June 21, 2007
Cutting through the claptrapFerguson won't pull off a trade just to make himself look busy
By MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media
COLUMBUS -- In Rumour Central USA, where the NHL draft brings with it a seemingly limitless cache of wild scuttlebutt, the hotel lobbies are filled with whispers of impending deals.
Much of this stuff is unconfirmed schlock, of course.
This is the type of setting where you'll hear innuendo in the lobby bar such as: "Hey, the Kings may ship Kobe out of Los Angeles after all."
Anyone have the heart to tell the rumour-monger that the L.A. team in question is the Lakers, not the Kings?
Keeping all this in mind, it was still intriguing to hear quiet chatter yesterday that the Maple Leafs might like to move beleaguered defenceman Pavel Kubina if the opportunity presented itself.
No kidding. Listen, if John Ferguson could find a taker for the final three years and $15 million US of Kubina's contract, it would create the type of headlines his critics feel he needs to make.
Fans in Montreal still are celebrating amid the neon lights of Crescent St. after Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey located a team -- the Chicago Blackhawks -- that was willing to take disgruntled Sergei Samsonov and his $3.5-million US salary on board.
A similar move by Ferguson involving Kubina would be applauded in almost every corner of the Leafs nation. You can take that to the bank.
On the surface, it seems unlikely Ferguson could pull off such a coup. Maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe it's just more wishful thinking on the part of bitter Leafs fans still writhing after two consecutive seasons sans playoffs.
Either way, Ferguson must make some kind of positive splash in the next couple of weeks, whether it be at the draft or during the opening of free agency July 1.
Ferguson might not want to acknowledge as much publicly, but he is on a short leash. With the board of directors at loggerheads over the direction of the team -- including Ferguson's future -- he is under an unwavering spotlight more than ever.
Believe it or not, Ferguson is quite street savvy. He is aware of reports that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has been hunting for a president of hockey operations, a quest that has led them to interview, among others, the legendary Scotty Bowman.
If Ferguson is feeling the heat to make some huge waves here, he is not showing it. This is a guy who manages valiantly to go about his business at the same time his father, John Sr., is said to be giving up ground in his fierce battle with cancer.
Should a logical blockbuster be there for the taking, he'll do it to improve the team, not to make a splash for the sake of making a splash.
"A lot of teams made significant moves at the trade deadline and did not end up accomplishing what they thought," Ferguson said.
He understandably didn't mention examples but there is a suspicion that Atlanta's selling of the farm to bring in Keith Tkachuk would fit the bill.
A year ago in Vancouver, Ferguson acquired Andrew Raycroft from the Boston Bruins for highly regarded goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask. It continued the Leafs' string of draft day deals, a tradition that featured trades involving Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark, Larry Murphy and Mike Gartner during the 1990s.
"There is a difference this time around," Bill Watters, a member of the Leafs management team for those trades in the 1990s, said yesterday. "John Ferguson does not have the autonomy that Cliff Fletcher and Pat Quinn did. They didn't have to report upstairs. It's a different kettle of fish."
Clark, whose trade to Quebec in 1994 landed Sundin in Toronto, said any Toronto GM must be cautious.
"In Toronto, the centre of the hockey universe, you have to stick to your plan," Clark said. "You can't be wishy washy and go by what every body in town thinks. Fans in Toronto are always looking for action from the team. To them, action means excitement."
The hot buzz in Toronto these days is the suggestion that the Leafs might ask Bryan McCabe to waive his no-movement clause. This much is known: There has been the odd inquiry concerning McCabe's availability.
"Like I told you last week, I signed in Toronto to play in Toronto," McCabe said yesterday. "I have not been approached by anyone in the organization."
McCabe chuckled when he revealed that his wife Roberta will be in Toronto next week to move some of the couple's belongings.
"Tell people not to read anything into it," McCabe said with a laugh.
"We're moving into a new place in Leaside, not out of town."