Toronto shipped the tattooed French striker to FC Dallas — his third MLS team in as many seasons — on Monday for a conditional second-round draft choice in 2014.
The deal was not unexpected. In a strange move, FC Dallas tweeted its interest in Hassli on Friday.
Dallas, which lost rising young attacker Brek Shea to England's Stoke City late last week, added forward Kenny Cooper in a separate deal with the New York Red Bulls. Dallas sent allocation money to New York to complete the Cooper deal.
There has been speculation that the Hassli tweet from Dallas was the club thumbing its nose at the league selling Shea.
The moves Monday give Dallas some firepower up front while Toronto clears the deck for new attacking talent.
The trade leaves Toronto thin at forward, at least temporarily. Designated player Danny Koevermans is out until June as he recovers from knee surgery. Other forward options are Justin Braun, Quincy Amarikwa, Andrew Wiedeman and rookie Emery Welshman.
Toronto is looking to Central and South America for attacking reinforcements, with president and GM Kevin Payne saying he expects four signings.
"We're hoping for some of those dominos to fall pretty soon," Earl Cochrane, Toronto's director of team and player operations, said in an interview Monday.
Honduran striker Romell Quioto is one Toronto target, according to Honduran newspaper Dario Diez. Toronto has also been linked to Arnold Peralta, a midfielder who is a former captain of the Honduran under-23 team.
Hassli was acquired by Paul Mariner, Toronto's former head coach and director of player development, and there were reports that the Frenchman wanted out after Mariner was canned.
Both the club and player denied those reports.
"Eric requested a move for family-related reasons and we committed to him we would make every effort to do so, providing the deal was favourable for the team," Payne said in a release.
Hassli's wife is American and apparently feels more at home south of the border.
"It really had little to do with Eric not being happy here," said Cochrane. "In fact it was quite the opposite."
Hassli, who never made it to TFC's training camp in Florida, tweeted his thanks to Toronto.
"I'm thankful for my time in Toronto. I wish them all the best for 2013. I'm now excited to join my new teammates in Dallas for the preseason," he wrote.
The departure of Hassli, whose contract was renewed just prior to the arrival of Payne as president, allows Toronto to sign a new designated player to join Koevermans and veteran midfielder Torsten Frings.
As a DP, only a portion (US$368,750) of Hassli's salary would have counted against Toronto's salary cap this season. He made US$790,000 last season.
Still Toronto has been struggling with the fact that it has five players — the three designated players and defenders Darren O'Dea ($436,250) and Richard Eckersley ($390,000) — who ate up $1,831,250 of the team's $2,810,000 limit in 2012 (although allocation money did stretch the cap).
One option Toronto appears to be considering is signing a young designated player. A DP between the age of 21 and 23 last season counted for $200,000 against the salary cap.
Toronto also sees a young DP as an asset that can appreciate in value.
Cochrane said Toronto will pay a "minimal" amount of Hassli's salary. And the compensation coming back the other way could increase depending on Hassli's performance on the field.
Hassli joined Toronto in July 2012 from the Vancouver Whitecaps. Limited by injuries, he scored three goals in eight appearances in Toronto. Hassli had 12 goals in 44 games for Vancouver.
"Eric Hassli is a very good player with an incredible resume," FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said in a statement. "He fits our needs. He is a big striker who holds the ball very well and is a great goal scorer. Hassli is also a player who can complement Blas Perez, allowing us to play in a two-striker system."
Hassli made headlines when his stunning volley against Toronto for the Whitecaps was in the running for FIFA's goal of the year in 2012.
Prior to joining MLS, Hassli played in Europe for FC Metz, Southampton, Valenciennes FC, Neuchatel Xamax, Servette FC, FC St. Gallen and FC Zurich.
Cooper made his MLS debut with Dallas in 2006.
Toronto sent another designated player to Dallas last season in a deal that saw Canadian international midfielder Julian de Guzman go to Texas.