Leafs season at the crossroads

Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski skates during the warmup prior to facing the Flames at the...

Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski skates during the warmup prior to facing the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Feb. 15, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

TORONTO - Mikhail Grabovski wants to stay.

The Maple Leafs want a goalie.

The diehard fans just want a sign, any indication, that general manager Brian Burke can pull this dire Leafs situation out of the fire with some sort of trade on Monday.

Thankfully, everyone will be able to get on with their lives after the National Hockey League trade deadline passes at 3 p.m.

Burke was not in a talking mood on Sunday, saying zip in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun other than that there was “nothing to report!”

The agent for Grabovski had a little more on his mind that he was willing to share publicly. There’s the feeling Grabovski, third in Leafs scoring with 40 points (18 goals and 22 assists) in 56 games this season, could be had if the Leafs can land a first-round draft pick.

Grabovski, making $3.1 million US this season with a $2.9-million salary cap hit, will be an unrestricted free agent on July if he does not sign a new contract. Though the Leafs might risk losing him for nothing, Gary Greenstin, who represents the 28-year-old centre, does not see Grabovski going on the open market.

“I will do everything to sign with the Maple Leafs,” Greenstin said during a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon. “For Grabo, it has to be right. I’m positive we will make a deal and he will stay in Toronto. He’s not worried and I’m not worried.”

Greenstin refused to confirm that Grabovski is seeking $5 million US a season on a long-term deal.

Fact is, the Leafs can’t really afford to send one of their top pointproducers packing, though the playoff race in the Eastern Conference increasingly is leaving them behind every day.

The Leafs are in 10th place in the East, three points behind the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets, but with two games in hand. That bulge could become five points by the time the Leafs face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre if the Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

No matter the Jets result, Burke doesn’t have the assets, or is unwilling to move them in the case of defenceman Jake Gardiner, to make a radical difference in the space of a few hours.

So what if coach Ron Wilson, who keeps hammering his netminders, gets his wish and a goaltender is acquired? What about the questionable defence that has been played in front of the poor sucker on most recent nights? A trade won’t change that.

The New York Islanders’ Evgeni Nabokov apparently is off the table, as Isles GM Garth Snow wants to re-sign him. There’s also the Edmonton Oilers’ Nikolai Khabibulin and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Colorado Avalanche, veteran types that the Leafs dearly could find a use for. But Marty Turco? Didn’t anyone notice his struggles with the Chicago Blackhawks last season?

Some wondered about Ben Bishop, who was acquired by the Ottawa Senators from the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, but the Leafs don’t need another youngster between the pipes.

As one NHL executive put it, there aren’t a lot of high-end goalies available, certainly not for a good price. But the Leafs spent a lot of Sunday trying to get their hands on one.

Despite his agent’s hopes for a bright future, Grabovski will be a guy to keep an eye on before the trade deadline. Ditto for Colby Armstrong, who some teams figure could be a pesky part of a playoff run. Armstrong scored his first goal of the season on Saturday in what might have been an audition for other clubs as he had been a healthy scratch.

Defenceman Luke Schenn, the betting is, will be a Leaf when the Panthers visit. Unless, of course, he can go straight up for Rick Nash.

There is nothing Burke can do to magically change the fortunes of his club. He has said he doesn’t want to mortgage the future. Somehow, this Leafs team is going to have to figure a way out of its funk, and soon. Wilson is not going anywhere, either, with 20 games remaining.

Against their remaining opponents, the Leafs have an 18-17-4 record this season, a winning percentage that won’t get them near the playoffs if it is duplicated.

Maybe Grabovski shouldn’t be so enamoured with sticking around.

REIMER: ‘WE’LL GET IT RIGHT’

James Reimer, kind of, was at a loss for words on Saturday night.

When asked about the Washington Capitals’ first goal — an early wraparound score by forward Marcus Johansson that began the Maple Leafs on another path to destruction — Reimer tried to tell the story from his point of view.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” the Maple Leafs goalie said.

“He was coming in tight and I wanted to take away the short side. As he went around the net, I didn’t want him to bank it off me as I pushed off the post.

“I waited a bit too long before coming across. Maybe I should have done the splits a little quicker, but I did not want to put myself out of position.

“Just a series of things went through my mind on that play. Something I am going to talk to (goaltending consultant Francois Allaire) about and we’ll get it worked out.”

Johansson’s goal came 32 seconds into the game. The Caps scored again three minutes later and won 4-2 at the Air Canada Centre.

Afterward, coach Ron Wilson criticized Reimer, implying that if the Leafs had a big save or two, they might have won the game.


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