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Leafs trade two to Blues for Stempniak

by Dan Rosen /
Lee Stempniak may be the next piece in Toronto's rebuilding puzzle, and the Maple Leafs gave away two former prospects to get the rugged New York native.

Stempniak, who had 3 goals and 9 assists in his last eight games with the St. Louis Blues, was dealt Monday to Toronto in exchange for center Alex Steen and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. The trade is pending the outcome of physicals.

After finishing second in the League in preseason scoring with 12 points in five games, Stempniak injured his left knee and was out for four games in October. He came back and didn't score in the next five games, but has since found his offense.

However, the Blues' rash of injuries could have forced them into making this two-for-one swap.

Steen fills a need the Blues have in the middle right now. They have three centers on the shelf and two of them, Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie, are on injured reserve with long-term injuries. Patrik Berglund is listed as day-to-day with a groin strain, but he's missed the last two games and this trade could mean the Blues fear the rookie will be out for an extended period of time.

St. Louis also had a need on the back end, which Coloaiacovo could fill.

Outside of Barret Jackman, Eric Brewer, Jay McKee and Roman Polak -- the four defensemen who have played in all 18 games this season -- the Blues haven't had much consistency. Steve Wagner, Mike Weaver and Jeff Woywitka also are on the roster, but Coloaiacovo could steal ice time from any one of them.

The Leafs likely viewed Colaiacovo, 25, who played in four straight games before sitting out Saturday against Chicago, as expendable because they were carrying eight defensemen and Colaiacovo wasn't in their long-term plans. Toronto also has Mike Van Ryn, who is out at least another month with multiple injuries.

Steen, 24, has struggled this season with only 2 goals and 2 assists in 20 games, but he had at least 15 goals and 20 assists in each of his three previous NHL seasons. Steen's ice time has dropped in recent games.

Stempniak, who is 25, had 27 goals and 25 assists two seasons ago. His goal number dipped to 13 last season, but he again had 25 assists. He also plays a more rugged style than Steen and was averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time per game.

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