The 2012 Maple Leafs – Lightning Blockbuster Trade That Wasn’t

Every NHL commerce has a narrative, from the most important deadline blockbusters to the smallest depth strikes to fill out an American Hockey League (AHL) roster. Sometimes that story is of an ideal veteran participant getting one last probability to make a run at a Stanley Cup. Other instances, it’s a swap of high prospects who had been as soon as anticipated to be the way forward for a franchise that ended up not related of their system.

As the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning approached the 2012 commerce deadline, neither workforce was where they wanted to be. Both franchises sat in that awkward spot simply exterior the playoff image the place one or two good weeks might enable them to sneak right into a wildcard place, which means you needed to make that powerful option to play out the season or promote and rebuild for the long run.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
As the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning face off in Round 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a glance again at a ten-yr-outdated commerce showcases a latest miss for each franchises. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

While the Lightning made various massive offers that helped arrange their core for years, the Maple Leafs largely performed it protected by solely shifting round a handful of fringe roster gamers. However, there was one vital final-minute commerce that may have been a blockbuster in its personal proper had it taken place only a few years earlier. In this deal, the Lightning despatched ahead Carter Ashton to the Maple Leafs for defenseman Keith Aulie.

2012 Maple Leafs – Lightning Trade Deadline a Swap of Top Prospects

On the floor, this commerce was a swap of prospects that hadn’t locked down a job with their respective franchise, however they had been anticipated to make that soar comparatively quickly. Both Ashton and Aulie had high-finish potential however had but to place all of it collectively on the NHL stage.

Related: 5 Maple Leafs Newcomers and Their 2022 Postseason Impact

First was Ashton, who was one of many high prospects on the 2009 NHL Draft. At 6-foot-4, he was the proper massive-bodied energy ahead that each basic supervisor dreamed to have of their system. After posting 30 targets, 50 factors, and 93 penalty minutes within the Western Hockey League (WHL) main into his draft yr, he was selected by the Lightning twenty ninth general (after they traded up) and was anticipated to turn out to be a focus of their rebuild.

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In the next years, he continued taking part in nice hockey within the WHL, and ultimately earned a beginning position with the 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals, who had been Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate on the time. Throughout that season he performed nicely alongside various younger forwards that may go on to turn out to be centerpieces of the Lightning’s core. This depth probably made him a beautiful goal on the commerce market, particularly to then Maple Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke.

Carter Ashton
When the Maple Leafs acquired Carter Ashton from the Lightning in 2012, they appeared to get an ideal energy ahead prospect for his or her system who might tackle high-six minutes within the coming years. (Scott Thomas/Syracuse Crunch)

In order to carry again Ashton, the Maple Leafs gave up considered one of their high defensive prospects on the time. While Aulie was initially a fourth-spherical decide by the Calgary Flames again in 2007, his 6-foot-6 body and upside made him a extremely sought-after prospect. When Toronto acquired him within the blockbuster Dion Phaneuf trade, some believed he might go on to be the very best participant within the deal.

After he was introduced in by Toronto, Aulie took on loads of ice-time with the Toronto Marlies and acted as a call-up for the Maple Leafs. Sure he was by no means an offensive dynamo, however his gameplay was strong for his age and measurement, and he was keen to drop the gloves and arise for his teammates at a second’s discover. For a workforce needing a high defensive prospect, he was an ideal addition for the Lightning in 2012.

Neither Ashton nor Aulie Met Their Lofty Expectations

At the second, this regarded like an unimaginable hockey commerce, because the Lightning obtained a defensive prospect they desperately wanted whereas the Maple Leafs obtained that excellent ahead prospect to suit their system. It had the makings to be a win-win for all events concerned, with lengthy-time period roster implications for years to come back.

Instead, each gamers struggled to seek out their place within the NHL. Aulie performed lower than 100 video games with the Lightning earlier than becoming a member of the Edmonton Oilers for 30 video games and bouncing across the AHL and Europe, the place he presently performs with EHC Red Bull Munchen within the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) in Germany.

Ashton, then again, performed 54 video games over three seasons with Toronto, earlier than bouncing across the AHL (together with a return to the Lightning organization) and ultimately touring to Europe to proceed his profession, the place he presently performs for Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League.

Related: 3 Reasons the Lightning Will 3-Peat as Cup Champions

So, regardless of having what seemed to be an ideal commerce on paper, neither workforce acquired 100 NHL video games performed by their acquisition. This isn’t a knock in opposition to both participant, in fact, as they not solely reached the NHL however continued to play skilled hockey for greater than a decade, carving out a profession around the globe.

No, what it is a reminder of is how troublesome it’s to amass NHL-caliber expertise, both within the draft, free company, or by means of trades. Even in case you have the appropriate gamers with the appropriate match, there’s by no means a assure that issues will work out.

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