Interest in Kaberle has cooled: Burke

Steve Buffery, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:21 PM ET

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is not about to book Phil Kessel a flight to Toronto.

Burke reported yesterday that a deal between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins, which would have seen Toronto defenceman Tomas Kaberle head to Boston for the high-scoring Kessel, is not on the table anymore, at least not at this point.

In fact, Burke added that interest in Kaberleís services, once very high, has cooled down.

Kessel, 21, is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Bruins can match any offer sheet he receives from other NHL clubs, and reportedly is looking for something in the neighbourhood of $5 million US. The Bruins, however, quickly are running out of cap space and probably would have to deal some players to keep him. If not, a trade with the Leafs may again become a possibility.

Kessel, a native of Madison, Wis., led all Bruins with 36 goals last season (the only Beantowner to score more than 30) and added 11 points in 11 playoff games. Kessel has been criticized for his defensive game, but was plus-23 under head coach Claude Julien.

The deal between the Leafs and Bruins fell apart over a miscommunication, that is, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli thought that Torontoís first-round pick in the 2009 draft (seventh overall) was part of the swap. Burke said it never was.

Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations Dave Nonis said the club is interested in 10-12 free agents currently unsigned, though they havenít made any formal offers as of yet.

Reportedly, the Leafs are eyeing defenceman Francois Beauchemin and forward Manny Malhotra.

Malhotra had a decent season with Columbus and the Blue Jackets donít seem that keen on keeping him. The Mississauga native reportedly is looking for about $2 million per season. Malhotra recorded a career-high 35 points in 77 games, including 11 goals.

Beauchemin played for Burke when the Leafsí GM was in charge of the Anaheim Ducks and, in fact, orchestrated Beaucheminís move to southern California from Columbus in 2005. Itís unlikely Burke would sign the Sorel, Que., native to a deal unless he was able to trade Kaberle.

Meanwhile, Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson reportedly will decide in the next couple of days which NHL team he will sign with. Four clubs are interested in the free agentís services, the Leafs, Dallas, Colorado and San Jose.

Gustavsson, generally considered the best goaltender outside of the NHL last season, posted a 1.96 goals against average and .932 save percentage for Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League last season. He visited all four NHL squads interested in his services last month, shortly after his mother passed away.

Burke spent a couple of days this week in Sweden trying to convince (The Monster) to sign with the Leafs.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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