It’s all speculation, but one has to wonder if Kris Versteeg wanted to take a run with a competitor and Burke’s hand was forced on this one. A 24-year-old, 20-goal scorer, whose two-way game is in very good company, for a low first and a 3rd? It may be for futures, but it’s hard to see good value in this and it seems more than a little out of character for Burke. There may be more to this story yet, with lots of time left before the February 28 trade deadline (and the draft, and free agency).

I’m looking at this deal with three possible explanations in mind:

1) Versteeg wanted out. Burke took what he could get; wanted James Van Riemsdyk as rumoured but couldn’t get him out of Philly. The picks weren’t a bad consolation prize when he was backed against a wall. When asked what he’d miss about Toronto, Versteeg replied “the guys in the room I had a good relationship with, and that’s about it.”

2) Burke is scrapping the retool and full-out rebuilding. Even so, as a 24-year-old Cup winner on a decent contract, he’s not a player you trade under the premise you’re rebuilding.

3) It’s a precursor to Burke landing his number one center (or a top line forward). Burke has gained cap space ($3M outbound) and a useful trade chip in a first if this is the case (rarely do you see big names move without a first involved in the package). I usually don’t like speculating about deals leading to other deals (those fail safe Eklund “dominoes”), but you never know.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-13 Maple Leafs Annual magazines. You can contact him at [email protected]

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