Could Lombardi Make an Early Return?
July 3rd 2011: “The Leafs acquired defenceman Cody Franson and forward Matthew Lombardi from Nashville for defenceman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney. The trade also includes a conditional fourth round pick in the 2013 draft.”
Brian Burke accepted Nashville’s so-called salary dump of Matthew Lombardi in order to acquire Cody Franson. More important than that, he was able to relieve the Leafs of Brett Lebda, the constant accident waiting to happen.
Since the day of the trade, I’ve been told by Predators fans not to expect to ever see Lombardi playing in a Leafs uniform and that his career is likely over. Burke must have known this was the most probable situation as well, or else Franson would not have been included in the deal. While Lombardi’s $3.5M cap hit is a tough one to swallow in Leaf Nation, Brian Burke felt it was one worth the relief of Lebda and acquisition of Franson.
It didn’t seem to bother many Leafs fans that Lombardi would likely not play this coming season or even the one after. Leaf Nation knew, however, that if he did make a return that the deal would only work better in Toronto’s favour. In 2009-2010 Lombardi, playing for the Phoenix Coyotes, scored 19 goals and picked up 34 assists for 53 points in 78 games. Respectable numbers on a team that has been struggling with ownership issues the past few seasons.
Today may mark yet another turn of events that benefits Toronto, Lombardi may be back.
“He says he is going be at training camp, and our guys believe he will," Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said.
If Lombardi returns, the Leafs would boast another player with the potential to put up points. Upon his return, Lombardi has the potential to be Toronto’s first line center. Of course, Tim Connolly was signed to fill that role and will likely do a great job if healthy. But if Connolly does get injured, as most people suspect he will, Lombardi could benefit and step into that role.
Lombardi has great speed and will only add to the depth Toronto has managed to accumulate at the center position. Lombardi could be a fantastic match for Kessel because of the speed and skill he brings. Tim Connolly, flanked by Phil Kessel and Matthew Lombardi, would be an incredibly scary thing even for the most mobile of defensemen.
While it would be silly to already predict that Lombardi will be in the opening night line-up for the club, Toronto can still hope that Lombardi makes his debut in a Leafs jersey sooner rather than later.
Will Lombardi be making an early return? It sounds possible right now. I personally don’t feel he’ll be back opening night, but a mid-November return wouldn’t be out of the question either.