Leafs hung tough on Caputi deal
The Penguins never wanted to give up Luca Caputi.
“When we first approached them about a deal, we were told there were two youngsters who were untouchables,” Maple Leafs VP Dave Nonis said Saturday. “Luca was one of them. But we came back to them at the end and told them we were willing to go in a different direction if Luca was not included.”
The Penguins finally gave in, sending Caputi to the Leafs as part of the deal that landed veteran forward Alexei Ponikarovsky in Pittsburgh.
On Sunday Penguins general manager Ray Shero will have his first opportunity to see Caputi live while wearing a Leafs jersey when Toronto meets Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena.
“It’s not like we wanted to trade Luca,” Shero said. “We really really like him. We really love the stuff he could do around the net. He just has a knack of getting to loose pucks.
“We want to win right now, so we gave him up for a player (Ponikarovsky) we really liked,” Shero added. “He was not easy to give up because we know he’s going to be good.”
One thing Shero and Nonis agree on: Caputi needs to put on some beef on his lanky frame.
“He’s still developing,” Shero said. “He wasn’t a first-round pick. He needs to get stronger. He realizes that.
“I think he could be a very good fit in Toronto with the (physical) way they like to play. Not everything Luca does is pretty. But he is effective. He just has a way of scoring those ugly goals.”
Lockin’ up the Monster, soon
Don’t expect the Maple Leafs to waste a lot of time in trying to get a deal done with pending restricted free agent goalie Jonas Gustavsson once the regular season ends.
The Leafs want him back. And they are not about to wait.
While Gustavsson looked a bit shaky while allowing a pair of goals in the first period against the New York Rangers Saturday night, he entered the game on a roll, having won his previous six starts.
Meanwhile, the Leafs are on the verge of officially signing 23-year-old forward Brady Irwin out of the U.S. college ranks. Irwin and his University of Vermont team were just eliminated in the NCAA West regional by Wisconsin on Friday.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Irwin, raised in Toronto and played junior B for the St. Michael’s Buzzers, was a teammate of Maple Leafs forward Viktor Stalberg with Vermont for the past three seasons prior to the 2009-10 campaign. He scored 15 goals and 34 points in this, his fourth season at Vermont.
“That’s great,” Stalberg said upon hearing the news.
“He’s a big kid with a great shot.”
Phaneuf loves T.O., ex-teammate says
Olli Jokinen thinks Dion Phaneuf would make a great captain for the Maple Leafs.
Jokinen and Phaneuf, onetime teammates with the Calgary Flames, had dinner together Friday night in Toronto, one day before Jokinen’s New York Rangers and Phaneuf’s Maple Leafs met at the ACC. And, Jokinen couldn’t help but notice how well Phaneuf was fitting in, in his new hockey environment.
“He was telling me how much he loved playing for the Leafs and being in this city,” Jokinen said Saturday. “And you could see just how much he meant it.
“I feel he would make an excellent captain here. He brings a lot of energy. He goes full out every time he steps on to the ice. Yeah, he likes to talk. But that’s that energy part. He keeps everyone on their toes.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Dion Phaneuf could play on my team any day.”
Jokinen and Phaneuf were both traded out of Calgary by Flames general manager Darryl Sutter within a span of several days just prior to the Olympics.