FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As the NHL's 3 p.m. trade deadline approached yesterday, the Maple Leafs' swank beach-front hotel was pelted by driving rains and howling winds while patrons inside were informed of tornado warnings in the area.
If the Leafs think that ugly storm was bad, it might very well pale in comparison to the one that awaits Pavel Kubina upon his arrival back in Toronto at the conclusion of this four-game trip.
Any public bitterness that had been brewing the past week toward captain Mats Sundin for not waiving his no-trade clause could now shift to Kubina, who very well may have been a San Jose Shark today, according to sources.
Kubina is believed to be the player who agreed to waive his no-trade clause on Monday only to allegedly change his mind after the Leafs' 5-0 thrashing of the Ottawa Senators that same night.
Had Cliff Fletcher been able to jettison the lanky defenceman and free up $5 million US in much-needed cap space, the interim general manager and his team would have found itself in a much better position heading into the future.
Fletcher did not identify the player in question during his mid-afternoon press conference, only revealing that he thought the player had given the green light for a deal.
Several hours before Fletcher spoke to the media, Kubina was tight-lipped about his discussions with the Leafs interim GM that took place the previous day.
"I had a conversation with Cliff," Kubina admitted. "I'd rather keep it confidential.
"I want to stay a Maple Leaf. My heart is here. We had a big win (in Ottawa). We're just six points out of a playoff spot. This is where I want to be."
Of course, there are obvious questions surrounding this whole situation.
If Kubina, for example, was to be dealt, why did the Leafs not get him to sign his waiver? And why, then, was he in the lineup against the Ottawa Senators?
Fletcher is threatening further changes by next season, and don't be surprised if Kubina is one of the victims.
There would be a window for Fletcher or a new GM to trade Kubina this summer if the Leafs don't make the playoffs. The no-trade clause in Kubina's contract, which still has two years remaining for a total of $10 million, would be moot from the NHL entry draft June 20-21 to Aug. 15.
While the five members of the No-Trade Club -- Kubina, Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe -- dug in their heels to stay with the Leafs, they find themselves on a team that is less talented today with the deals that sent Chad Kilger and Wade Belak to the Florida Panthers, and Hal Gill to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not only did those trades indicate a lack of faith in the existing roster by management, they also proved to be a harbinger for Fletcher's vow that the overhaul will continue through the summer.
"(Cliff) can have his stance," McCabe said last night when informed of Fletcher's comments."
I don't know what's in his head. We don't have control of any of that. We just have to play.
"We honestly think we have a legitimate shot to make the post-season."
Even with the modest housecleaning yesterday?
"It's going to be harder with three regulars out of the lineup," McCabe said. "But we're still positive."
You can bet many fans don't share his optimism.