|Leafs GM Brian Burke is going after Phil Kessel by trade or as a restricted free agent. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)
The Maple Leafs' pursuit of Phil Kessel continues, but in the meantime there are nine National Hockey League exhibition games to play, including four in a row beginning tonight.
Given the Leafs start against the Boston Bruins tonight at the Air Canada Centre and meet the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow in London, perhaps it's no surprise coach Ron Wilson is rolling out some of his new industrial-sized roster.
Colton Orr, Andre Deveaux, Jay Rosehill and defenceman Phil Oreskovic are among those the coach plans to use tonight, all in the 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 mountain range.
"You figure it's going to be a big lineup," Wilson said.
He also plans to use rookie first-round pick Nazem Kadri, as well as Tyler Bozak, one of the college grads who also impressed at the rookie camp.
As per NHL rules, the Leafs must dress at least 10 NHL veterans to give fans their money's worth, even though tonight's game is free, with Kadri counted in that group. Teams also can agree before the game to add or subtract the balance of veterans and rookies.
As for Kessel, general manager Brian Burke said yesterday he's not expecting a star to emerge from Leafs' camp, so he's going after the young winger by trade or as a restricted free agent.
"We know we would like this player ... We'll see what happens," he said.
Toronto is said to be offering as much as two first-rounders and a second-rounder, plus perhaps a player, for Kessel, for either a second- or third-round pick and maybe a body.
But just because the Leafs are perceived as front-runner for Kessel, with Nashville and the Rangers right behind, Burke says there's no guarantee of success.
"It's not inevitable," he cautioned. "The options are that Boston can match any offer sheet. Boston can trade him (elsewhere) or trade him to us. There are lots of possibilities. It's not a done deal by any means."