Leafs Should Trade Lupul

Joffrey Lupul had a great season: He notched 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games, played in the All-Star Game, and was nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy. His season ended abruptly with a separated shoulder, but it remains his most successful since joining the National Hockey League.

That being said, Lupul probably isn’t a point-per-game player. Some think the numerous injuries he’d sustained halted his development and he is just now displaying his capabilities. Whatever the case may be, Lupul’s trade value is the highest it’s ever been, and the Leafs have an excess of wingers with the arrival of James van Riemsdyk---Nazem Kadri could be ready, too.

So here’s an idea: Trade Lupul while his value is high to address other needs.

It’s a crazy notion, right? Why trade a 28-year-old forward coming off a successful campaign? Well, that’s just it. Lupul is 28 and, up until last season, was nowhere near to being a point-per-game player. That is likely attributed to Phil Kessel’s dominance in the offensive end. Kessel is 25 years old and taking the next step in his development, so it’s no surprise he’s working well with the linemates provided to him.

That’s not to say Lupul isn’t an effective player, but it’s probably not a coincidence he had a career-season with Kessel on his line. If van Riemsdyk fits in with Toronto it’s likely he’d find similar success on the top line---not necessarily a point-per-game pace, however. Van Riemsdyk can create some space in the offensive end with his size and is a puck-possession player as well, so that’s a bonus.

There’s a possibility that Lupul is indeed capable of producing within the 70-point range, but it’s difficult to determine. He was certainly used in an offensive role, leading Leafs forwards in offensive zone start percentage (where a player starts his shift) with 55.5 percent as well as offensive zone finish percentage (where a player ends his shift) with 57.7 percent. Lupul also had a career-high 13.1 shooting percentage (he had a 15.2 percent in 2009-10 but in 23 games) so it begs the question whether he’ll dip in that category moving forward.

Defensively, he wasn’t impressive, finishing third-last among the Leafs in on-ice save percentage with an .892.

But let’s forget his defensive shortcomings for a moment. For the sake of argument, let’s assume Lupul follows up last season at an equal pace offensively. He’s still a moveable asset that could potentially net a big return in an area of need. Obviously it’s enticing to trade a player such as Clarke MacArthur or Kadri, but their current value isn’t as high and they won’t be commanding as much money towards the salary cap---that, and they’re actually pretty decent as puck-possession players, especially MacArthur.

Trading Lupul isn’t necessarily something Burke should do, but it’s an intriguing option that he should at least consider. If a general manager values Lupul enough, he could be the central part in a deal to bring in, say, a number-one center or top-four defenseman.

The Leafs are better off importing as much puck-possession players as they can, especially if Burke wants size upfront. And that’s no slight against Lupul. It’s not his game, but he’s an effective offensive forward and if he remains on the Leafs it likely won’t end in disappointment. That said, his value is through the roof right now and Burke has a good opportunity to shore up other pressing needs without damaging the prospect pool.

You stay classy, TCL.

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Advanced statistics retrieved from www.behindthenet.com