Talk

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    I’ve been trading a few emails of late with some “non-sources” (I want to be very clear about that) employed by various media outlets in the Toronto area, to get their take on the rapidly-churning Maple Leafs‘ rumour mill.

    Although these folks are obviously not directly tied to anyone you would call a “source” affiliated with a team, their insight is often valuable as they are privy to more of the backroom chatter with those who are connected to the so-called “sources”.

    The following is a compilation of some of the chatter that has been bandied about.  Nothing overwhelming here, although it is beginning to appear that some of the rumours floating around the Maple Leafs of late may have more to them than originally anticipated … and others, far less.

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    Here we go, in no particular order:

    Mikhail Grabovski:
    “If he doesn’t re-sign in Toronto, he will wind up in the KHL.  Most of the talking heads feel didn’t do enough last season for the Leafs to recoup the 2nd rounder they gave up for him via trade or offer sheet.  But there are idiots everywhere, so who knows?”

    Tomas Kaberle:
    He’s at the heart of every major rumour due to that rare combination of all-star skill, affordability, and an expired NTC.  However, it must be understood that Brian Burke is quite content to hang onto Kaberle through the 2009-10 season.  “Burke will look to move him because of his trade value, but if an acceptable deal cannot be made, Kaberle is still an asset to the Maple Leafs.”

    Pavel Kubina:
    Quote 1:  “He’s a Ron Wilson favorite, he is expensive, and he has lost a step with age.   Those are all reasons he is not likely to be traded.   His experience is an asset for a young team and he is effective on the PP … more reasons he is not likely to be traded.”   Quote 2:  “Either Kubina goes, Kaberle goes, or neither goes.  But not both.  The one thing we can be sure of is that at least one of those two will be on the roster next season.”

    Luke Schenn:
    Luke Schenn is not going anywhere, unless a future star is coming back the other way.  “Not. Gonna. Happen.” was the direct quote I received on this one.

    Jay Bouwmeester:
    In the event that Tomas Kaberle is traded this offseason, Burke will target  a certain puck-moving defenseman on the free agent market … to a certain price point.  “The team has enough confidence in the young guys (White, Stralman) to risk striking out in free agency, should a deal involving Kaberle come along which is too good to pass up.”

    Marion Gaborik:
    It is highly unlikely that Marion Gaborik comes to Toronto.   “Too many $$$ for too few games.”  If he doesn’t stay in Minnesota, LA and Vancouver are the only two teams who (as of now) are seriously interested.

    Jonas Gustavsson:
    It is beginning to look as though Jonas Gustavsson will sign with either Dallas or Toronto.  “Pro: he gets to play sooner, and more often, in Toronto.  Con: the media pressure, and constant attention, that comes with playing in Toronto.”

    Ryan Malone:

    The swapping-picks-taking-back-salary rumour with Tampa Bay that Toronto reporters have been salivating over the past few weeks is rapidly losing credibility.  “Ryan Malone’s contract was front-loaded for a reason.  Forget the cap number, his actual salary will decline over the next few seasons making him easily affordable for TB.   The TB sports media – who are far more connected to the team than anyone here in Toronto – have spent the last few weeks laughing at how ridiculous these rumours are.”

    Rick Nash:
    Very unlikely to happen.  From a contact in Ohio:  “The only way Rick ends up in Toronto is via trade.   Scott Howson won’t let him hit the FA market without getting something in return.   And it would take much more than a Kaberle to get Nash, guaranteed.  And no, Hitch doesn’t want a headcase like Grabovski.   But that’s all beside the point.  Why would Nash want to leave a team as stacked for the future as the Jackets are, to come to the mess that is the Leafs?  Everyone I’ve talked to says he loves it here.”  Agreed.

    The Sedins:
    Multiple people have mentioned that the Sedins-to-Toronto talk is seriously heating up (Toronto Sports Media is reporting the same thing, so I’m far from the only one hearing this).   I put out the following questions to the email list in response:  The twins have not performed to expectation in Vancouver, so how well will they manage under the spotlight of Toronto?   And has their play justified the money they want? I got a quick answer:  “Not well, and no way.”

    Mats Sundin:
    Word is, members the Leafs front office has been very coy when asked about the possibility of Mats Sundin returning to the team.   “It’s the ghost of JFJ … the neither confirm nor deny approach.”  Read into that what you will.

    Trading Up 1:
    “Everyone keeps forgetting it’s a deep draft this year.   Burke will not give up the farm to move up four or five spots with this many good players available.  Even if the Islanders decide to put the top pick on the market, Burke will not set his team back just to get that one pick.”   I agree.  It takes more than one player to build a team, and everything he would give up in that deal would have to be replaced, which could take years to do.  And if the player you draft after making such a trade flops … disaster.

    Trading Up 2:
    “Brian Burke was not lying when he said he was interested in drafting John Tavares.   If he cannot move up high enough (or if the price is too high) to draft him, he is supposedly quite intrigued by the speed Matt Duchene could bring to the lineup.  But who isn’t?”  I’ve also heard that should an acceptable deal to move up far enough in the draft not be available, speculation is that Burke would be quite content to make a smaller move in order to secure Brayden Schenn at 5 or 6.

    Trading Up 3:
    “Don’t bet on a trade with Colorado to move into the #3 spot in the draft.   The Avalanche are in need of two things:  goaltending, and scoring depth.  The Leafs can help them with neither.”  It stands to reason that if the Avs do indeed move their 3rd overall pick, it will be to trade down and stockpile additional picks.

    Old Hat:
    And, finally, the rumour that will never die.   Kaberle-for-Jordan Staal has been bandied about since last year’s offseason.   With Ryan Whitney no longer in Pittsburgh, and Sergei Gonchar’s durability a serious concern, not to mention the centre depth on the Penguins, the rumour does make a ton of sense.   No one I’ve talked to has received any real indication that it could actually happen, but it’s worthwhile to mention eyebrows are raised that the chatter has lasted as long as it has.

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    That’s it for the rumour roundup, courtesy of my non-sources in the backrooms of the Toronto media machine.    I want to stress that there is nothing substantive to any of these rumblings; they are merely snippets of the chatter that has been going on amongst people closer to those in the know than most of the rest of us.

    Remember that it’s all just talk – and though talk is cheap (in this case, free!) – it is nevertheless intriguing.

    Cheers,
    GB