Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis didn’t let the Winter Classic halt trade talks.
The Leafs acquired defenceman Tim Gleason from the Carolina Hurricanes midway through the NHL’s outdoor showcase on Wednesday afternoon, finally completing a long-rumoured deal by giving up defenceman John-Michael Liles and depth prospect Dennis Robertson.
Gleason and Liles have both struggled with injuries – including recent concussions – and poor play in the last two years and fallen out of favour with their teams, making this a trade of two problem contracts.
Gleason’s deal for $4-million a season has two years remaining on it beyond this season; Liles makes $3.875-million and also has another two years left. Liles is also a little more than two years older, which is another factor.
But Gleason is closer to the type of defenceman Leafs coach Randy Carlyle likes in his lineup and gives Toronto another stay-at-home option to kill penalties. At the very least, he’ll get a chance to play more often than Liles, who dressed for just six games in the NHL this season after being sent to the minors at the start of training camp.
“He’s very competitive,” Nonis said of Gleason. “We’ll see how he fits in here. He’s going to have to earn his ice… It changes the look of our back end a little bit and I think it gives Randy some more options in terms of pairings.”
Liles was on the ice at the Winter Classic in warm-up on Wednesday afternoon but didn’t dress for the game and was on his way to Washington immediately following the game to meet his new teammates.
“John-Michael wanted to get traded today,” Nonis said. “He wants to play. This is a situation where he is going to be able to.”