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    858

    The Leafs and Islanders have a fair bit of history between them. The Mike Peca/Darcy Tucker incident, the Leafs trading up to acquire Luke Schenn, and even the Islanders beating the Devils (who played Scott Clemmenson instead of Martin Brodeur) in a shootout to knock the Leafs out of the 2006-07 playoffs by one point in the final game of the season. Tonight, they meet again in Toronto.

      38

      The big club’s off until a Friday night date with the struggling Hurricanes, so let’s take this opportunity to review the progress of several Maple Leafs’ prospects across various levels and highlight upon the season’s surprises and disappointments thus far. The verdict: fairly encouraging results early on across the board.

        56

        It appears that the players on the on the Maple Leafs’ NHL roster aren’t the only ones in the organization stirring up news. Both of the Leafs’ 2nd round selections from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft this past June, winger Kenny Ryan and defenseman Jesse Blacker are reportedly on the move, ironically in different directions out of the revolving door that is the Windsor Spitfires.

          379

          The infamous Brian Burke “stamp” that has become his signature since his times in Hartford, Vancouver and Anaheim arrived in Toronto yesterday in the form of Phil Kessel and at the expense of the club’s next two first round draft picks and this year’s second round pick. Any time a general manager moves not one but two first round draft picks, it constitutes a major future-shaping decision and one that will ultimately play a major part in defining the legacy of his regime. Yesterday we were reaffirmed of one increasingly apparent fact about Brian Burke’s rebuild – it’s not your traditional model. We’ve seen over the course of the last three months – from June to September – Burke aggressively pursue all available avenues to try to position his club as a contender in the short and long term. Certainly, the 2009-10 campaign just got a whole lot more interesting.

            1553

            Leafs coach, Ron Wilson made it clear, Nazem Kadri will not be getting a nine-game audition this season, just to be sent down to the OHL London Knights. Answering questions in the media scrum after the scrimmage at training camp in the Mastercard Centre of Hockey Excellence, Wilson was adamant about being against an audition for the young pivot. In order to stick with the Leafs, the 1st round pick in the 2009 draft will have to beat out one of Mikhail Grabovski, or Matt Stajan for a top-6 role in order to stick, and as of Wilson right now, both are ‘way ahead’ of Kadri for a spot at the moment.

            Kadri will get every opportunity to earn a top-6 spot, but unless he completely overwhelms, expect to see him in London for the entire season.

            More notes from Training Camp, Day 2.

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              The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

              I’ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.

              The following are a series of notes from Day 1 …

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                The Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookies, in a very entertaining game this afternoon, lost 6-5 in overtime to the rookies of the Boston Bruins.

                The game was fast-paced, hard-hitting, and featured three fights on three consecutive plays (literally within seconds of the faceoff each time).    The good news?   Jamie Devane looks like a legitimate enforcer and a presence to be feared.   The bad news?   His right hand didn’t look so good after the fight (had the icebag brought to him in the penalty box) and he wound up leaving the game shortly thereafter with the hand bandaged up.    No word yet on how serious an injury it is.

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                  I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game itself, as Alec covered that quite well.

                  The news, for the most part, was good.   Many of the Leafs’ prospects were impressive in their bids to earn a spot on the big club and/or the Marlies.   The following is a quick summation of some of the things that stood out to me from my vantage point at the game.

                    36

                    Jonas Gustavsson’s unofficial debut performance is bound to generate some buzz after the Monster stopped 35 of 36 shots in backing the Maple Leafs’ prospects to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ youngsters in the opening game of the rookie tournament inside the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this evening.

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                      Amid speculation that Brian Burke is positioning himself to extend an offer sheet – perhaps to long-rumoured target, 22-year-old winger Phil Kessel – after swapping picks to recover the Leafs’ 2010 second round pick in a deal that would seemingly make little sense otherwise, there is another possibility to consider in regards to trade negotiations.

                        90

                        Via TSN, Bob Mckenzie is reporting that the Maple Leafs have re-acquired its own 2010 2nd round draft pick from Chicago in exchange for its own 2011 3rd round pick and the 2011 2nd round pick recently acquired from Calgary as part of the Anton Stralman trade.

                        With this trade, the Maple Leafs now possess the necessary draft picks to tender an offer sheet to a restricted free agent, and Mckenize speculates that GM Brian Burke may choose to make a run at the still unsigned Boston sniper Phil Kessel. The Rangers’ centre Brandon Dubinsky and the Sabres’ winger Drew Stafford are the two other names that may interest the Maple Leafs.

