If he was to be judged strictly on the company he kept, Wayne Primeau would be a Hall of Famer.
After all, how many current NHLers have played with the likes of Dominik Hasek in Buffalo, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in Tampa, Mario Lemieux, Alexei Kovalev and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh, Zdeno Chara in Boston and Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf
“It’s always tough to get traded, but you learn a lot about the game from the players you meet along the way,” the 33-year-old centre said Tuesday. “You experience a lot of winning and a lot of losing.”
Primeau comes to the Leafs along for Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman and minor league forward Colin Stuart as well as an exchange of draft choices.
Stralman would have had to clear waivers to be sent down this season, but his more immediate problem would have been cracking a defence fortified by the acquisition of Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek
and Garnet Exelby.
Essentially, the Leafs moved Stralman, a fifth rounder in 2005 who was plagued by inconsistency and inability to bulk up, for a second rounder, albeit in 2011. Stralman’s play at two World Championships had been excellent. He is an excellent skater so there is potential that he could flower with another team.
In return the Leafs get a player who continues to skew the roster toward Brian Burke ‘s goal of a bigger and more competitive team.
Primeau said he can use his big body to help with the little things.
“I have a lot of history as a penalty killer,” said the six-foot-three Primeau. “I struggled a bit in that department in Calgary last year. I can help on defensive zone faceoffs and I think I give the team another hard worker.”
Primeau played just 24 games last season because of an ankle injury incurred when he was hit at practice by a shot off the stick of Phaneuf. Off-season surgery mended the ankle but he was goalless for the first time since 1995-96 when he failed to score in just two games with the Sabres. Injuries have knocked him out of 183 games, nearly two full seasons, over the last four years. He is in the final year of a three-year-contract.
Still, when he is healthy Primeau is a surprisingly good skater for a man his size. He fights sparingly, observers remember about three bouts last season but when he played he made the Flames’ fourth line better.
They also remember how he was by far the Flames most impressive forward in a six-game loss to Detroit in the 2007 playoffs.
Primeau was born in Thornhill. He moved to Whitby as a kid and grew up a fan of Doug Gilmour, Gary Leeman and Wendel Clark.
“Growing up a Leafs fan I was very happy to be coming here,” he said.
A familiar face behind the bench will also help.
“I played for Ron Wilson in San Jose and I look forward to playing for him in Toronto,” Primeau said. “He holds players accountable. Work hard and you play. I like that.”