The window has now opened for the Maple Leafs to move big defenceman Pavel Kubina during the summer.
And he knows it.
A caveat in Kubina's $5-million US per season contract makes the no-trade clause in his deal moot from June 20 to Aug. 15 in the event the Leafs did not make the playoffs.
Sure enough, the Leafs officially were eliminated from post-season contention with their 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday, meaning Kubina can be dealt in the event there are any takers.
Given the fact San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was intrigued with the notion of picking up Kubina prior to the trade deadline, don't be surprised if there is interest out there in the hulking blue liner in the summer.
Kubina has been the Leafs best defenceman the past two months, moving into 20th spot in NHL defencemen scoring with 37 points. His impressive play might be enough to keep the Leafs from dealing him in the summer, a decision that ultimately rests with interim general manager Cliff Fletcher or his eventual successor, whomever that may be.
"I know it is something I can not control once the summer comes," Kubina said after the Leafs 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
"But I don't want to go anywhere. I've said before that I love being a Leaf and feel very privileged to wear the jersey. I hope it stays that way, I really do."
So what has changed in Kubina's game? Obviously there must be a key to his improved production.
"Health is the big thing," he said. "Last season I was hurt a number of times.
"This season I was hurt in November and missed 10 games.
"Other than that I am not doing anything differently, offensively and defensively."
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
While Leafs management was excited with the two-goal performances of rookies Anton Stralman, 21, and Jiri Tlusty, 20, Saturday, there also is a push to have the two kids beef up during the off-season.
"They still have so much physical growing to do," acknowledged coach Paul Maurice.
Stralman is 6-foot-1 and just 180 pounds while Tlusty is 6-foot, 205 pounds.