Sometimes you’re destined to play for a certain team.
It’s easy to chase after big names. With the Toronto Maple Leafs about to play against the Tampa Bay Lightning in one of the most important games the two teams have ever played against each other, the logical trade tree to tackle would be the Darcy Tucker one. The Leafs and Lightning play again on April 6 in a game that might be even bigger, so let’s tackle a different trade today.
This is a weird one.
On July 9, 2008, Maple Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher signed Swedish defender Jonas Frogren. In 41 NHL games in 2008-09, Frogren scored one goal and six assists for the Leafs before toiling in the AHL the following season and bolting back to Sweden the year after that. Frogren is such a minuscule footnote in Leafs history that when I Google’d “Leafs sign Jonas Frogren,” two of the top three results were about the Leafs signing Jonas Gustavsson.
Somehow Curtis McElhinney found his way into this conversation, too.
Fast forward to March 4, 2009, just over eight years ago…
Leafs GM Brian Burke made a strange deal leading up to the 2009 trade deadline. The Leafs sent minor-league defender Richard Petiot to the Lightning in exchange for aging defender Jamie Heward, aging goalie Olaf Kolzig, minor-league defender Andy Rogers and a fourth-round pick in 2009.
Now why on earth would the Leafs make a deal like this?
Let’s get back to our old pal Jonas Frogren.
When Cliff Fletcher signed Frogren to his NHL contract in the summer of 2008, he broke some rules within the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time. It was suspected that Frogren used a large amount of the signing bonus given to him by the Maple Leafs to buy himself out of his contract with Swedish club Farjestads.
As punishment for this, the NHL fined Leafs $500,000 and a 2009 fourth-round pick.
Here’s where it gets even better: the Leafs didn’t have a 2009 fourth-rounder. Where did it go? To Nashville. How did Nashville that pick? San Jose gave it to them. How did San Jose get the Leafs’ fourth-rounder in the first place?
The Vesa Toskala trade. Oh, that one’s a fun little read if you have time.
So why did the Leafs essentially offer to pay for Olaf Kolzig and Jamie Heward’s contracts in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2009? That’s why.
In the end, the Leafs were fined $500,000 and the fourth-rounder they received from Tampa Bay, the 118th pick of the 2009 draft.
Here’s where destiny starts to kick in.
With the Leafs forfeiting this draft pick, that means whoever was picked “119th overall” is actually the 118th pick of the draft. Even though the 118th pick is burned, the 119th pick was actually the 118th player selected. Say that 10 times fast; I promise it actually makes sense.
The Chicago Blackhawks had the 119th pick in 2009. Who did they select? I won’t tell you their name just yet. The player selected was a forward though.
This forward, this fourth-round pick, didn’t experience a lot of success after being drafted by the Blackhawks. Despite a relatively strong ending to their junior career, they spent most of their early professional career pinging between the AHL and ECHL.
Heading into the 2014-15 season as a free agent, this forward opted to sign with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. After a strong start to the season in the ECHL, this forward was loaned to the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate. This player put up 42 points in 46 AHL games to close out the season, enough to catch the eyes of Leafs management.
The Leafs signed this forward to a two-year deal to start 2015-16. This player played almost all of last season in the NHL on a weak Leafs team and most of this current season in the AHL.
This forward is back in the NHL right now, but it isn’t with the Leafs. His name?
You might remember that Byron Froese was recently traded by the Leafs to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with a second-round pick for hulking veteran centre Brian Boyle.
So to recap…
- The Lightning traded the 118th pick in 2009 to the Leafs
- The Leafs forfeited the 118th pick in 2009
- The Blackhawks selected Froese 119th in 2009, which is actually 118th
- The Leafs signed Froese as a free agent.
- The Leafs traded Froese to the Lightning
I was going to write about this bizarre web of coincidences a little while back because I thought “Wow, isn’t it amazing that after the Leafs forfeited that pick, they somehow ended up with Froese anyway?” Well, after the trade deadline, it turned out Froese would wind up with the team that gave the Leafs that forfeited pick in the first place.
The only thing that could make this more bizarre is if Froese ended up in Carolina somehow. The Lightning originally received this pick along with two players in exchange for Jussi Jokinen.
Sometimes you’re just meant to play somewhere. Think of all the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things that had to happen for Byron Froese to end up “back” in Tampa Bay.
Now if Froese could just refrain from sinking the Leafs’ playoff hopes that’d be great.