Brian Burke is not going to be wowed by Ian White's stats, no matter how much they might balloon during the remainder of the season.
While the Maple Leafs general manager feels White has been impressive in 2009-10, Burke also is cognizant of the increased role the diminutive defenceman has played, especially in terms of power play time, because, in part, of the limited talent base around him.
With White eligible for restricted free agency this summer, Burke will attempt to lock him up to a long-term deal. However it plays out, White should expect a hefty raise from the $950,000 US salary he is earning this season.
At the same time, when the two sides get through the preliminary talks and start seriously hammering away for a contract extension, Burke claims he will not be swayed by White's potentially inflated numbers.
"He has played well," Burke said during the second intermission of his Leafs' 5-3 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. "At the same time, because we're not a very good team, he has found himself in a lot of special team situations. That certainly plays a role in his stats. If we were a better team, I don't think he'd be playing as much in those situations.
"We'll have to see what the market price dictates."
White, who notched an assist on Nik Hagman's third- period goal, now has nine goals and 17 helpers for 26 points, ranking him among the top 25 in NHL defencemen scoring.
"I very much want to stay here," White said. "I couldn't imagine what it would be like here if we were to ever win a Stanley Cup. The only thing I could ever equate it to, would be (soccer's) World Cup."
With friends and family in the stands, second-year phenom Drew Doughty, a native of nearby London, Ont., could not have enjoyed a sweeter night during his first game as a pro at the Air Canada Centre.
When young Drew was growing up in London, he and his father Paul were the only non-Leaf supporters in the household. In Drew's case, he was a Kings fan "because Wayne Gretzky was there."
"Dad was a Canadiens fan," Drew said. "As for me, I was never a Leaf fan, even though most of the family was. Every Saturday night I would cheer for whichever team was playing the Leafs."
To that end, things could not have worked out any better. Doughty was named the first star after scoring a goal and adding an assist in the victory over his despised Leafs, the perfect end to a perfect night.
To be fair, there is one Leaf -- at least one Leafs prospect, anyway -- that Doughty has a soft spot for.
Between the ages of 10 and 12, Doughty, who was playing forward at the time, was a linemate of Maple Leafs 2009 first-rounder Nazem Kadri with the AAA London Junior Knights. Kadri, like Doughty, is a native of London.
"(Kadri) is a good player, Doughty said. "He has got great hand, good skill ... With hard work and some experience, he will be a good NHLer."
Burke claims he has not talked to Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell about the availability of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.
In addition, Burke said he is not interested in handing out one of those long-term whopping contracts Kovalchuk is said to be looking for, with some reports suggesting the Russian sniper is seeking something in the eight-year, $80 million neighbourhood.
For the record, Burke has never handed out a contract longer than five years in duration.
Meanwhile, rumblings around the league continue to suggest that pending unrestricted free agent Leafs forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan are among the NHLers most likely to be dealt by the March 3 trade deadline.
One GM told The Toronto Sun last week that Ponikarovsky, at best, might fetch a low second-rounder in return.