Toronto Maple Leafs’ trade for Peter Holland more than a quick fix at centre By Joey Simon on November 20, 2013 Article by Michael Traikos, on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 in the National Post

Everywhere Dave Nonis looked, teams were trying to unload their high-paid problems on a general manager who seemed desperate to make a deal. The Toronto Maple Leafs were without their top three centres and their offence was sputtering. James van Riemsdyk, who was moved from the wing to the middle, had gone five games without a goal.

The Leafs, who had lost to the last-place Buffalo Sabres, were screaming out for a solution. But Nonis, who had offers, refused to make a short-term fix that would become a long-term burden.

Instead, the Leafs traded for a 22-year-old former first-round pick whose impact today might not be as significant as it is in the future.

“It’s not just a short-term solution,” said Nonis, after acquiring Peter Holland, along with Brad Staubitz, from the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday for Jesse Blacker, a conditional third-round and a seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft. “We look at the long term for him and we think he has the potential to be a long-term player for us. Whether or not he continues to contribute here will depend on his play.”

From the outside looking in, the trade for Holland appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction following the three-game suspension Nazem Kadri received Thursday. But Nonis said the Leafs had been in talks to acquire the 6-foot-2 centre as early as last season. Those talks heated up again shortly after Dave Bolland severed his ankle tendon two weeks ago, joining Tyler Bozak on the long-term injured reserve.
It was a trade, Nonis said, he would have made regardless of the team’s shortage down the middle.

“From our standpoint, it accomplishes two goals,” Nonis said of acquiring Holland, who was the Norfolk Admirals’ leading scorer with five goals and nine points in 10 games. “It provides a centre for now that is capable of playing, but it also gives us depth at a position that we’re lacking. And he’s still on his entry-level [contract].

“He’s a guy that has upside. Whether he realizes that potential or not remains to be seen but we think there’s an opportunity for him to turn into a solid player for us.”

Holland, who went from playing in the minors on Friday night to centering the Leafs’ top line with Phil Kessel and van Riemsdyk, did not look out of place in a 4-2 win against the Sabres. He went 7-for-11 in the faceoff circle, winning a draw in the offensive zone that led to Toronto’s first goal.

Nonis said he was impressed with Holland’s composure — “He didn’t look afraid to be put in that position” — but it was the domino effect that his arrival had on the rest of the lineup that benefitted the Leafs the most.

With Holland playing centre, van Riemsdyk was allowed to return to his natural position on the wing, where he ended a five-game drought by scoring twice in the first period. Coincidence? Maybe. But van Riemsdyk, whose goals both came from tip-ins at the front of the net, admitted he probably would not have been in the same area of the ice if he were still playing in the middle.

“Well, they were both off faceoffs, right?” van Riemsdyk said. “So probably not, no.”

In other words, you can bet Holland will be back at centre for Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders. Beyond that, it is up to him.

We would have gotten through the next game and then put Naz back in and then continued to look. But it wasn’t something where we felt we had to do something

Kadri, who has one more game remaining on his three-game suspension, will be back for Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. And Bozak, who has been skating by himself, might not be far away from returning from a hamstring injury.

For now, Holland plugs a much-needed hole and at the same time gets his feet wet. The Caledon, Ont., native, who grew up a Mats Sundin fan, was selected eight spots after Kadri in the 2009 draft. But his development has been slowed because of consistency issues and a logjam of centres in the Ducks organization.

Saturday night’s game was only his 30th in the NHL, so it is anyone’s guess how long he will be up here. If he plays 24 more games, the conditional third-round pick that the Leafs gave up becomes a second-rounder.

Either way, it is a gamble Nonis was willing to take.

“If we didn’t get a deal that we felt made sense, we would have continued with what we had. We would have gotten through the next game and then put Naz back in and then continued to look. But it wasn’t something where we felt we had to do something.

“Once this fell into our lap, this was a deal that made sense for us.”

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