John-Michael Liles is surprised and excited to be heading for Toronto.
Liles, a 30-year-old defenseman, was traded by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday to the Maple Leafs in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft that Toronto previously acquired from Boston.
"I was definitely surprised to hear that I've been traded," Liles told reporters during a conference call prior to Friday night's Entry Draft. "[Colorado] was a fantastic place to play. I really enjoyed it, but when I heard I was traded to Toronto I was really excited."
Liles is leaving the only franchise he's ever known. The Avs took him in the fifth round in 2000, and he joined Colorado in 2003-04 after four seasons at Michigan State. Liles had career highs of 14 goals and 49 points in 2005-06, scored 10 or more goals four times and has 68 goals and 275 points in 523 regular-season games -- including 6 goals and 46 points in 76 games this past season.
Liles' 49 points would have led all Maple Leafs defensemen in scoring last season. "I think how the Leafs are set up, I think, and I hope that it will be a nice fit," Liles said. Considered more of an offensive defenseman, Liles could pair very well with any one of three more stay-at-home defenseman in Luke Schenn, Dion Phaneuf, or Mike Komisarek.
However, Liles wouldn't speculate on who he would fit best with on the blue line.
"That's not up to me," he said. "I'm flexible in terms of who I played with. It seems like as a defenseman, I think you're always adjusting pairings. You kind of got to be ready for whatever is going on in the course of the game."
Though Liles has never played with any NHL team other than Colorado, he's familiar with Leafs coach Ron Wilson -- he played under him and newly hired assistant Scott Gordon with the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.
Liles said he was told by GM Brian Burke and Wilson that Toronto attempted to acquire Liles towards the trade deadline last season. "They both said they were very excited to have acquired me today," he said, "and I'm extremely excited as well."
The trade is just another piece in Burke's quest to get Toronto back into the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Despite Liles playing in the Western Conference during his eight NHL seasons, he had taken notice of the Leafs' rebuilding efforts.
"Having watched them, and obviously after Burkie took over there a couple of years ago and watched their transformation throughout the season last year," he said. "We played them towards the end of the season last year (a 4-3 Toronto victory), and they played us really tough."