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Leafs Hope Lupul Will Provide More Offence

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- General manager Brian Burke isn't waiting for the NHL trade deadline to start retooling the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He acquired forward Joffrey Lupul from the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday in exchange for defenceman Francois Beauchemin. Toronto also received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2013 and prospect Jake Gardiner, a defenceman taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.

The trade deadline won't pass until Feb. 28, but Burke is in a hurry to try to help his team keep its faint playoff hopes alive.

Lupul will be expected to give the team an offensive boost by playing on the second forward line. The Leafs were 24th overall in goals per game entering play Wednesday.

``We've been trying to look for goal scoring, both inside and out (of the organization), and an opportunity to pick up Joffrey Lupul presented itself,'' said coach Ron Wilson. ``We think that we're deep enough as an organization to give up a player like (Beauchemin), who's played well for us and who was a leader on and off the ice.

``It's going to be hard to replace his minutes, but we think we've got another kind of key to the offensive puzzle.''

The 27-year-old Lupul is still working his way back after sitting out nearly a year with a back injury and subsequent blood infection. He has 13 points (5-8) in 26 games this season.

Lupul was used primarily as a third-liner with the Ducks and is looking forward to an expanded role.

``I think definitely I have a lot to prove to a lot of people now,'' he said. ``The Anaheim Ducks kind of just let me go after 20 games. I don't know if it's injury-related or what it is. But I have a lot to prove to myself and to the team that just let me go and, first and foremost, to the new organization and my new teammates.

``I want to step in and help make an impact.''

There is some risk for Toronto in the deal.

Lupul will earn US$4.25 million over the next two years while Beauchemin has one year remaining on his deal at $3.8 million.

The 30-year-old Beauchemin spent parts of four seasons with the Ducks before signing with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2009. He spent the majority of this season on the team's top defensive pairing with Dion Phaneuf and didn't want to leave the city.

Beauchemin had a limited no-trade clause and provided Burke with a list of 12 teams he was willing to be dealt to.

``I was kind of expecting something to happen with all the rumours that were out there lately,'' Beauchemin said on a conference call. ``I loved it here. Great city to play, great group of guys, but last year was a tough year and this year we're still out of a playoff spot.''

The Leafs have won four of five games since the all-star break and sit eight points behind eighth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference.

True to form, Burke created plenty of buzz with the move. The Leafs expect Lupul to suit up for Thursday's game against New Jersey on a line with Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur. Lupul and MacArthur are former teammates with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers.

``He hasn't played a lot of minutes,'' Wilson said of Lupul. ``He certainly better get a good night's sleep tonight because we're going to play him quite a bit tomorrow.''

Beauchemin was one of Toronto's alternate captains.

He had trouble living up to the $11.4-million, three-year contract he signed with the Maple Leafs and will now get a chance to re-establish himself in a familiar environment. The Ducks are thrilled to get him back.

``We've had the player before, so we feel comfortable that he can play to a very high level for us,'' coach Randy Carlyle said in Vancouver. ``He's chewed big minutes in our situation before. Things probably haven't gone the way he anticipated in Toronto.

``We think we can provide an environment for him to show the hockey world what kind of defenceman he really is.''

Gardiner, a 20-year-old defenceman, has 30 points (7-23) in 30 games for the Badgers this season. Burke drafted Gardiner in 2008 when he was GM of the Ducks.

Gardiner advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four championship game in his sophomore season at Wisconsin last year. He has 64 points (16-48) and 58 penalty minutes in 110 career games for the Badgers.

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