|Toronto Leafs Brian Burke speaks to the media during rounds of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal Saturday June 27, 2009. (SUN MEDIA/Andre Forget)
If things work out the way Brian Burke hopes, soon we can start calling a team in far away Farjestad, Sweden, the Maple Leafs unofficial farm club.
The Swedish Elite league squad is the home of much recruited goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, a player the Leafs general manager is hotly chasing. But it doesn’t end with the kid they call the Monster, as the Leafs are also in pursuit of the team’s captain, centre Rickard Wallin.
“We’ve talked to him and expressed some interest, but there’s nothing to report,” Leafs senior vice president of hockey operations, Dave Nonis, said yesterday. “It’s a little early.”
Sources in Sweden say talks have progressed further though, as Wallin could be the latest player stripped from the Farjestad roster. Last year, the big recruit was forward Fabian Brunnstrom, who settled on Dallas after being wooed by the Leafs.
Toronto was able to procure defenceman Jonas Frogren from the Swedish club and is pulling out all the stops to snag Gustavsson. Burke has just returned from Sweden, where he was to meet with Gustavsson face-to-face earlier this week.
And now there is Wallin, who scored 18 goals and added 27 assists in 55 games this past season, the second consecutive campaign that he led his club in scoring.
The 29-year-old, who had a brief stint in the NHL earlier this decade, might be added incentive for Gustavsson to pick the Leafs over the other three teams actively recruiting him.
“He’s a good two-way player who has played over here before,” Nonis said of the 6-foot-3, 195 pounder who was a sixth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1998. “We’ve got a lot of things on our plate right now and he’s a little way down.”
Like the other NHL teams after Gustavsson, the Leafs had hoped he would have made his decision prior to the July 1 start of free agency. Gustavsson told Sun Media’s Steve Buffery on Saturday that he plans to make his decision early this week and that Toronto is very much in the mix.
Meanwhile, there will be some on-ice action for several potential new Leafs this week at the team’s summer prospect camp. A group of two goaltenders, nine defenceman and 14 forwards - including recent No. 1 draft pick Nazem Kadri - will participate in on and off-ice workouts beginning today at Lakeshore Lions Arena.
Also in action will be Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak, the pair of U.S. college free agents that Burke signed towards the end of this past season.
“It gives us a chance to see their practice habits, their work habits and conditioning,” Nonis said. “It’s a pretty important week for the players.
“By the end of it, they should understand what we expect of them in terms of nutrition and conditioning to prepare for training camp.”