The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have acquired veteran center Tomas Plekanec from the Montreal Canadiens. The trade will have Montreal sending Plekanec and forward Kyle Baun to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Rinat Valiev, winger Kerby Rychel and Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2018 draft. The Canadiens will retain 50 percent of Plekanec’s salary (the maximum allowed), according to TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie.
With the Canadiens retaining half of Plekanec’s salary, that still leaves Toronto with $6MM in cap space to work with, meaning they could still add another piece if they choose to do so. Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby writes the team is interesting in acquiring New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Many predicted that Toronto would hop into the trade market, especially after the Boston Bruins added Rick Nash this morning from the New York Rangers. On the surface it looks like Toronto made a nice move as they moved two average prospects and a second-rounder to improve their bottom-line depth at center. There has been talk that Toronto coach Mike Babcock hasn’t been high on their fourth-line center Dominic Moore. Plekanec can now fill that void and energize the team’s bottom lines.
Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reports that the Canadiens worked with Plekanec to find the right fit although he did not have a no-trade clause. The 35-year-old wanted to stay in the Eastern Conference. The also talked about an extension in Montreal and there remains the possibility to bring Plekanec back to Montreal in the offseason. Plekanec, who has been with the franchise his entire career has played 981 games in Montreal.
As for the Canadiens, the team did get a number of pieces in return for the long-time center. They received Toronto’s second-rounder, which will give the franchise four second-round picks in this year’s draft.
Valiev is likely to join Montreal for the rest of the season as the 22-year-old defenseman is a left-handed defenseman, who many believe should fill out to be a solid bottom-pairing defenseman. He has played three full seasons with the AHL Toronto Marlies and has made 10 appearances for the Maple Leafs, all last season. Valiev has five goals and 10 assists in 40 games this year with the Marlies. Rychel is a former first-round pick in 2013 by the Columbus Blue Jackets but struggled to produce. Columbus traded him to Toronto two years ago and Rychel has shown some promise, putting up 19 goals last year with the Marlies and he currently has 10 goals this year. Both are good players, but were having trouble breaking through the Maple Leafs depth charts. That may change with Montreal.
Toronto also got Baun in the deal. While he has played five games in the NHL, that was back in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Since being acquired at the start of the season from the Chicago Blackhawks, Baun has spent the season with the Laval Rocket of the AHL and four goals and 12 assists in 54 games.