While the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and continue to provide us with some fantastic moments of triumph, the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are now forced to once again shift their focus to off ice activities.
And so too has Leafs brass.
Despite his team sitting on the sidelines, Leafs GM Brian Burke made quick work of two signing he was keying in on, signing goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and newcomer Jussi Rynnas to contracts. Â Continuing with the in-house theme, Burke will now certainly turn his attention to Nikolai Kulemin, if he hasn’t done so already.
And while we are seemingly quite far away this point, it won’t be long before the draft and subsequent free agency period rolls around.
This involves the Leafs, as well as around the league.
TFP: The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are among the teams to have serious interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky. Various reports suggest the Leafs are looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Ponikarovsky, though it’s believed Burke is willing to accept a second-round pick and a top prospect.”
5:00 PM Update – Mueller, Roloson, Hamhuis, Voros/Lisin.
The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the St. Louis Blues tonight, in the Leafs’ final game prior to the NHL’s Olympic break.
The Leafs are coming off a narrow loss to the West-leading San Jose Sharks, a game which left the team with much to feel good about. Â Tonight, the team will look to resolve their road woes and enter the break on a high note, by capitalizing on what has been an inconsistent and underachieving Blues squad.
The Toronto Sun contributes a wildly useful article about various hockey people around the NHL enjoying the Leafs’ slow start.
The Columbus Dispatch is very happy with the addition of Anton Stralman to the Blue Jackets powerplay and feels that it’s a great fit. Stralman notes that the Leafs asked him to play a tougher, high intensity game but that it wasn’t something you can change right away.
Lance Hornby offers hope by way of historical evidence: there are five teams in the last 15 years that have won but one of their first ten games and still made the playoffs. Fortunately, two of those teams were under the tutelage of Ron Wilson, one of whom he took all the way to the Conference Finals while the other draws a parallel to the Kessel situation, with a young Paul Kariya coming back to lead the team to the playoffs.
Patrick King of Sportsnet offers a wrap-up on the whole Ryan-in-Blacker-out situation in Windsor, with quotes from the Windsor GM that the team is very excited at the prospect of adding Kenny for a deep playoff run. As for Blacker, trade talks are heating up and Rychel expects that something could get done by the weekend. You might remember Patrick as one of the contributors to the Maple Leafs Annual.
For a full team-by-team breakdown of all playoffs clubs, sure bets and sleeper picks for your playoff pools, visit the McKeen’s Playoff Preview where the factors below have been outlined and pointed out in a team-by-team write up.