The Toronto Maple Leafs have found a home for one of their extra bodies.
With only two days remaining to get down to the 23-man roster limit, the Leafs dealt centre Matthew Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes for a conditional draft pick on Wednesday night.
Lombardi was one of 16 forwards in camp with a legitimate shot at making the roster, but after missing a full season with a concussion in 2010-11, struggled to regain his form last season with only 18 points in 62 games.
The deal is made far more interesting given it is the first trade made league-wide to use the recently signed collective bargaining agreement’s new retain salary rule. The Leafs will keep $1.5-million of his contract and cap hit on their books for the final year of the deal.
The draft pick the Leafs receive will be a 2014 fourth-round pick that improves to a third-rounder if Lombardi either re-signs with the Coyotes or hits performance benchmarks.
“We are very pleased to bring a player like Matthew back to our team,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said in a statement. “Matthew is a very strong skater who will add quickness and skill to our lineup. He is an intelligent centre who will be a great addition to our team and provides us with added depth at the position.”
Lombardi played a season and a half in Phoenix ending in 2010 and spent the lockout skating there with several Coyotes players. Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this week they had interest in acquiring him.
Lombardi is in the final year of a three-year deal he signed with the Nashville Predators that paid him $3.5-million a season. Just two games into that contract, he suffered the concussion that has derailed his career to this point.
The Leafs acquired Lombardi as a salary dump by the Predators in 2011 as part of the deal for Cody Franson. At the time, Lombardi was considered a long shot to play given his head injury.
If he had stayed with Toronto, he likely would have sat in the press box as an extra forward so opening that roster spot and saving some salary makes sense.
Minus Lombardi and the three others placed on waivers on Wednesday (Ryan Hamilton, Keith Aucoin and Mike Mottau), the Leafs training camp lineup currently sits at 27 players:
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Van Riemsdyk - Connolly - Frattin
Komarov - McClement - Brown
Extras: Steckel, Kadri, Orr
Rielly - Phaneuf
Gunnarsson - Kostka
Liles - Franson
Fraser - Komisarek
Extras: Holzer, Gardiner (injured)