Brian Burke went to sleep Saturday night saying he was nurturing the seeds of four possible deals for Tomas Kaberle.
The Maple Leafs' general manager has until midnight Sunday to make one grow, but knows by now that Kaberle isn't the only carrot in the garden when it comes to useful defencemen and that few NHL teams are sympathetic to his deadline. Kevin Bieksa of the Canucks is also getting more attention of late and given Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis is one of Burke's most fierce rivals, it only heightens the stakes for both men.
"I'd say there are three or four legitimate offers we needed to discuss," Burke told QMI Agency. "There's nothing worth taking — yet. If we end up with Kaberle (whose no-trade clause expires at midnight) that's fine with me."
Well, not exactly, given the preparations Toronto made to move on from Kaberle and get tougher on defence at the risk of losing his points.
Everyone, Kaberle included, expects a trade. Burke gave the process a huge push this week, letting it be known he's adjusted - many would use to the term lowered - his sights to take a deal for a draft pick and/or a prospect, rather than the top-six forward he wanted to spur playoff chances.
Gillis is not on the clock with Bieksa as Burke is with Kaberle. Bieksa, three years younger, became available when the Canucks picked up Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis in the off-season. But with the appetite of some teams whetted by late summer trade talk, Gillis could make his move now instead of October.
QMI Agency reports one of the packages being considered is coming from San Jose that includes defence prospect Derek Joslin and a No.1 pick. Dallas and Tampa Bay have been mentioned, as well as old suitor Los Angeles, a team pre-occupied with pursuing Ilya Kovalchuk at present and likely not ready to talk about Kaberle.
Sweatt shop closing
Sunday night will also see the Leafs officially let Colorado College grad Billy Sweatt become an unrestricted free agent.
It was never a sure thing the promising six-foot speedster winger would sign after being part of the Kris Versteeg trade with Chicago, but things took a nasty turn when Burke's initial offer wasn't taken. Burke took a swipe at Sweatt's agent, Scott Norton of Chicago, saying a more experienced rep would have reached an agreement. Burke made a point of publically withdrawing Toronto's offer when the Leafs signed Marcel Mueller and said Saturday he's not reconsidering Sweatt.
"We've never said no the Leafs, but they pulled the offer," Norton said when asked about the chance of a last-minute truce.
"It was a bit unfair of Brian to make it personal. I've been in this business 17 years and I like to think this isn't my first bar-b-que. But I certainly respect Brian as a GM and a man who has rebuilt two or three teams. It's just the way things played out. I don't see this affecting the relationship I have with other Leaf clients (three minor leaguers, including forward Alex Foster)."
Norton remains confident he'll get some calls on Sweatt starting Monday, even though Chicago's various attempts to reach a deal with their second-round pick didn't work.
"My advice to Billy now, with all due respect, is to look at every other Tom, Dick and Harry coming out of college who is getting interest. Nothing Billy has done, from being on the U.S. under-18 team (in 2004) to the day he left Colorado (last year 109 points in 143 games) has made anyone think he won't be a sure NHLer with great speed and forechecking ability."