The Toronto Maple Leafs faceoff ace is no more.
The Leafs dealt little-used centre David Steckel to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon for prospect Ryan Lasch and a 2014 seventh-round pick, opening a roster spot to allow Joffrey Lupul to return from a broken arm.
Steckel became the odd-man out in the lineup after Toronto signed Jay McClement as a free agent in the summer, taking over the checking centre role that Steckel had filled for coach Randy Carlyle at the tail end of last season.
Steckel had played in only 13 games this season and averaged a little more than seven minutes a game. He’ll be reunited with Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim, his former coach with the Washington Capitals, and will likely play a bigger role.
“Adding David Steckel gives us another big body and depth up the middle,” Ducks GM Bob Murray said. “He comes highly recommended from Bruce. Faceoffs have been something of a concern for us the last few seasons. Steckel is a tremendous faceoff man and penalty killer, something that will really help our club.”
Moving Steckel was a priority this week as Lupul announced after practice on Friday that he intended to play on Saturday’s game against Winnipeg for the first time in nearly eight weeks.
As they’ve been for much of the season, the Leafs had a roster crunch and would have had to send Korbinian Holzer or Leo Komarov – the only players that don’t require waivers – to the minors in order to fit Lupul under the 23-man limit without the trade.
It’s a similar swap as the one that sent Mike Brown to Edmonton a couple weeks ago, as it’s more out of necessity than any unhappiness with the player. Steckel actually played big minutes for Carlyle late last season and provided some decent injury insurance down the middle if anyone got hurt.
But with the team carrying eight defencemen and two enforcers, there are only so many roster spots and GM Dave Nonis chose those luxuries over having a veteran centre as a healthy scratch.
Lasch isn’t considered a high end prospect. He’s a 26-year-old 5-foot-9 forward who has had some success in Europe – including leading the Finnish league in scoring a year ago – but spent time between the ECHL and AHL this year in the Ducks organization before going to play in Sweden.
The Leafs, however, have assigned him to the Toronto Marlies and he may be able to make an impact there. He is signed to a two-way deal until 2013-14.
The Ducks may have simply needed to get a contract off their 50-man limit in order to fit in Steckel.