Leafs make swap with Devils
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|The Maple Leafs picked up centre David Steckel from the Devils on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
TORONTO - Brian Burke and Ron Wilson have been muttering about lack of faceoff prowess among their centres the past few days and on Tuesday afternoon they decided to act.
They’ve added long-limbed David Steckel from the New Jersey Devils, the NHL’s quickest draw last year at 62.3%, at the cost of a fourth-round pick in 2012.
Steckel, who gained notoriety last year for the hit that contributed Sidney Crosby’s season in the Winter Classic, was with the Capitals and Devils last year. Steckel is 6-foot-5 and a former first-round pick from 2002.
“He’s a big-body centre whom we’ve had our eye on for a long time,” said Dave Poulin, the Leafs’ vice-president of hockey operations. “We’ve been concerned about being small down the middle a long time. We’ll let (coach) Ron Wilson sort it out from here.”
Steckel, 29, arrives with the Leafs in a state of flux at centre. Tim Connolly is hurting and expected to miss Thursday’s opener, with Tyler Bozak slowed by a lower-body injury. Darryl Boyce had already been demoted after losing a battle to Philippe Dupuis. Matthew Lombardi appears to have recovered from a concussion, but has not played a regular-season game in nearly a year.
Mikhail Grabovski, who works the middle of the most reliable line, was nonetheless singled out by Wilson last week for his faceoff shortcomings.
Steckel comes with a $1.1-million salary that will take up about half of Burke’s remaining cap space.
A native of Milwaukee, Steckel placed in the top seven in faceoff winning percentage in each of his first four full NHL seasons.