Gill: Talk cheap at trade time

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

For the record, the Maple Leafs aren't thinking about the trade deadline.

Off the record, it's as much a topic around the clubhouse dining table as it is the one in your kitchen.

Next week at this time, with the trade deadline 48 hours up the road, the Leafs will be leaving for a week-long trip, and there are only two words the players are using to describe what awaits.

"Pack heavy," defenceman Hal Gill said laughing. "Guys will kid each other about packing your bags or if you'll be back."

Ask any Leaf what he thinks about the trade deadline and he'll break on cue into an "it's- out-of-my-control" refrain.

But it remains a topic of conversation. It is, after all, their life.

BIG JOKE

"Pack heavy is the big joke but it's not like I'm going home and telling my wife to pack my bags because I'm probably going wherever," said Gill, who has had to deal with trade speculation almost since the day he signed as a free agent, in 2006. "When I was younger it was more of a big deal for me because it was a new experience."

He has learned that what you hear is not necessarily what happens.

Gill has sung that tune before. Almost since the day he signed here as a free agent, in 2006, he has had to deal with trade speculation .

"I've been through a lot of trade talks," Gill said. "People throw my name out there and nothing has happened. Then all of a sudden you didn't hear anything about some guy and the next thing you know he's gone somewhere.

"You realize you're a piece of meat at a younger age and by now I've come to terms with that."

It is said without rancour. Just fact. True, he's no Chris Pronger and even with a career-high six goals last year, he'll never be confused with Tomas Kaberle. But he has 112 blocked shots, second-best on the team, and has a superior plus-minus to Kaberle this season.

It is said he coughs up the puck too much? But, he came into last night's game with 57 giveaways.

Kaberle, who went to the all-star game, had 61.

Gill has played more than 20 minutes a game, which could make him a useful gadget on a deeper team. And, with the Leafs on life-support, he understands the public interest in the trade mill.

"What is it, Trade Centre '08? It's the biggest television thing going around here," he said.


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