Alexei Ponikarovsky likely has played his last game as a Maple Leaf.
Ponikarovsky, the subject of numerous trade rumours, is not in the Leafs lineup for their game on Tuesday night at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ponikarovsky is not injured, Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis said.
“We’re protecting our asset,” Nonis said. “There is nothing done at this point, but you don’t want a situation where he gets hurt and you are out of options.
“If we get a deal (Tuesday night) that makes sense for any of our players, we would do it, but at this point we don’t have that. We do not have a completed deal for Pony or any of our players.”
The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators all are interested in Ponikarovsky.
“Things are happening and if management has decided I’ll be going somewhere, you have to respect that,” Ponikarovsky said earlier on Tuesday. “It’s always like this when you get close to trade deadline, but I can’t say I am getting anxious. It’s part of the job.”
Ponikarovsky, a Maple Leaf since the 2000-01 season, has 19 goals and 22 assists in 61 games in 2009-10. Only Phil Kessel, with 21 goals, has scored more for Toronto this season.
Defenceman Jeff Finger also is a healthy scratch for Toronto. Carolina defenceman Aaron Ward, also the subject of rumours, is not playing.
The NHL trade deadline is at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.