The Toronto Maple Leafs traded forward Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday in exchange for forward Zach Sill, a fourth-round pick in 2015 and a second-round pick in 2016.
Winnik has more than lived up to his $1.3-million cap hit this season by providing solid two-way play and excellent penalty killing for the Leafs. In 60 games this season, the 29-year-old Toronto native has seven goals, 19 assists and leads all NHL forwards in short-handed ice-time. Winnik was also leading the Maple Leafs in points, shooting percentage and plus/minus under Peter Horachek.
As part of the deal, the Maple Leafs will retain 50 percent of Winnik’s remaining contract, which expires at the end of the season.
"He came here and did everything we asked him to do," Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis told reporters on a media conference call following the trade. "His play put him in a position where he was wanted and put us in a position to get some quality assets back."
Nonis explained the Penguins weren't the only team in on Winnik, but their offer got progressively better in the past 48 hours after pursuing Winnik for the last 10 days.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment's ownership board reportedly approved a complete head-to-toe rebuild of the on-ice product in early February and team management has already begun dismantling the current roster by getting rid of a number of pending UFAs. Earlier this month, the Maple Leafs traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for a 2015 first-round pick, prospect Brendan Leipsic plus veteran centre Olli Jokinen.
The Leafs are expected to be busy leading up to the March 2 trade deadline. It's believed the team will try to send Jokinen to a playoff team and reports have surfaced that the team is trying to trade Joffrey Lupul.
"It’s not like business is done," Nonis said. "Will we be active on the deadline day? I still think there’s a chance we do make some other moves. Whether it's players that are under contract or not remains to be seen, but we're not going to stop looking to see if there's any options available to us."
Sill has one goal, two assists and 60 penalty minutes in 42 games this season for the Penguins. The 26-year-old native of Truro, N.S., has been with the Penguins organization since 2009 and has played in 62 career NHL games. Sill is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Maple Leafs have lost 19 of 22 games in 2015. They host the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EST in their next outing.