Versteeg and the rights to speedy forward Bill Sweatt were traded to the Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg, Philippe Paradis and Christopher DiDomenico.
The move came less than a week after Dustin Byfuglien was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers with Brent Sopel and Ben Eager. Both trades were due in large part to the Hawks' salary-cap issues.
''I've tried to warn our fans that this team that they've fallen in love with wasn't going to stay together,'' Bowman said. "But no championship team does. It's kind of the nature of the world that we're in. We're doing the best we can to keep our core together, to make sure that we're going to maintain ourselves as a competitive team year-to-year and to give ourselves the flexibility to go into a number of different directions. We've certainly done that."
Like Byfuglien, Versteeg, 24, was an ideal candidate to be traded. Versteeg carried a cap hit of more than $3 million and had often been mentioned in trade rumors.
Stalberg, 24, is the only one of the three acquired players with NHL experience. He made his debut last season, leading Toronto rookies with nine goals and 14 points in 40 games. Paradis is a former first-round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009.
"We're very high on the three players we acquired," Bowman said. "They bring different things to the table, each one of them. They're at different points of their progression. Stalberg is an NHL player. We love his speed, his size. We think he's going to complement some of the great playmakers on our team.
"In the game today, you have to be able to skate, and he's got the size and the skating. I think when you put him with some guys that can make plays, he's got a lot of potential. The two young kids that we got have a little bit of everything in terms of competitiveness, skill [and] physical play. They battle hard."
Versteeg turned out to be an absolute steal after former GM Dale Tallon acquired him from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Brandon Bochenski on Feb. 3, 2007. He can play wing or center and on special teams.
Versteeg had 20 goals, 44 points and a plus-8 rating last season. During the Hawks' successful run at the Stanley Cup, he had six goals, 14 points and a plus-4 rating. He was a Calder Trophy finalist as one of the league's top rookies in 2008-09, recording 22 goals, 53 points and a plus-15 rating.
But Versteeg also was involved in the now-infamous qualifying offer snafu that led to the reassignment of Tallon. Versteeg has two years remaining on a three-year deal worth more than $3 million a season.
"Like I said earlier this year, we weren't looking to trade anybody," Bowman said. "But that's the game we're in today. If you look at trades that are made, most of them are related around the salary cap. But that's just the reality everybody is facing."