A thaw is developing in what have been frosty negotiations between the Maple Leafs and restricted free agent winger Nikolai Kulemin.
ďWe made some progress (but) a deal is not imminent,Ē said senior vice-president of hockey operations Davis Nonis in an e-mail to QMI on Wednesday.
That was based on conversations between Nonis and Kuleminís agent, Gary Greenstin, up until Tuesday, with Nonis and general manager Brian Burke putting the young wingerís contract on the backburner to prepare for the pursuit of unrestricted free agents on Thursday.
There was a major difference of opinion between the two sides on Kuleminís status as a first-line right winger, a job Greenstin thinks is worth close to $3 million US a year, but one the Leafs believe Kulemin was assigned more through a lack of available bodies.
Kulemin did make strides as an all-around player, but not enough in Burkeís mind to get a huge raise from his $850,000 US salary.
The Leafs are prepared to let forwards John Mitchell, Wayne Primeau and Jamie Lundmark go free on Thursday at noon and re-visit them later on after trying some other options.