                        Here are the compensation brackets for restricted free agents, via NHL.com:

                        Expect rumors to run rampant over the next few days!


                          308

                          Adnan Virk of Leafs TV recently caught up with GM Brian Burke for a brief chat and in his latest blog on mapleleafs.com, dishes out a few very revealing and interesting tidbits. Among the hot topics of discussion are: Burke’s projected top six defense core (including a few surprises), his expectations and hopes for Alexei Ponikarovsky, and the possibility of the Leafs ’09 7th overall pick Nazem Kadri cracking the roster out of training camp.

                            189

                            The Zherdev saga is finally expected to come to an end sometime around noon today, when the Rangers are widely believed to cut bait with the enigmatic 24 year old winger. There is a ton of rumor and speculation surrounding a possible trade fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as it would accommodate his need for a young scoring forward. Forty eight hours and four hundred comments later, looks like it’s time for a new thread and a few quick notes:

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                              The word on the street is Rangers’ winger Nikolai Zherdev has been awarded $3.9m in arbitration (unconfirmed).   If true, many suspect the amount to be out of GM Glen Sather’s price range, and he may allow Zherdev to walk as a result.

                              A hot rumour today has the Maple Leafs’ monitoring the situation closely, and many have said that if the Rangers decline the arbitration result, Leafs’ GM Brian Burke is expected to be at the head of the line of teams attempting to sign the mercurial, but immensely talented, winger.

                                231

                                A variety of discussion points to kick off the weekend including the imminent departure of Justin Pogge and the Marlies goaltending situation going into next season. Is it finally James Reimer’s time to shine? Also, a quick look at the latest flurry of moves made by the Boston Bruins, and how that may affect a potential Leaf trade for the still unsigned Phil Kessel.

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                                  Brian Burke has been keeping himself relatively busy since returning from his fishing trip.  While they have been all minor league signings, he has locked up three Marlies, securing depth for both our farm team and the big club.

                                  -Alex Foster received a one year, two-way deal at the league minimum of 500 000.

                                  -Andre Deveaux received a similar one year, two-way deal, also at 500 000.

                                  -Darryl Boyce received a two year, two-way deal that averages out to roughly 525 000 per year.

                                    92

                                    Looks like we can get ready to cross off another free agent target off the list. A few weeks after Blue Jackets sniper Rick Nash agreed to an 8 year, $62.5M contract to stay in Columbus, a Russian source is reporting that the Atlanta Thrashers are expected to ink star winger Ilya Kovalchuk to a record-setting contract worth $11.36M a season, which is 20% of the team’s total cap ($58.6M) and the maximum salary a player can receive under the current CBA. The two-time 50 goal scorer will now shatter Ovechkin’s previous record annual salary of $9M a year.

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                                      Coming into this offseason, GM Brian Burke promised to drastically overhaul the Maple Leafs roster, and he knew that the primary asset at his disposal was cap space: lots and lots of it. After handing out long-term contracts to Orr,  Beauchemin, and Komisarek, he’s got a little under $3 million left to play with in order to add an impact top six forward. In an attempt to minimize the amount of outgoing “talent” via trade, it’s no secret that he’s been trying to corner GM’s of teams that are pressed right up against the cap.

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                                        Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs held their prospect development camp to gauge the progress and future outlook of both prospects within the organization, and unsigned players on the team’s radar.

                                        The camp, which ran from July 5th to July 10th, featured six full days of on-ice practice activities and off-ice seminars ranging from nutrition to lifestyle to the business of the NHL.   It provided an opportunity for the players to get to know their possible future teammates, as well as the chance showcase their abilities to the team’s player development personnel.

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                                          Picking up on the “defenseman for a forward” trade offer that Burke received the other day, ESPN’s Al Cimaglia speculated on a possible fit with the Chicago Blackhawks. After accomodating the acquisition of Hossa and the significant raises to Versteeg, Bolland and Barker, the Hawks find themselves pressed right up against the cap and still requiring a tough, stay at home defender. With Burke having up to six NHL defensive defensemen on his roster right now, Cimaglia suggested the newly acquired Garnet Exelby as a possible fit since he’s young, cheap and would fit the mold of what GM Dave Tallon is looking for to round out his defense core.