On the first day of training camp, the Toronto Maple Leafs got faster and more flexible by trading five players to the New York Islanders for winger Michael Grabner.
The Leafs sent minor-league forwards Taylor Beck and Carter Verhaeghe, defencemen Matt Finn and Tom Nilsson and goaltender Christopher Gibson to the Islanders for Grabner, a 27-year-old speedster who has one year left on his contract.
"He brings exceptional speed," Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Grabner. "There's no question that he's one of the top penalty-killers in the league. He pushes other people, and he pushes the defence back."
Grabner has a salary-cap hit of US $3 million this season and is owed $5 million in actual salary. That's no problem for a team that will pay injured winger Nathan Horton $6 million, even though he failed his physical Thursday and may never play again because of chronic back problems.
In 317 regular-season games with the Islanders and Vancouver Canucks, Grabner has 155 points (95 goals and 60 assists). He had eight goals and five assists in 34 games last season.
By dealing a handful of American Hockey League players, none of whom were considered top prospects in the new regime, the Leafs went from 49 contracts to 45. With a 50-contract limit, they have some room to manoeuvre.
"You never know," Lamoriello said. "We don't know what might come available ... you always want to have the availability to do anything and everything."
Toronto has four players — forwards Brad Boyes, Curtis Glencross and Devin Setoguchi and defenceman Mark Fraser — at camp on professional tryout agreements.
Having a handful of contract spots to work with in the pre-season would also allow the Leafs to make another trade or claim a player off waivers. Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock have said they'll spend camp trying to make determinations on the current players.
"I think the best word is there's no preconceived notions," Lamoriello said. "I haven't seen enough or know enough about who we are right now. I think every one of the players, there's a fresh start. I think that that's the most important thing. And hopefully people will come to the forefront that we're not even aware of."