Keith Aulie Heading To Tampa Bay For Carter Ashton
Originally acquired in the Dion Phaneuf deal from the Calgary Flames, Aulie had two assists in 17 games this season for the Maple Leafs. After a good rookie season in 2010-11 with Toronto Aulie had fallen out of favor at times this season finding himself in the press box or with Toronto’s AHL affiliate more times than not this season.
At just 22-years of age Aulie has a ton of upside. His 6’6”, 217 pound frame will be a welcome addition to the Lightning lineup as they are in dire need of a young, tough defenseman.
In Ashton, the Toronto Maple Leafs get a former 2009 first round draft pick (29th overall) that plays a tough North—South game. At 6’3”, 215 pounds, Ashton is known as a power forward who skates well and has a measure of offensive upside.
Through 56 games with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals Ashton has amassed 19 goals and 16 assists for a total of 35 points. Like many young players Ashton struggles defensively at times, but there is every indication that he will be a solid NHL player very soon.
Carter has good NHL pedigree as his father Brent Ashton played 998 career NHL games between Vancouver, Colorado, New Jersey, Minnesota, Quebec, Detroit, Winnipeg, Boston and Calgary from 1979 through 1993, respectively.
Clearly, this is the type of deal Burke was looking to make, a deal which sees Burke deal from a position of depth (defense) while bringing in a power forward in return— a skill set Toronto currently lacks.
While many Toronto fans were hoping for a big name forward like Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash coming to the Blue and White the acquisition of Ashton is yet another strong addition to the ever-growing long list of young prospects Toronto has assembled since Burke has been the GM.
With defensive prospects Korbinian Holzer and Jesse Blacker being close to NHL ready, Burke obviously felt he had enough in the stable to deal Aulie, and while Aulie will be missed, you cannot ignore the talent Burke brought back in Ashton.
Clearly, today’s moves signal that Burke has his eye on the future. Let’s face it, with the Maple Leafs currently in a downward spiral and out of a playoff position it is hard to argue with Burke’s move or lack thereof.
Despite his teams recent 1-7-1 slide, Burke believes his team is still capable of turning things around, and with the trade deadline now over, there is hope that his troops can get focused, rather than being distracted by rumors, which they so obviously have been of late.
Burke did hang onto pending unrestricted free agent Mikhail Grabovski, and he didn’t make any other rumored deals which included the likes of Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong and Luke Schenn possibly being moved.
In this case I cannot dispute what Burke has done. Wholesale changes were not going to be in the teams’ best interest and selling out all of the youth Burke has acquired for the likes of Rick Nash could have been disastrous.
Toronto Maple Leafs management has long been criticized for their unwillingness to build through the draft. Burke has shown to be different in that regard. Despite giving up three picks to land Phil Kessel, Burke has held on to most of his picks since becoming the Maple Leafs GM, while enhancing the Buds stable of prospects acquiring additional picks through trades and the signing of several young free agent forwards, many of which represent a good portion of the Maple Leafs future.
So why didn’t Burke go out and land the big fish?
Clearly, while Burke is believed to have made an offer for Rick Nash the price tag (which is believed to be a roster player such as Jake Gardiner, two draft choices and a top prospect) was deemed to be far too high. It should be noted, with Columbus asking for the sun and the moon in return for Nash, every NHL general manager took a pass, it’s not as if Burke was the only one to see value in keeping his assets over making a move for Nash.
Burke has never been a fan of making a big deal at the deadline wire, so it really is no surprise that he chose to pass on making a huge splash today. Good on him for not succumbing to the pressure of making a deal just to appease the media and fans. It takes guts to make a big deal, and it takes an equal amount of confidence to pass when the deal doesn’t make sense for your team.
For his part, Burke stated that he was not disappointed with his lack of activity, rather he chose to point to his organizational depth as the key to the teams future fortunes, which he feels justifies today’s results, or lack thereof.
When it comes to Burke’s inability to address the goaltending, Burke said that from his perspective James Reimer “is the real deal” and that without a strong performance from Jonas Gustavsson earlier in the season his team would not be in the playoff race.
Burke acknowledged that he received a number of offers on players, but decided to pass. In order to make those moves Burke would have had to give up roster players with picks and prospects coming the other way. In Burke’s mind that would mean his team would have to wait, which is not the direction he is attempting to take his team in.
So, for now, Burke is sticking to the blueprint, which means developing their own talent, acquiring draft choices and looking to make deals that improve this team both in the short and long term. There is no room for panic, no possibility of wholesale changes, it’s all about the big picture, and that’s that.
Let’s not forget, the Toronto Marlies (a team largely built by Brian Burke) are one of the AHL’s best teams. Clearly, while there are more than a few fans out there that do not believe it to be true, Burke is building for the future, not simply looking for the quick fix.
Burke and his team of scouts have worked far too hard to blow this team up. They now have about 20 games to go out there and prove to Burke and Company that they want to remain a part of this team. Failing that, Burke will surely make moves this summer, one of which may be the firing of Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.
Burke believes his team was/is good enough to make the playoffs, if this team fails to make it, some heads are gonna roll.
On a positive note, Burke did not move Jake Gardiner. A number of rumors had the Columbus Blue Jackets asking for Gardiner in any deal for Rick Nash. With Gardiner likely rounding into an All-Star caliber defenseman for many years to come it is refreshing to see a Toronto Maple Leafs GM hold onto our young talent.
All-in-all it was a rather uneventful day for Brian Burke and Company. We speculated this a few weeks ago…
For the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs the trade deadline was, outside of the Ashton acquisition just that, “dead”…and we are “ok” with that!
That said, if Ashton is able to evolve into a solid top-six forward we may look back at today as yet another turning point in the Maple Leafs long overdue voyage to the playoffs and continual playoff contention.
Until next time,