July 03, 2011
The initial miracle of Sunday's trade between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators is, of course, the trade of defenseman Brett Ledba for anything more than a bag of magic beans or 2012 Atlanta Thrashers season tickets. That he went in a deal that saw Cody Franson(notes) coming back the other way might qualify Brian Burke for sainthood in certain sects of Catholicism.
The full deal had Lebda and forward Robert Slaney(notes) going to Nashville for Franson and center Matthew Lombardi(notes), with a conditional fourth-round pick in the deal as well. Chemmy at Pension Plan Puppets is caps-lock happy for the Leafs; Dirk at On The Forecheck writes about the Preds, "As a standalone deal, this is terrible, but it looks like the prelude to something bigger, just like the Jason Arnott(notes) trade created the room to sign Lombardi last summer."
Franson is a 6-foot-5, 213-pound defenseman who is 23 years old and a restricted free agent next summer. He's a great get for Burke. Lombardi, however, is the most interesting part of the deal.
The speedy forward missed all but two games in 2010-11 after suffering a serious concussion during an Oct. 13 game against the Chicago Blackhawks. An excellent penalty killer, Lombardi set a career high in points with 53 during the 2009-10 season with the Phoenix Coyotes. For his career he has collected 236 points in 446 career games, showing he has a scoring knack as well.
Lombardi's lost season is the stuff of hockey tragedy.
He had a career year before going unrestricted; left Phoenix, with GM Don Maloney claiming he priced himself out of re-signing; inked a 3-year, $10.5 million deal with Nashville; had a second child with his wife in September; and then saw a season that was supposed to have him be Nashville's No. 1 center end two games into it.
From Predators GM David Poile in a release today:
"Unfortunately, Matthew Lombardi's concussion last season and recovery left us uncertain about his ability to come back for this season, and that uncertainty has made it difficult for us to move forward, plan and develop our lineup," Poile said
"I've come a long way since then," Lombardi said during a conference call. "My everyday stuff is getting pretty close to normal, I've seen a lot of progress the last few months.
"Obviously it has taken a long time but I'm pretty confident I'm near the end. I'm getting better. I'm not there yet but my goal is to be ready for training camp. It is what it is right now and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
But he's not there yet, in his ninth month of recovery. The Leafs can put him on LTIR, so the cap consequences aren't severe and he can be a solid addition at center if he recovers.
Again: If he recovers. As of now, he's cautionary tale about head injuries in the NHL and how today's free-agent jackpot can become tomorrow's liability. Hopefully, Lombardi writes a happy ending for himself.
The move could be considered somewhat of a salary dump. Slaney has one year left on his two-way contract, which pays him $600,000 at the NHL level and $65,000 at the AHL level. Lebda is set to make $1.4 million next season -- the final year of his contract. Lombardi had two years at $3.5 million per season left on his deal, and Franson had one year at $800,000 left on his contract.
"We still have to fill in a couple of holes, and I'm committed to doing that. But I really feel good to what we've done this point, to change our club and give us more options," Poile said. "Our payroll is going to be more than it was last year."
The Preds have $29 million in cap space and 15 players under contract. It's going to be an interesting few weeks for Poile and his check-signing hand.