Joffrey Lupul knows he has something to prove.
And given Brian Burke's tenure with Toronto Maple Leafs to date, the general manager must feel the same way.
Burke once again took a gamble in a major midseason trade Wednesday, dealing dependable but overworked defenceman François Beauchemin to his friend and former assistant GM, Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks.
In return, Burke brings two more question marks to Toronto - the biggest being whether Lupul can regain the form that made him a 25-goal, 50-point player two years ago.
The Leafs also obtained prospect defenceman Jake Gardiner, currently a point-a-game player at the University of Wisconsin, and a 2013 NHL draft pick in either the fourth or sixth round.
In terms of impact in the immediate future, however, Lupul is it, and because he has played just 49 games in the past two seasons, the majority of the questions the 27-year-old fielded from reporters centred on his health.
Until his return to the Ducks lineup in early December, Lupul had missed almost exactly a year after back surgery and a subsequent blood infection that threatened his career.
"For a while there, it was a tough situation," he said. "I didn't know what the future had in store for me."
By the time he had recovered enough to play, Anaheim had moved on, which left Lupul as a one-dimensional $4.25-million (U.S.) winger playing a third-line role.
He said he sensed before Wednesday's trade that he wasn't in the Ducks' plans, although, like Beauchemin, he never asked to be dealt.
"I still feel 100 per cent that I can take my game to the level it was at before and above that," Lupul said. "I know that my best hockey's still ahead of me."
"I bet on Joffrey Lupul," Burke said. "Because of his character and his skill level. I believe he thinks he has something to prove."
Teams giving up on Lupul isn't exactly new, however: this is the fourth trade he's been a part of in his NHL career.
Lupul's time with the Edmonton Oilers, in particular, was brief. After the Oilers brass requested he be included in a 2006 deal which sent star defenceman Chris Pronger to Burke and the Ducks, Lupul was a huge disappointment in Edmonton and dealt away to the Philadelphia Flyers less than a year later.
Burke, however, said the fact Lupul is well-travelled wasn't an issue, given he knows the player well and was reluctant to give him up five years ago.
"The first demand that Edmonton made was 'Lupul has to be in the deal,' " Burke said. "I had a choice [between Lupul and Pronger]… so we made the decision to get rid of him. I tried to get him back when he was still in Philly. I believe in this player; I believe in this person."
Burke added he realizes Lupul will have a hard time earning his current salary given his recent injury issues. Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said he plans to play Lupul on a line with Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.
"He may be overpaid for what he does now," Burke said. "That's okay. That's not the player's fault."
Lupul's salary, however, was likely a major consideration in the deal, as the Ducks have a far smaller budget than the Leafs and will save close to $1-million through the end of next season, given Beauchemin's contract in Toronto was front-loaded.
Whether the Leafs get the player Burke felt he had in Anaheim or the one that has bounced around since the infamous Pronger trade remains to be seen. Because being in a deal for Beauchemin instead of one for Pronger is as clear a sign as any just how far his stock has fallen.
"Definitely, from a hockey standpoint, I'm really excited to get to Toronto," Lupul said. "I talked to … Wilson already and he talked about giving me a really good chance here. And that's all I can ask for."Report Typo/Error