The Toronto Maple Leafs are back in the player development business.
They have always been, of course, but the gold standard in player development is a first-round draft choice and in a week the Leafs have acquired two.
Friday the Leafs traded veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins in exchange for the Bruins’ first choice in the 2011 draft. To land Kaberle, the kind of puck-lugging defenceman they have long-coveted, the Bruins also dealt six-five, 215-pound centre Joe Colborne
and a conditional choice that become a second rounder should Kaberle re-sign with the club.
The 21-year-old Colborne spent two seasons at the University of Denver where he delivered 72 points in 79 games. Colborne is himself a first-rounder. The Bruins selected Colborne 16th in 2008.
In his first full season in the American League, Colborne delivered 12 goals and 14 assists in 56 games with Providence. His most obvious asset is his size and scoring touch and the club is gambling those two elements will merge to make Colborne an impact player.
Earlier the Leafs swapped forward Kristopher Versteeg to Philadelphia for the Flyers first and third rounders in this year’s draft. If the draft were held today, the Leafs would draft 24th and 29th.
For the Leafs’ scouting department, the two picks represent a tsunami of opportunity. The Leafs traded their first and second round choices in last year’s draft and this year’s first rounder to acquire Phil Kessel
“It’s exciting for us,” said director of amateur scouting Dave Morrison. “With two choices in the first round, a lot of different opportunities are opened up. We know that things can change in a heartbeat but now we can zone in on more guys who we think may be available for us.”
The deal may signal the end of the Leafs’ dealing. Kaberle and Versteeg represent the two biggest chips held by GM Brian Burke. Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s chronic groin problems have likely soured any possibility of a trade. The deadline is 3 p.m. February 28, a week Monday.