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Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

In today’s Leafs links, the insiders provide the latest on the market for Nikita Zaitsev and the likelihood of a Jake Gardiner return ahead of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Insider Trading: Leafs interested in trading Zaitsev; Will Kessel stay or go? (TSN)
Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger discuss the latest with Jake Gardiner’s health situation and the Nikita Zaitsev trade market in Tuesday’s Insider Trading segment.

LeBrun on Jake Gardiner‘s health and the possibility he could re-sign in Toronto:

He struggled against the Boston Bruins because he wasn’t healthy; he played through that back problem in the first round. What we’re told is this: He avoided surgery. An MRI came back clean. He’s healed and feeling 100%. That’s huge for him in an offseason where he’s either going to re-sign with the Leafs or venture elsewhere. Certainly, I expect that even if he stays in Toronto, it can only happen after Mitch Marner is re-signed. And that’s holding up the Jake Gardiner process because they need a solution on Marner first.

Dreger on the Canucks’ interest in Nikita Zaitsev:

There will be discussions between Pat Brisson and the Toronto Maple Leafs to see whether or not there is a potential fit there [with Jake Gardiner]. Meanwhile, the Leafs are still considering the option of trading Nikita Zaitsev. That has been out there now for better than a week. There has been tire-kicking, I’m told. There has been some interest from the Vancouver Canucks, but Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks have a priority list. He has a lot of work to do and he wants to get it done between now and the draft. Nikita Zaitsev is on his interest list, but he might be option three or four.

Brian Burke on video review, Stanley Cup Final, Patrick Marleau (Sportsnet 590)
On Starting Lineup, Brian Burke discussed the touchiness of the Patrick Marleau situation for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs.

On whether the Raptors’ potentially winning the championship changes the level of pressure on the Leafs:

No, it doesn’t change anything. In that line of work — the work I used to do — the pressure is constant and unrelenting. It doesn’t matter what market you’re in, the owner turns to you at the start of every year and says, “When are we going to win?” It might change the spending habits of some of your customer base, but no, it doesn’t change anything.

On the Patrick Marleau situation:

There are a couple of issues here. When you go to sign a free agent — when you go to sign Patrick Marleau two years ago — you are very careful how you treat that player because other players take note. If you want to sign Brian Burke, who is a top free agent in two years, and you’ve scuffled with this guy who is a proud player with a great career, you say, “Woah, look what they did to Marleau. They gave him a three-year deal with a no-trade and a no-move and then they moved heaven and earth to get rid of him. I’m not going to Toronto.” They’ve got to be careful how they treat this guy. That’s an issue. He’s got to be treated with respect because that’s how things are done in our league with veteran players, but it’s a problem. The contract is a problem. Patrick Marleau is not. They are in salary cap hell and a lot of it is self-inflicted. If they could find a way to move Patrick Marleau, that could help a lot.

LeBrun: Leafs are keeping the door open with Gardiner (TSN1050)
On Leafs Lunch, Pierre LeBrun provided his latest on Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev.

On Jake Gardiner and the likelihood of a return:

Pat Brisson spoke briefly with Kyle Dubas at the Draft Combine in Buffalo. The Leafs are keeping that door open, but this — and it’s a big but — they really can’t go there until they figure out Mitch Marner. That’s the reality of it. Because of that, I think it’s almost inevitable that Pat Brisson will end up hearing from teams as of June 23rd when the UFA speaking period opens.

I know from talking to other teams that they can’t wait for him to get to June 23rd. He is going to have a lot of teams on his doorstep. You just don’t have top-four defensemen go to market that often. Erik Karlsson is a story on his own, but Tyler Myers, Jake Gardiner, and to some degree Anton Stralman will get lots of attention.

On the latest on Nikita Zaitsev:

Darren Dreger reported the other day that the Vancouver Canucks have shown a bit of interest, which is interesting. I don’t think it is a front-burner issue for them, but the way that Dregs framed it is that he’s on a list of players that the Canucks have written down and want to keep an eye on.

Of course, Patrick Marleau’s situation remains unresolved at the moment. It’s a complicated deal. There is only a limited number of teams that he will go to. But the Leafs are certainly under the gun to create some cap space here.

McKenzie on Game 7, Maple Leafs off-season plans and more (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie joined First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo to discuss the anticipation for a crazy couple of weeks upcoming in the NHL offseason.

On whether the Marner situation dominates the agenda for Dubas:

It dominates everything because everything does stem from that, but he has still got to conduct other business. He can talk trade for Zaitsev and Marleau and field offers on Kadri and Kapanen. I’m sure he is doing all of that. The General Manager, the very nature of the job title means that many things are happening at the same time. Managers manage it. I’m sure that is what he is doing and I am sure it is very busy times for him because there are a lot of balls in the air.

It is going to be rumour central on all teams [in the next few weeks], including the Leafs. Understandably so, everyone in Toronto and much of Canada right now is focused on the Raptors, but whenever that series ends, it is going to be full steam ahead on the hockey news front. It is usually the busiest two weeks of the season — from now until July 1st is when virtually every team in the NHL basically lay out their blueprint for what their team is going to look like next year and make all the moves necessary. It’s buyout season, draft season, RFA and UFA, you name it.

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