TORONTO – Mike Brown has become a casualty of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth.
Toronto traded the 27-year-old Brown to Edmonton on Monday for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
“It was primarily a roster spot move,” said Leafs general manager Dave Nonis. “At some point in the near future we’re going to need to create a roster spot. We have some players with the Marlies that we want to give a look to. We have players that are hopefully coming off IR in the near future.
“That coupled with Mike’s playing time — he’d been in and out of the lineup, (head coach Randy Carlyle) used different combinations — we felt it was an opportune time to make the move for all those reasons.”
The five-foot-11, 205-pound Brown played in 12 games for the Maple Leafs this season, with a single assist but ranking third in the NHL with 70 penalty minutes.
“It’s a big loss for our team,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “Brownie’s a great teammate. He competes every night, you know that night in, night out he’s going to do whatever he can physically.
“Get to the net, fighting, hitting, whatever, blocking shots. He’s just a complete competitor, great guy in the room and we’re going to miss him.”
The conditions on the Oilers fourth-round pick are straight forward.
“We have a hard pick for the player,” said Nonis. “That pick can improve based on Edmonton’s performance.”
Toronto could have injured forwards Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul returning to its lineup in the near future. Frattin has been out since Feb. 13 with an ailing knee.
“(Frattin) will be a game-time decision,” said Nonis hours before the Leafs faced the New Jersey Devils in Toronto on Monday. “He might need a little bit more time, but he’s getting close.”
Frattin was not on the ice for Toronto’s pre-game warmup Monday.
Lupul fractured his forearm on Jan. 23rd in the Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nonis said the 29-year-old winger was on schedule to return within six weeks of the injury.
“We expect him to be in the range, whatever that means, from a doctor’s standpoint,” said Nonis. “He hasn’t had any setbacks or anything like that.
“With a broken bone it’s a function first of the bone healing, and then it’s regaining strength. For him, that means shooting the puck. That’s going to be the issue for him — when he can actually be a factor with the puck.”
Brown has five fighting majors this season and collected his 500th NHL penalty minute on Feb. 25 at Philadelphia after missing eight games earlier this season with an upper-body injury.
“Brownie was a great guy, an unbelievable teammate,” said goaltender James Reimer, who will start in net against the Devils. “He’s one of those guys who would stick up for you and do anything. Probably one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen, too.
“It’s tough to see a guy like that go and we’ll definitely miss him but that’s part of the business and I’m sure he’ll do great in Edmonton. They’re lucky to have him.”
In 254 games with Vancouver, Anaheim and Toronto, the native of Northbrook, Ill., has 14 goals, 11 assists and 519 penalty minutes.
Brown’s departure was also aided by the emergence of six-foot-five Frazer McLaren, who the Leafs claimed off waivers from the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 31.
“Frazer’s play made it easier, there’s no question about that,” said Nonis. “He’s been able to play in all situations and Randy feels comfortable with him. Not that he didn’t feel comfortable with Brownie, but it gives us another option.
“It was definitely a factor.”
McLaren has two goals, an assist and 25 penalty minutes in 14 games with Toronto and a plus-1 rating.
Nonis also addressed rumours that veteran defenceman Mike Komisarek had asked for a trade out of Toronto after being a healthy scratch in several games.
“To be very clear: Mike Komisarek has not asked for a trade,” said Nonis. “I would put Mike down as one of the best teammates that I’ve ever had in terms of a player that’s ever played for me when I’ve been working for a club.
“What Mike has said is that if it’s in the best interest of the team that he wouldn’t stand in the way, but his preference is to try and get back in the lineup here in Toronto.”
Komisarek’s contract has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to supply a list of potential teams he can be sent to. He can modify that list each June 15.
Later Monday, the Leafs announced that they signed forward Josh Leivo to a three-year entry level contract. Leivo was Toronto’s third choice (86th overall) in the 2011 draft and served as the captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves this season.