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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Rumblings: Trade talk is heating up

By Pierre LeBrun

For as much as Brian Burke has long maintained that the trade deadline is overrated in terms of a time of year to improve your team, draft week has been an altogether different beast for the veteran GM.

No need to look further than the way Burke moved heaven and earth to get the 2-3 overall picks in 1999 to draft both Sedin twins. The Toronto Maple Leafs GM is not scared to make bold moves at this time of year. He just so happens to hold the No. 5 overall pick in Friday night’s first round.

As is stands, Burke said Wednesday morning from Las Vegas that it appears likely he’ll keep the pick.

"I fully expect that," Burke told ESPN.com. "We’ve had discussions with other teams that I would characterize mostly as tire kicking, nothing that we’ve had to even huddle on. Now, the way the draft works, the time frame gets very compressed as you get closer. So it’ll crank right up. Teams who haven’t even called me, I expect will call starting tomorrow. But I fully expect to keep that pick."

All depends, in the end, on the quality of offers, some of which might not come until the New York Islanders use their fourth overall pick Friday night and Burke’s phone blows up immediately afterward with teams realizing the player they desperately want is still available.

Meanwhile, the Leafs had hoped to upgrade in goal, and that could still happen, especially if the Vancouver Canucks come calling with Roberto Luongo.

But if nothing happens on that front, the Leafs can also live with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens as their one-two punch in goal.

"We are prepared to go forward on that basis," Burke said. "If we can upgrade at the goaltending position, and at a reasonable price, we’ll do it. But we are prepared [to go with Reimer-Scrivens]. I believe in James Reimer. He’s young, he’s athletic, I believe in this kid. If we have to start like that, we will."

Burke declined to talk about specific goalie targets, but it’s clear through conversations I’ve had with other league sources that the Leafs have interest in Luongo, although as of Wednesday morning, I don’t believe there had been any meaningful discussions between Toronto and Vancouver. I don’t think the Leafs would be willing to move a high-level asset to Vancouver in exchange. My sense is that Toronto will keep tabs on the Luongo situation, but is not in desperation mode whatsoever to get something done. Not with 10 years left on Luongo’s contract. If it’s a deal that make sense, I think the Leafs will do it. But they won’t overpay.

Sabres looking to deal


The Buffalo Sabres have four picks in the opening two rounds of the draft and are dangling some of them in an effort to make a trade this week.

"We’d like to," GM Darcy Regier told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning. "We view it as an opportunity because of the additional first-round pick and the additional second-round pick. We’ve got some flexibility. So we’re approaching this as, 'Let’s see if we can find some opportunities with this flexibility.' Right now, though, the costs seem to be on the high side. But we’ll see where it goes. It’s probably too early right now."

The Sabres have the 12th and 21st overall picks in the first round (the latter courtesy of Nashville via the Paul Gaustad trade) plus the 42nd and 44th overall picks in the second round.

The objective is clear.

"The focus is on how we can add to what we have up front," Regier said. "That’s what we hope to do."

Regier can’t discuss names, but it’s a guarantee he would have already phoned Columbus about Rick Nash. Given that Nash has a no-movement clause and can control his destination, I’d rate Buffalo as a long shot. Then there’s Bobby Ryan in Anaheim, my TSN colleague Bob McKenzie reporting Tuesday that the Ducks were at least listening for offers for the Team USA winger, and I’d be shocked if Regier didn’t phone up Ducks GM Bob Murray to also inquire.

What Regier did say is that he was planning on phoning a long list of teams again Wednesday to get an updated view of the landscape.

Keep an eye on the Sabres, they’re planning on being aggressive.

Garrison remains untethered


Offers have been made, talks are ongoing, but Florida Panthers blueliner Jason Garrison, a pending UFA, remained unsigned Wednesday as July 1 continues to approach.

The Panthers and Garrison’s camp were scheduled to talk again Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"We’ll continue to talk and see if we can get something done," said Garrison’s agent, Matt Oates.

Garrison had a career-high 16 goals this past season. Once Ryan Suter goes off the board July 1, Garrison could come into demand in a hurry. On the other hand, he’s played all his NHL hockey in Florida and loves it there. Tough call.

Schneider still unsigned


As the Vancouver Canucks figure out Roberto Luongo’s future, let’s not forget the other shoe that needs to drop.

Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, RFA July 1, needs a new contract.

"Vancouver has certainly talked to us, and we’re receptive, but there isn’t anything imminent at this point," Schneider’s agent, Mike Liut, told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "They’d like to get Cory signed, Cory would like to sign in Vancouver."

But at this point, the two sides are not too far down the road in contract talks.

"No," Liut said. "It always appears to me that things accelerate after the draft."

While Liut wouldn’t say this, my own sense is that it’s hard to imagine Schneider being willing to sign until he knows what happens with Luongo first. Only makes sense.

Backstrom not in play


Seconds after the Minnesota Wild announced the re-signing of goalie Josh Harding on Tuesday, some people around the league immediately began to speculate that meant veteran goalie Niklas Backstrom was on the block.

Not so.

"Not at all," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com. "We believe we need a strong one-two punch in goal. We’ve got that with Josh and Nik. We have no interest in disrupting that. You look around the league and you see the importance of having depth in goal. That’s what we want."

Backstrom, 34, has one more year left on his deal ($6 million) before becoming an unrestricted free agent in July 2013.

Harding signed for $1.9 million per season over three years, a reasonable number, to be sure. And I think you’ll see him blossom into a No. 1 during that span.

And the Wild still have lots of cap space left to take their expected run at Zach Parise come July 1.