Despite an encouraging 3-0-4 record in their past 7 games, the Maple Leafs continue to explore ways to improve their roster with an eye to both the current season and the future. Â The following is a rundown of the latest rumours making their way around the campfire in reference to the boys in blue.
- A very good source has it that the Leafs are seriously exploring the option of putting in a claim on veteran centre Michal Nylander, should the Washington Capitals expose him to re-entry waivers. Â Nylander is currently plying his trade in the AHL due to salary cap concerns; any team that would claim him would be facing an approximate 2.4m cap hit upon doing so.
- The single greatest need on the roster continues to be big-bodied forwards who can consistently take up residence in the slot and do the dirty work in front of the net. Â Names such as Nathan Horton, David Backes, and Alexander Frolov have been mentioned in various forums as players of interest who could fill this role. Â Horton and Backes play for teams in need of a shakeup, and Frolov has been rumoured to be on the trading block since the beginning of the season. However, the asking price on all three players is said to be too high (draft picks, which the Leafs do not have, or top prospects, which the Leafs do not want to move) at the present time.
- Contrary to popular belief, there have been teams kicking tires on Jason Blake’s availability, but none have been serious enough in their pursuit to make any sort of offer as of yet. Â Carolina was believed to be interested at one point in adding a speed dimension to their lineup to try to get Eric Staal going; however, with Staal now on the injured list that talk has all but died down. Â Florida is said to be intrigued by the possibility of reuniting Blake with Dominic Moore, and should their offensive woes continue to persist few would be surprised if they began to seriously explore that option.
- Jonas Frogren is not in the AHL because the team did not like his play or think there was a fit with the Leafs; rather, he is there as the result of a numbers game, plain and simple. Â It is unlikely he gets traded, but in the event there is an injury to the Leafs’ blueline corps, or a trade involving a member of that group, he will be at the top of the call-up list.
- On that note, word on the grapevine suggests that there is some interest in Garnet Exelby from teams looking to add toughness to their back end. Â Colorado is the team that keeps popping up with this one.
- As for the recent rumours involving Chicago, where there is smoke there is usually fire and there is a lot of smoke coming out of the Windy City these days. Â The Blackhawks are going to be in serious salary cap trouble this summer, and while many GMs would line up to take good players off their hands for next to nothing, the Leafs are said to be one of only a few teams that would be open to making the sort of deal that Chicago would be more partial to; namely a deal that would help both teams as opposed to a straight salary dump.
- The latest rumour to emerge from the Chicago situation (coming out of Chicago) has the ‘Hawks interested in moving Brian Campbell for Tomas Kaberle, which would save the Hawks some $3m. Â The Leafs would likely want draft picks to compensate for the extra salary picked up in the deal; the problem with that is, Chicago is rumoured to be hesitant to move draft picks in any deal. Â Â The other problem? Â Kaberle would have to be willing to go to Chicago, in the first place. Â No word yet on whether he would consider the Blackhawks as a possible destination, should he at some point be asked to waive his NTC.
- Update: the above rumour, while refuted on HNIC, continues to be pushed by Chicago sources as legit. Interesting.
- Of course, to pick up any sort of salary, the Leafs would have to find a way to move some of their own out. Â Jason Blake was mentioned above, and Jeff Finger is said to be available also. Â The reason the team sat Finger down instead of demoting him was, they knew there was enough interest out there for his services that they’d have lost him on re-entry waivers the second they called him back up. Â After all, the team picking him up would have got him for only $1.75m. Â The question is, is there enough interest out there for a team to be willing to acquire him at his full $3.5m/season contract value?
- Back to Kaberle: Â sources say the Leafs will not move him unless they are able to recoup draft picks in a deal, plain and simple. Â Â Even if they can work something out to their liking with another team, they would be hesitant to pull the trigger without either (a) an offensive-minded defenseman coming back as part of the deal, or (b) a second deal in place to acquire an offensive-minded defenseman. Â Â After Kaberle, Ian White is the only puck-moving defender on the roster.
- The talk of Kaberle’s approved destination list containing entirely teams from the East is false. Â While the list is said to consist of predominantly Eastern Conference clubs, there are a couple of teams in the West that he is said to be willing to consider waiving his NTC to go to.
- At this point in time, the list of teams interested in Kaberle’s services includes roughly half the league.
- The Leafs have been said to have been talking to Vancouver on an on-again, off-again basis since the off-season. Tampering charges notwithstanding, business is business and there has been talk of there being mutual interest in players on both sides for quite some time. Once Roberto Luongo is healthy, young goaltender Cory Schneider will be again relegated back to the minors … it is worth noting that the Leafs did have representatives present for one of his starts already this season.
- Ian White is not likely to get traded unless a potential deal is simply too good to pass up. Â The coaching staff and management team love the guy, and there is plenty of speculation that a contract extension will be offered prior to the end of the season.
- Jamal Mayers’ days as a member of the Leafs are numbered; things just haven’t worked out in Toronto for the classy veteran. Â As soon as the team can find a taker for him, he will be moved. Â It’s sort of a game of chicken right now; the Leafs are said to be shopping him to try to get some sort of return, while teams appear to be waiting for the Leafs to demote him and then expose him to re-entry waivers (in which case he could be picked up at half his contract value and for zero return).
- Vesa Toskala can rest easy; Â he will not have to worry about moving anytime soon. Â The team is said to have resigned itself to the fact that his trade value is nil, and he will most likely spend the final year of his contract wearing a blue and white jersey. Â The question is, will he be wearing it in the NHL or AHL? Â If Vesa’s game doesn’t improve soon, he will be demoted to the Marlies with Joey MacDonald becoming the full-time backup. Â But at least he won’t have to worry about packing or house-hunting (hey, you’ve got to be able to find the silver linings in everything, no matter how small they may be).
It is important to note that no moves appear to be imminent or on the horizon at this time. Rather, the talk among the grapevine is of possibilities the team may be considering worth exploring as the season continues to move forward.