Toronto Maple Leafs trade Carl Gunnarson to St. Louis for Roman Polak
By Ian Palmer
In NHL news that’s sure to affect hockey betting lines this upcoming season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have attempted to upgrade their blue line by shipping off Swedish native Carl Gunnarson to the St. Louis Blues for fellow defenseman Roman Polak of the Czech Republic. The trade took place during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia on June 28. The Leafs also coughed up a fourth-rounder in this year’s draft, which was the 94th pick overall. Toronto was looking for some right-handed shooters on their blue line since Cody Franson is the only regular they have. However, Franson might not be back since he’s a restricted free agent on July 1.
General manager Dave Nonis said the Leafs were also looking to add a more physical player in their own end and the 28-year-old Polak fits that bill nicely. Both Polak and Gunnarson have two years remaining on their current contracts. Gunnarson’s deal is for $3.15 million per year towards the salary cap while Polak will cost the Leafs $2.75 million a season. Reports out of Toronto claim the Leafs will still be responsible for $200,000 of Gunnarson’s salary though for each of the next two years. The 27-year-old Gunnarson played 80 games for the Leafs in 2013/14 and scored 17 points on three goals and 14 assists while posting a plus-12 rating.
He was generally used in Toronto’s top pairing with team captain Dion Phaneuf. Gunnarson has appeared in 304 career regular-season games in the NHL, all with Toronto, and has racked up 86 points on 15 goals and 71 assists. He also has one assist in seven career playoff contests. With his departure, Nonis said he expects either Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner to fight for the open spot on the team’s top defensive pairing. Nonis remarked that those two youngsters will need to take a step forward and challenge the squad’s veteran defenseman once training camp gets underway.
Polak gives the Leafs some added size since he’s 6-feet tall and weighs in at 236 pounds. He’s a good skater and likes to play a physical style of game. Polak scored 13 points in four goals and nine assists in 72 games with the Blues last campaign and was a plus-three. He’s played in 424 career regular-season games and has 69 points on 13 goals and 66 assists. He’s also played in 25 playoff games with a pair of assists to his name.
Nonis believes that Polak is a tough competitor to play against and that’s why he usually faces the opponent’s top line. He also feels Polak is a pretty good penalty killer and has a good accurate shot from the point. The trade is the biggest move the Leafs have made so far in the offseason, but Nonis is expected to make some more player moves via free agency and deals with other teams. Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan admitted that he’s interested in acquiring veteran netminder Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils via the free-agent route.
If Brodeur signs with the Leafs then fans should expect to see restricted free agent backup goalie James Reimer traded. The Leafs are also trying to re-sign free-agent center Dave Bolland and winger Mason Raymond while it’s believed they’ll let unrestricted free agent forward Nikolai Kulemin of Russia leave during the summer.