Reality bites

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A weary Jason Blake peeled off his equipment after the morning skate yesterday, apparently ready for the line of questioning.

Yes, he was happy to report, his wife Sara gave birth to a healthy girl, named Annabelle Marie, on Wednesday at 12:32 p.m.

But what about his future with the New York Islanders? Slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Blake was queried about the possibility of being traded prior to the National Hockey League deadline on Tuesday afternoon.

"I wouldn't say there is pressure on me," Blake, who has tied his career high with 28 goals, said. "I'm not worried about it at all."

The Islanders' first choice is to keep Blake and try to re-sign him before July 1.

With a few days remaining before the 30 NHL clubs close up shop and go forward with what they have for the rest of the season, the issue of the trade deadline is on the front burner. Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice stressed again yesterday he likes his dressing room as it is, and he acknowledged he is somewhat surprised he has not been bowled over in Toronto by unsubstantiated trade rumours. Funny what the salary cap can do in a professional sport.

"I think it has been pretty quiet in Toronto," Maurice said. "There have not been the situations where you open up the paper and say, 'Where is this coming from?' I think we all understand there are not five players coming in."

Some of the bigger trades that hockey people figured were coming have already happened, with Brad Stuart and Peter Forsberg changing clubs. The St. Louis Blues appear ready to ship out Keith Tkachuk and/or Bill Guerin. One hallmark of the trade deadline is that it provides proof that hockey players are there to be bartered when the mood strikes and the situation fits an organization. Defenceman Andrew Ference complained about the lack of loyalty in the game when he was traded to the Boston Bruins in the recent swap that sent Stuart to the Calgary Flames.

Ask the Islanders' Mike Sillinger about loyalty. Sillinger, 35, is with his 12th NHL team since making his debut with the Detroit Red Wings in 1990-91. On four occasions, he has been traded on deadline day or in the days leading up to it.

"There is no loyalty in the game anymore," Sillinger said without a hint of bitterness. "Everyone makes a big deal about trade deadline day but no one understands it more than my myself and my family that it is a business. You can't take things personally. I signed a contract (last summer) to play here for three years, but I am not going to sit here and say I am a lifer in Long Island.

"I could not care less about the deadline. It does not matter if you think you are safe or not."


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