The Toronto Maple Leafs' battered centre ice position has a reinforcement.
Leafs GM Dave Nonis acquired 22-year-old Peter Holland from the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday morning, moving prospect defenceman Jesse Blacker, a 2014 third round pick and 2014 seventh round pick for the former first round pick.
They also acquired veteran winger Brad Staubitz in the trade. The third round pick they gave up, meanwhile, will become a second rounder if Holland plays 25 NHL games this season.
Holland, who had three points for the Norfolk Admirals in a win in the AHL on Friday night, hopped a plane for Toronto immediately after the deal was made and will play Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle plans to give him a prominent role, too.
“He’s going to get a chance [to play in the top six],” Carlyle said of Holland, who has 114 points in 129 games in the minors and has played 29 NHL games with the Ducks the last three seasons. “That’s why he’s here. Obviously the centre ice position for us has been decimated with injuries and he’s a big, young, skilled centre ice man.
“He’s been able to provide offence at the junior level and AHL level and he’s going to get an opportunity to play with some of our better players.”
Carlyle is a little familiar with Holland from their time together with the Ducks, as Holland was drafted 15 overall in 2009 and Carlyle wasn’t let go until early in the 2011 season.
Their connection, however, wasn’t particularly close.
“Big guy that played lot of hockey in Guelph,” Carlyle said, referencing his junior team. “Would be known for his offensive size. Probably has developed into more of a combative individual and that’s allowed him to take the next step as far as being a damn good American League player. And now he’s looking to take the next step to being an NHL player.”
To make room on the roster for Holland, the Leafs demoted Troy Bodie to the Toronto Marlies. The Leafs also sent Staubitz down.
The Leafs are in tough right now without their three top centres after Nazem Kadri was suspended for three games for a hit on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on Wednesday.
Dave Bolland (cut ankle tendon) and Tyler Bozak (hamstring strain) are also out due to injuries, with Bolland expected to miss several months and Bozak potentially back late next week.
While the Leafs remain in solid position in the Eastern Conference, they have been sliding of late, primarily due to an inability to generate any offence. Toronto has just 23 goals in its last 12 games, a span in which it’s gone 5-6-1 including Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Sabres.
That goal drought is partly due to the hole at centre, as the likes of Jay McClement and recently signed Jerred Smithson don’t have a lot of offence to bring to the table and have played big minutes in recent games.
Having someone with a little more finesse like Holland should help, at least temporarily until Kadri and Bozak return to the lineup.
Carlyle declined to offer many specifics on how his lineup would shift with the newcomer added in, but James van Riemsdyk moving back to his natural spot on left wing will be a possibility.
“I can’t tell you all what we’re going to do,” Carlyle said when asked about van Riemsdyk.
Leafs projected lineup on Saturday:
Van Riemsdyk – Holland – Kessel Lupul – Smith – Clarkson Raymond – McClement – KuleminMcLaren – Smithson – Orr
Gunnarsson – PhaneufGardiner – Franson Ranger – Fraser