Gary Roberts seems to be fading from the Maple Leafs' picture, while Anson Carter moves in.
General manager John Ferguson did not sound optimistic yesterday on a Roberts trade with the Florida Panthers. It became known in Florida last week that ex-Leaf wanted to return for family reasons, presumably in a deal for a mid-round draft pick.
"I wouldn't hazard a guess," Ferguson said of a potential trade, adding "none of that (talk) started here."
Roberts was hoping for a move back north after his ex-wife moved to Calgary, leaving his 16-year-old daughter in school in Oakville.
But Panthers' GM Mike Keenan and coach Jacques Martin have been working with Roberts to find another solution. The Leafs, trying to get younger and faster and in a salary cap crunch after adding $7 million US in Pavel Kubina and Hall Gill, are wary of Roberts' $2.25 million salary.
Ferguson says he's now evaluating current Leaf forwards and that any free agents would have to come here on Toronto's terms. That could apply to Agincourt's Carter, who has long wished to play at home, nearly coming last summer before signing with Vancouver.
"There is mutual interest with the Leafs," Carter's agent, Pat Brisson, said last night, adding that three teams want Carter.
Carter was one of the few right wingers who meshed on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but the Canucks are out of cap space. Carter made $1 million last year and if he provides a hometown discount, the Leafs could fit him within the $4 million to $6 million they have remaining to spend.
"We have some (cap) flexibility remaining, but there's no real rush to use it," Ferguson said.
"We've already made ourselves a harder team to play against (with Kubina and Gill). We didn't score too few goals last year, we allowed too many."
BELAK BACK UP
Paul Maurice has made his first lineup decision as new Leafs' coach -- swing man Wade Belak is going to stay at forward.
"There is huge value in having a guy who can play up and back and watching video of him, I like the way he played defence late last year," Maurice said yesterday. "But having said that, there is real value for a big man who can skate up front. Wade's a strong forechecker, he has size and speed and a willingness to hit. He can make a lot of things happen up there."
Maurice envisions a starting four on defence featuring Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Kubina and Gill. The 5-6-7 slots likely will be filled by three of Ian White, Jay Harrison, Staffan Kronwall, Carlo Colaiacovo, Andy Wozniewski and Brendan Bell.
KIDS GO CAMPING
Player development coach Paul Dennis has another challenging itinerary for 14 Leafs draft picks at the club's annual prospect camp next week. In addition to three days on the ice, the players will take cooking lessons from Air Canada Centre chef Brad Long, work on character development, conditioning, nutrition and media awareness, go to a Jays' game, visit the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
Those attending include Alex Berry, Johan Dahlberg, Alex Foster, Chris Harrington, Tyson Marsh, Phil Oreskovic, Chad Rau, Anton Stralman, James Reimer, Korbinian Holzer, Viktor Stahlberg, Tyler Ruegsegger and Leo Komarov.
It's expected that forward Nik Antropov will take the Leafs to arbitration this summer after he was offered a two-way contract with a drastically reduced minor league salary. "I anticipate we can work something out," said Ferguson, indicating he'll attempt to head off the arbitration, likely by dropping the two-way in favour of lowering the NHL salary, to under $1 million ... Maurice says he'll decide on his two assistant coaches next week ... Keith Acton is a likely to coach the Marlies or be one of Maurice's assistants.