Leafs depth on D grows

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- With Carlo Colaiacovo now signed, sealed and delivered, trade talks involving Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson are alive and well entering tonight's entry draft at Nationwide Arena.

The talented, hard-luck Colaiacovo agreed to a three-year, $3.85 million US deal yesterday, becoming yet another NHL-calibre defenceman to be locked up by Toronto.

With Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Ian White, Hal Gill, Staffan Kronwall and Andy Wozniewski already inked to deals, the blue line easily is a position of strength, especially in terms of numbers.

Don't forget Swedish youngster Anton Stralman, either. Tagged by his coaches as Sweden's top defenceman at the world championship back in April, he is determined to make the Leafs roster out of training camp.

Jay Harrison and the oft-injured Karel Pilar should be at camp too, making for a crowded blue line.

The surplus on defence is a bonus Ferguson could very well utilize via the trade route to address issues up front and at the back-up goaltending spot.

"We've been talking to clubs about that," Ferguson said last night. "We feel we have some depth there if we need to upgrade at other positions."

With the Leafs now committed to about $42.5 million US of cap space, Ferguson likely would have to clear room in order to deal for a front-line goalie such as Manny Fernandez of the Minnesota Wild, whose salary would eat up another $4.3 million on the cap.

While San Jose's Vesa Toskala has also been mentioned as an option, Ferguson remains steadfast in his belief that Andrew Raycroft has the stuff to be a No. 1 goalie.

"Ideally, what we'd like to do is improve our goaltending tandem,"he said.

Former Leaf Curtis Joseph, a pending free agent, is on record as saying he would accept a lesser role in order to return to Toronto.

Meanwhile, there were also plenty of discussions involving Toronto's 13th overall pick yesterday.

"We've had conversations with guys about the potential of moving up or down," Ferguson said. He selected Jiri Tlusty with the 13th selection a year ago. "There is always the option of trading down a few spots and maybe get an (extra) second rounder."

The consensus among most hockey people is that the top eight or nine players are pretty much defined, a group that includes the London Knights' duo of Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner. Kane is the favourite to go first overall to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Should the Leafs hold on to the No. 13 slot, they would enjoy seeing Lewiston forward David Perron still sitting on the board. Perron, ranked 10th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, led all rookies in the QMJHL in scoring with 39 goals.

Mississauga forward Stefan Legein, Everett forward Zach Hamill, Saskatoon forward Colton Gillies and Minnesota high school defenceman Ryan McDonagh are others said to intrigue the Leafs. Kevin Shattenkirk, a defenceman on the US under-18 team, might still be available in the second round.

Colaiacovo, meanwhile, was thrilled at the prospect of remaining a Leaf through the 2010 season.

"I couldn't be happier at staying in Toronto," said Colaiacovo, 24, who scored eight goals and nine assists in 24 games with the Leafs last season. "The main thing is, they are confident in me and I'm confident in them."

Colaiacovo, the 17th overall pick in the 2001 draft, has been rehabbing a right leg injury and said he is about two weeks away "from being 100%."


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