The way they're talking up their blue line this month, the Maple Leafs either are passing on free-agent defencemen or stockpiling assets for a trade to bolster the position.
Assuming general manager John Ferguson extends Pat Quinn-type loyalty to Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill, and that Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle stay healthy, four spots are sewn up. The next two or three jobs are between Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Andy Wozniewski, Jay Harrison and newly signed Staffan Kronwall, who agreed to a two-year extension yesterday at close to $1 million US. Colaiacovo is a restricted free agent with a new deal expected soon.
"Staffan has already shown an ability to play at this level (34 games two years ago) and played very well with the Marlies," Ferguson said.
A wild card is young Swede Anton Stralman, but he is all hype at this stage, having played primarily in Europe. Wozniewski, Colaiacovo and Kronwall spent large chunks of last season on the injured list, but their inclusion at a training camp with four vets likely means no newcomers.
Ferguson said he probably will not put defencemen atop his shopping list on July 1.
"That's a safe assumption now, but you always want a proviso," he said.
Just don't expect a Sheldon Souray to fall into the Leafs' laps, given cap restrictions, but there could be a late July bargain to change the hockey department's thinking.
If the Leafs do make Wozniewski and Kronwall into everyday contributors, they might attract enough trade interest as part of a package for an established offensive player toward the trade deadline February.
Ferguson has to be thinking about adding scoring as the Leafs can't end a two-year playoff drought without at least one 30-goal man in-house. They would like to create another group to complement top trio Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Ferguson continues to predict a two-year deal for Sundin will get done prior to a June 15 deadline.