Leafs could make pitch for Redden

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

The Maple Leafs can get a front-line NHL defenceman from their bitter rivals -- if they're willing to pay.

Sun Media reports free agent Wade Redden definitely won't be back with the Ottawa Senators after he refused to take a massive hometown discount to remain in the nation's capital. Redden who made $6.5 million US in a sub-par 2007-08, was approached by the club to take a pay cut between $3.5 and $4 million.

The Florida Panthers, run by Redden's ex-Ottawa coach Jacques Martin, are the front-runners to sign him, with the Leafs thought to be in a group of clubs including Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia. Any large purchase by the Leafs likely would not be possible unless Mats Sundin is off the books.

Put the Leafs down as interested in big U.S. collegiate winger Blake Wheeler, drafted fifth overall in 2004 by Phoenix when Cliff Fletcher was on the Coyotes' staff.

The Coyotes couldn't reach a deal with Wheeler during a 30-day window that ended Sunday and took a compensatory draft pick at 35th overall. The team that signs Wheeler -- and about 20 clubs could be in the running -- would have to pay him an entry-level salary, but work out more lucrative terms to kick in down the road.

COACHING PICTURE

With Ron Wilson on tap to coach the Leafs, scrutiny is now on the remaining jobs around the NHL. There has been no further hints of Don Waddell moving on as GM of the Thrashers and belief is that he has narrowed his coaching choices to three, among them Detroit assistant coach Todd McLellan and Thrashers farm-team coach John Anderson, whose Chicago Wolves are involved in the Calder Cup final.

In San Jose, GM Doug Wilson was said to be looking for a John Tortorella-Mike Babcock type coach before the genuine article became available when Tampa fired Tortorella. TSN reported Wilson interviewed McLellan yesterday.

Ottawa is picking between Craig Hartsburg and Bob Hartley, which would mean remaining candidates, such as Peter DeBoer would have to get interviews in San Jose or nothing. Barry Melrose remains the likely candidate in Tampa.

LIGHTENING THE LOAD

The days of star goalies playing more than 70 regular-season games could be ending. The Vancouver Canucks are looking at a more established backup for Roberto Luongo. In New Jersey, Kevin Weekes or someone else will get more work behind Martin Brodeur and San Jose is expected to lighten Evgeny Nabokov's load.

BRIEFLY

Free agent Curtis Sanford is not likely going to return to the Canucks, leaving the chance for Alex Auld to go back to his former team ... The Islanders appear ready to cut ties to backup goalie Wade Dubielewicz, who is unsigned so the team can move in the cheaper Joey MacDonald to sub for Rick DiPietro. The latter underwent minor knee surgery a week ago, adding to two hip procedures and two concussions since he signed a record 15-year contract a couple of seasons ago.


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