Leafs middlemen attracting interest

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

The Maple Leafs' centres are fast becoming the centre of attention.

According to sources, more teams have stepped up and expressed interest in the four men who play down the middle for the Leafs -- Matt Stajan, Dominic Moore, Mikhail Grabovski and John Mitchell. The NHL trade deadline is March 4 and it's no secret that Toronto general manager Brian Burke is looking to restock the franchise with draft picks and/or prospects.

As well, the Columbus Blue Jackets are said to be pursuing right winger/centre Nik Antropov. That team's GM, Scott Howson, was at the Toronto-Ottawa game at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night.

As well, there is said to be interest in rugged winger Jamal Mayers and defenceman Ian White.

Somewhat surprising, the source said that interest in puck-moving defenceman Tomas Kaberle has been negligible.

Kaberle has supplied Burke with a list of 10 teams that he would agree to be traded to. The Czech has one more year on his contract, which has a no-trade clause. Burke can trade him this summer to any team if the club fails to make the playoffs this season.

Fellow defenceman Pavel Kubina, who has the same sort of no-trade clause in his contract as Kaberle, said on Saturday night that he has not given Burke a list of preferred destinations.

Burke, meanwhile, won't say whether the club is close to dealing anyone.

"We continue to make and field calls," he said yesterday. "But nothing to report yet."

The Leafs have won four in a row -- a season high -- and have played in six consecutive overtime games, a franchise record and the longest OT streak by any team in the NHL this season.

On Saturday, the Leafs coughed up a 2-0 lead to the Senators after the first period, falling behind 3-2 in the third before rallying for a 5-4 win in overtime on a goal by Kubina, his second of the game.

"I think we've kind of found our groove," coach Ron Wilson said. "Guys are feeling good about themselves, and good for them, although we can't seem to finish teams off when we have the opportunity."

The wins are coming with many of the Leafs under the cloud of the trade deadline.

The players have been asked daily about their feelings towards the looming trade deadline and all, on the surface at least, appear to be dealing with it.

"You understand that it's part of the game and, the reality is, I play a certain way and it happens every year, you always get mentioned," said Mayers, when asked about the trade rumours. "You just go out and play and (management) have to make decisions to get this team better and if that's one of the decisions, you just move on.

"It's just part of the game and I take it as a compliment that maybe teams are interested. You just try to focus on playing and whatever happens, happens."

Mayers admitted that this time of year can be a unsettling for players, especially those who haven't had to deal with the rumours before.


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