Maple Leafs won't waver

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Tomas Kaberle was leisurely surfing the Internet yesterday when he spotted his name mentioned in a story on one of his favourite Czech websites.

The reference came in relation to a published report in the New York Post, one that suggested Kaberle would be willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to flee to Manhattan to join the Rangers.

"I laughed when I saw it," Kaberle said last night, explaining his reaction to the report.

"I'm a Leaf. I signed here because I want to play here. I don't know where these things come from but I'm sure there will be more in the coming days."

Kaberle understands the Silly Season officially has started in Toronto, a wacky period in which the trade scuttlebutt will run wild.

With just 10 days remaining until the Feb. 26 trade deadline, the veteran defenceman knows this likely will not be the last time he will be the centre of one of these alleged pending deals. Carrying a reasonable average salary of $4.25-million US through 2010-11, Kaberle is a relative bargain as a puck-carrying defenceman, making him a popular figure in the increasingly-churning rumour mill.

Such is the life in hockey-crazed Toronto, where the trade deadline has ballooned into a three-ring circus for fans, media and players alike.

Reports such as that in the Post will become commonplace in the coming week, especially involving players such as Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker, who have no-trade clauses

McCabe, for one, was intrigued by the implication in the Post story that the Leafs are "engaged" in getting him to waive his no-movement clause.

"That's interesting since no one from the Leafs has even approached me about such a thing," said McCabe, whose deal averages $5.75 million per season. "Besides, like I keep saying, I want to be a Leaf."

Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher backed up McCabe's claim.

"I haven't approached anyone on the subject of no-trades," Fletcher said.

"Quite frankly I would only approach someone if something tangible was (on the table)."

Because of his improved play this season, young forward Matt Stajan has found himself having to answer more and more questions about being involved in a potential trade.

While far too many Leafs are mired in subpar seasons, Stajan has exhibited modest improvement and is just two goals shy of his career-high of 15 with more than a quarter of the season to go.

Stajan, a pending restricted free agent, said yesterday there have been no tangible talks about a new deal, adding that his desire is to remain in Toronto.

"If it happens, it happens," he said, referring to a trade down the road. "I'm just saying I love to play for the Leafs and want to stay here. But it's not up to me.

"I'm not going to start playing bad so teams don't want me, that's for sure."

With the Leafs in the basement of the Eastern Conference, Stajan was informed of the increasing public sentiment for the team to tank the season in order to get into position to snap up highly touted prospects Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty.

"I've been here five years and we've always been right there," Stajan said. "We're not going to roll over. For the fans who don't feel (like me), please don't come to the games."

Fletcher is scheduled to leave tomorrow for the upcoming GM's meetings in Naples, Fla. If Leafs players think they've been in a lot of trade rumours to this point, they haven't seen anything yet.

"This stuff happens every year," forward Nik Antropov said.

"More often than not, if you hear your name, nothing happens."


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