TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt gritty fourth-line forward Mike Brown to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Brown, 27, became expendable with the imminent return of Matt Frattin, the advancing recovery of Joffrey Lupul from a broken arm and the steady play of Frazer McLaren on the fourth line.
"At some point in the near future, we are going to need to create a roster spot," Maple Leafs senior vice-president and general manager Dave Nonis said. "We have some players with the Marlies that we want to give a look to and we have players that are hopefully coming off injured reserve in the near future. That, coupled with Mike's playing time … we felt it was an opportune time to make a move for all those reasons."
The conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2014 can become a third-round pick if the Oilers reach the postseason this year, according to reports.
Brown, in his third season with the Maple Leafs, played 12 games and racked up 70 penalty minutes, third most in the NHL.
In his last game in Toronto, he recorded his lone point of the season, an assist, after leveling Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges into the corner boards. It was a play indicative of Brown's playing style and it is the kind of toughness that the Oilers sought out.
"That is the type of player right now that Edmonton needs," Nonis said. "[Oilers general manager] Steve Tambellini was very clear about it, with the youth that they have and the teams that they play, they are facing certain players that need some attention. Mike knows his role and he is very, very good at it. Mike can play an up-tempo game, he can skate very well -- Edmonton is obviously very fleet of foot, and I think he is going to fit [in] very well, they are going to love him."
Nonis cited the emergence of McLaren as a catalyst for the deal. McLaren was claimed off waivers by the Maple Leafs in late January and has provided an added physical element (five fighting majors) and has also chipped in with two goals and one assist in 15 games.
"Frazer's play made it easier; he has been able to play in all situations," Nonis said. "[Coach] Randy [Carlyle] feels comfortable with him … it was definitely a factor."
McLaren seemed to still be processing the transaction when asked about the trade after the morning skate.
"Any time a guy leaves, it is going to open up more space for players to play so I guess in that sense it is going to be a good opportunity for me," McLaren said. "Mike Brown is such a good teammate, I don't think anyone expected it, so it's tough. Randy talked about guys that need to fill his energy and his role on the team, so hopefully I can do my best to do that. … He was always the kind of guy that was bringing energy out there and ready to go when called upon. [I'll] just try to kind of emulate that a bit. I've been here for a short time but he was kind of a big influence on me."
McLaren was not the only Maple Leafs player surprised by the move. Brown's popularity in the dressing room was evident as other former teammates spoke in somber tones when asked about his departure.
"We were notified earlier [before the morning skate]," said Nazem Kadri, who referred to Brown as a friend of the entire team. "I can't say I was happy with the decision, but I think he is going to have a successful career in Edmonton and I think they could really use a guy like him over there.
"It was really tough for us, especially Brown being the guy he is. That is certainly a guy that is tough to replace, with what he brings every single day to the lineup. It was tough to see him leave, but we understand it is part of the business and things like that are going to happen."
Captain Dion Phaneuf explained that Brown earned the respect of the team by his attitude as well as demonstrating consistent play in tough areas.
"It is a big loss for our team," Phaneuf said. "You know that night in, night out, he is going to do whatever he can both physically, getting to the net, fighting, hitting, blocking shots. He is a complete competitor, a great guy in the room, and we are going to miss him."
His impact was not lost on Nonis, who had Brown on his team in previous stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks.
"I've had Mike twice and when I spoke to him this morning I said, don't rule out a third time," Nonis said. "He is that kind of a guy that you would like to have with you."
Nonis also cleared the air on trade speculation regarding Mike Komisarek, dispelling the notion that the defenseman has asked to be traded and saying that Komisarek would prefer to work himself back into the lineup in Toronto.
"Mike Komisarek has not asked for a trade," Nonis said. "What he has said is that if it was in the best interests of the team, that he wouldn't stand in the way [of a trade] … that gives us an opportunity, an open door -- if there is a move that makes sense for us."