August 12, 2011
Burke will probably stick with Leafs' young guns
By Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
Toronto general manager Brian Burke has thus far not responded to unrestricted free agents who are seeking a tryout with the Leafs at next month’s training camp. Homeless veterans such as Owen Nolan and Todd Fedoruk (Vancouver) and goaltender Ray Emery (Chicago) will be getting a chance in those cities and in the past, Burke has extended a hand to players such as Jason Allison and Wayne Primeau.
“We haven’t ruled out an invitation,” Burke told Sun Media. “But most likely we will give the kids a look.”
Indeed, the Leafs’ burgeoning farm system is starting to yield more prospects who are worth a closer look. Heading a list of players in their early 20s who will be seeking full employment are forwards Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Luca Caputi, Matt Frattin, Jerry D’Amigo and defencemen Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker.
The two first-rounders the Leafs secured at the 2011 draft, forward Tyler Biggs and defenceman Stuart Percy, along with 2010 class forwards Brad Ross and Greg McKegg, are thought to be at least a year away from making a serious push.
In a recent interview on Russian TV, departed free agent Alexei Kovalev noted that more NHL teams are going to younger rosters and trying to develop their own kids as a cost-saving measure, versus bringing in more talented, experienced, but expensive veterans.
Leaf camp starts Sept. 16 at the MaterCard Centre.
Time for Tim
One of the most interesting things Tim Connolly told NHL.com this week about the move to Toronto was what he can offer the young Leafs off the ice.
Connolly, slated to centre Phil Kessel on the No. 1 line, noted that he’ll be one of the oldest players on the team upon arrival, after turning 30 in May.
“I can bring some experience,” Connolly said. “I was able to get in (the NHL) at a young age. I have a lot more knowledge of the game now than I did then. Just all the little things it takes. There’s a lot of things that go into the game besides playing offensively. It’s a team sport. You don’t play for individuals.”
Attitude was one of the aspects of Connolly’s game that some found fault with in Buffalo, but with a new start, Connolly has been deidicating himself to making a good first impression. Connolly. who signed a two-year, $9.5-million US deal, said he is a well-toned 191 pounds and is working on skating and conditioning heading into September.
One area Connolly will definitely want to improve on is faceoffs. While dealing with his various injuries, he has been under 48% the past three years, down to 45.9% last season. Tyler Bozak, whose place he would be taking, was 54.6% in 2010-11 and of the eight Leafs who took at least 40 draws last year, just two had lower percentages than Connolly.
Schenn deal on hold
Another week has gone by without any progress on a new contract for restricted free-agent defenceman Luke Schenn.
“Nothing new,” agent Don Meehan said Friday, though both sides keep insisting they aren’t in a hurry. Both are examining everything term-wise from two years and higher.
Meehan also represents defenceman Drew Doughty, who was chosen three spots head of Schenn in the 2008 draft by Los Angeles.
Contract talks are also moving slowly on that front, which could pre-empt any deal with Schenn.
“I think it’s fair to say that in the last conversation, we set the parameters, as to where we feel (Doughty’s) contract should be,” Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi told the Kings Insider website this week. “We talked about a number of scenarios, and I guess now it’s their move.”
Early bet for toughest ticket at the Air Canada Centre this season will be Nov. 12 when the Ottawa Senators visit. Not just another Battle of Ontario, but it’s the Hall of Fame Game where former Leaf inductees Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and ex-Marlie Mark Howe will be part of a loud pre-game presentation. Any of the four games with the Cup champion Bruins will be a scalper’s delight, too...Ex-Leaf enforcer Wade Belak will be back in these parts competing in CBC’s Battle Of The Blades next month ... A close look at Burke’s proposed bear-hug rule, designed to lessen impact of players being ridden into the glass and boards, will be tested next Thursday, during the second day of the NHL research and development camp at the MasterCard Centre ... Best of luck to Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins, racing Saturday in the gruelling Leadville, Col., mountain bike event, 100 miles across high-altitude extreme terrain ... Goaltender Jimmy Waite, who played parts of 11 NHL seasons with Chicago, Phoenix and San Jose and two full years in the minors with the St. John’s Maple Leafs, has finally retired at age 41 after spending the last few years playing in Germany ... The NHLPA has donated 50 new sets of hockey equipment from its Goals and Dreams Fund for Right To Play’s Aboriginal youth life skills program.