Consider the Kris Versteeg trade the first clear sign of which direction Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is headed beyond this season.
Right after the biggest fish in free agency this summer.
Burke confirmed on Monday night that his unorthodox rebuild-on-the-fly will continue unabated beginning with the opening of free agency in July, where Dallas Stars centre Brad Richards is expected to be at the top of the Leafs' list.
"We intend to be active on July 1," Burke said. "It's that simple. And this has obviously cleared up some salary in order to do that."
In the immediate hours after Burke dealt Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers for first- and third-round draft picks on Monday, speculation ran rampant that this was an indication the Leafs GM was finally tearing his roster down with a full youth movement.
The reality was far from that conclusion, however, as Burke indicated later that night that both draft picks were in play in potential deals and that moving Versteeg's $3.083-million salary was all part of a plan to be a player in free agency.
Burke's deal signals emphasis on July 1
The Globe and Mail | Feb 15