Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for 2011 first and third round picks

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Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is very serious about changing things up in Toronto. Today the Leafs sent Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for the Flyers 2011 first and third round picks.

Versteeg was acquired in the off-season by Burke after winning the Stanley Cup in Chicago last season in a salary cutting move by the Blackhawks. At 24 years-old, Versteeg now finds himself part of his fourth organization after starting out his career in the Boston Bruins system. Versteeg is a an ideal player on the third line as he can score you 20 goals a season and provide solid defensive responsibility. He was a key member of the Hawks Cup-winning team last year and providing that kind of support to the Flyers makes the East’s best team that much more dangerous.

The one problem the Flyers are going to have to face up to now is figuring out who in their current lineup loses out on playing time. The leading suspects right now would appear to be Nikolay Zherdev, Dan Carcillo, and Jody Shelley. Zherdev has been in and out of the Flyers lineup and while he’s been a solid offensive producer scoring 15 goals and adding four assists, he’s found himself benched in favor of Carcillo on occasion.

Carcillo adds a tenacious role to the Flyers offense but his penchant for taking bad penalties and mixing it up seemingly needlessly distracts the Flyers from what they’re looking to do on occasion. Shelley’s role as team enforcer might be the one thing that helps him keep a spot in the lineup on occasion, but if the Flyers are looking for better and more consistent production as well as more minutes from a forward, then Shelley figures to be the odd man out.

With that many questions floating around, it seems likely that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will be making another move in the future to help free things up for one of those players. If there’s a guy that could be moved easier out of that bunch it’s Zherdev as he’s on a one-year contract and a team looking for an offensive boost could look to him as an inexpensive piece to add.

For Toronto, it seems odd to move a player as young as Versteeg in order to acquire picks but if Burke is looking to improve the organization through the draft it’s an even more bizarre play. The chances of Burke assembling late-round first round picks in order to use them as a chip to acquire a top name forward or a higher first round draft pick would seem to be a more likely scenario. With Burke though, you just never really know.

For now, this deal is all about Philadelphia improving that much more by adding another potentially dangerous forward.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.