are underrated and on the brink of a breakout.

    This approach has certainly paid off in both the Niklas Hagman signing and Mikhail Grabovski acquisition.

    Fletcher may have taken it a step further in moving two of the club’s former first round draft picks. Both Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo have thus far failed to live up to the billing, but still have the potential to come into their own.

    A clear winner of the deal will only emerge in time, naturally, but this deal particularly appears to be of the wait-and-see variety. Few have faith in Colaiacovo’s ability to ever stay healthy for any lengthy period of time, but there’s undoubtedly untapped potential within Carlo to become a top 4, two-way defenseman if, and it’s mammoth if, he manages to file a relatively healthy year. Alex Steen, in streaks, has shown top six offensive ability before retracting into his defensive shell.

    Lee Stempniak has had an off-and-on career so far, posting a very promising 27 goal campaign before suffering a setback the following year, netting 13. He appears to have recaptured his ’06-’07 scoring clip so far this year, scoring at a point-a-game pace in 14 games thus far this season.

    The general rule of thumb when it comes to evaluating these 2-for-1 type deals is that the team receiving the best player made the better deal. If you follow this guidepost then the Maple Leafs win this deal.

    Personally, I do think the Leafs have won this deal. Both Steen and Colaiacovo no doubt could come back to bite Fletch’s rear end, but I seriously doubt either of these players would’ve rebounded in Toronto. Wilson wasn’t a fan of either. Between the injuries and the Leafs’ blue-line depth, Carlo was facing an uphill battle to ever break Maple Leafs’ top 4 and Steen, having been outshone by Matty Stajan, was bound for bottom 6 duty for the foreseeable future.

    It seems the Blues are relying more on hope and upside here whereas the Leafs are acquiring a player with more of an established track record, albeit a player who’s rebounding from a downer year.

    What I like about the deal:

    *Stempniak’s a right-handed shot and power-play specialist. This was undoubtedly a contributing factor to the deal as Wilson has seriously grown tired of watching 2-man advantages go to waste. This club had a dearth of natural right-wingers.

    *The prospect of a Hagman-Grabovski-Stempniak line excites me to no end.

    *Wilson, being a former Western Conference coach, probably played a key role in motivating Fletcher’s interests. Fletcher too has had a good look at Stempniak from his time in Phoenix. From what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to doubt Fletcher’s ability as a talent evaluator.

    *Plagued by injuries, St. Louis was in need of depth at both center-ice and on the blue-line and the Maple Leafs may have been able to take advantage of the opportunity here.

    *Stempniak may be somewhat undersized, but he’s also a dedicated physical player with a strong work ethic so he should fit in with Wilson’s bunch. He also can kill penalties.

    *Stajan and Steen have always seemed to offer a very similar package. Steen has been easily outperformed by Stajan this year and it left him very expendable.

    Pending the clearance of physicals (usually just standard procedure, but we never know with Cola), Stempniak should be in the line-up tomorrow night when the Leafs play host to the Atlanta Thrashers.