01/01/2014 04:13 EST | Updated 03/03/2014 05:59 EST

Maple Leafs upgrade defence by trading Liles, prospect to Hurricanes for Gleason

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Tim Gleason figures to be a better fit for Randy Carlyle's system than John-Michael Liles, so the Toronto Maple Leafs made the trade to upgrade their blue line.

The Leafs got Gleason from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Liles and prospect Dennis Robertson.

"With Gleason, we feel that he can come back into a hockey environment where we can support him with the style of play that I think suits his style," Carlyle said. "We want him to be a guy that can come back in and move the puck. He's a big man. We just want him to make a contribution."

The Leafs won't ask the 30-year-old Gleason, who has just one assist and no goals in 17 games this season, to contribute on the power play or on offence much, in general. But Carlyle expects games to get tougher down the stretch, so the addition of the six-foot, 217-pound Gleason helps in that area.

Gleason has two more seasons at a cap hit of $US 4 million left on his deal. The left-handed-shooting defenceman was a 2001 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators and then was a member of the silver-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

In the past three seasons, he has just one goal and 27 assists in 141 regular-season games.

But Liles wasn't doing much for the Leafs after spending the bulk of the first half of the season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies. The 33-year-old appeared in just six Leafs games and went scoreless.

The Hurricanes inherit the final two of his contract and the ensuing US$3.875 million cap hit.

Carlyle was effusive in praising Liles for how he handled being demoted.

"Johnny Liles was an excellent pro for us and an excellent person," Carlyle said. "From coaching staff's perspective, Johnny Liles was one of the leaders, and he came and when this coaching staff was put together, he was one of the guys that fully supported what we were trying to do."

Carlyle explained that he and the coaching staff couldn't find enough minutes for Liles given that they wanted young defencemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly to play a lot.

"It pushed him out the door," Carlyle said "And that's an unfortunate thing in our situation."