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Burke happy with return on Versteeg

by Brian Compton /
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke entered this season without a first-round draft pick at the 2011 Entry Draft. Now he has one.

While he insists it wasn't a priority to land a first-rounder, Burke acquired one on Monday, along with a third-round pick, from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Kris Versteeg. The deal was struck exactly two weeks prior to the NHL's trade deadline.

"When I get my price I want to make that deal, rather than get into the stampede around the (trade) deadline," Burke told reporters on a conference call Monday night. "This was the best offer we had. It met our criteria. The package of picks was something we felt we had to take at this point. We did not feel that would be there on the 28th.

"This deal was on the table from Philly for a week. We shopped it hard and tried to add instead a player who was in the League or close. We weren't able to, so we took the best package we could get."

Toronto enters Tuesday night's game against the Boston Bruins 10 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Burke remains confident that his club can qualify for the postseason, which is why he admitted Monday night that he is already shopping the third-round draft pick he acquired just a few hours ago. 

"The third-round pick has already been offered to another team and is in play," Burke said. "We're trying to add a player. We have not conceded the last playoff spot, nor will we. If we can add, we're going to. There's no change from our philosophy, it's just that this was the best offer we had. We're excited about the assets we added. I'm not saying we wouldn't move the first (pick) as well, but the third has already been put into a deal. My sense is it might not happen or it won't happen. But it's in play."

"From my perspective, I think Kris, his best contributions would come on a better team.  You look at what he contributed with Chicago, he wasn't having the same impact on our group." -- Brian Burke

In a perfect world, Burke would never have dealt Versteeg, whom he acquired last June from the Chicago Blackhawks. The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 21 assists in 53 games for the Maple Leafs, but Burke believes Versteeg can thrive in Philadelphia.

"From my perspective, I think Kris, his best contributions would come on a better team," Burke admitted. "You look at what he contributed with Chicago, he wasn't having the same impact on our group."

Monday's deal was the second major transaction made by Toronto in the last week. Last Wednesday, the Leafs sent defenseman Francois Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Joffrey Lupul and college blueliner Jake Gardiner. Burke is confident Lupul can pick up the slack in Versteeg's absence.

"We think he can provide some of the offense that Kris has been providing," Burke said of Lupul, a three-time 20-goal scorer. "That allowed this deal to go forward. There's a bit of a sequence in there. We're happy with both trades. We traded two guys we didn't want to trade -- two guys that were good players and quality people in Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg. But you want quality, you've got to give up quality.

"I think Kris Versteeg's a real good hockey player and a good guy," Burke added. "I think he's going to have an impact with the Philadelphia Flyers. We wish him well."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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