Leafs likely to trade Moore

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Dominic Moore may have priced himself out of any future with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unless there is drastic change in negotiating position over the next 24 hours, the surprising centre is all but certain to be one of the Leafs moving on as tomorrow's much anticipated National Hockey League trade deadline approaches.

Quite likely, tonight will be Moore's last game as a Leaf, and also the end for Nik Antropov after nine up-and-down seasons in Toronto. When asked yesterday how many players he expected to move by tomorrow's deadline, general manager Brian Burke answered: "Two for sure."

The two are expected to be Moore and Antropov.

Antropov, a pending free agent whom the Leafs have made little attempt to sign, will be traded and there is apparent interest by a number of clubs, including the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, and possibly the Buffalo Sabres.

The Moore situation is far more delicate, and from a Leafs perspective, more disappointing. The Leafs have been as happy with Moore's play at centre as he has been with them. It seemed to be one of those situations that benefited both sides. But when it came down to number-crunching -- what Moore's agent, Larry Kelly, wanted and what the Leafs were willing to pay the pending free agent -- Burke determined that the price wasn't right for him.

Burke wanted to sign Moore long-term, to at least a three-year deal starting in the $1.5-million US a season range. In total, a three-year arrangement, at around $5.1 million, was what the Leafs had in mind. But Moore's starting price apparently was $2.5 million and yesterday after practice, Moore indicated that he believed he was offering the Leafs a hometown discount, considering what he could earn in free agency, which demonstrated just how far apart the two sides were.

That kind of disagreement, unless it's solved and fast, will see Moore, in his most productive season of an otherwise ordinary career, sent to a playoff contender, likely to be utilized as a third-line checking centre, and most likely in the role of rental player with free agency looming in July.

"I've stated all along that there's no place I'd rather be than Toronto and I take a lot of pride wearing the blue and white," said Moore, who grew up in Thornhill. "Hopefully, there's something that's fair to both sides."

This is the beginning of Burke's reshaping of the Leafs. If he has to move the popular Moore because the economics don't work for him and his plans for the club's future, he needs to make that kind of move. Without either Antropov or Moore signed for next year, the Leafs already have $42 million in committed salaries for the coming season and Burke needs to find a way to open up salary-cap space while enhancing the roster at the same time.

When asked how he planned to do all that, Burke said: "I honestly don't know."

Burke thought there might be more interest in defenceman Tomas Kaberle, for whom he was asking a "king's ransom," but as of yesterday had not received an offer of any substance.

"I set the bar high," he said. "I didn't want tire-kickers."

He also categorized a rumoured offer for Kaberle out of Boston as "nonsense" and indicated he had not been called about defenceman Pavel Kubina, who will earn $5 million again next season.

Burke has not ruled out the possibility of revisiting the trade market for Kaberle and Kubina this summer -- when the no-trade arrangements of both players become inactive -- and, if necessary, will consider buying out players if he needs to find a way to have more salary-cap flexibility.

Most affected by the probable moving of Moore will be high-priced winger Jason Blake, the Leafs' leading goal-scorer, who has flourished with Moore as his centre. With Antropov going elsewhere and Moore on the move, two of the Leafs' regular top-three forward lines will be missing key components after the deadline.

It could become even thinner up front if Burke finds a home for winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who had garnered only marginal interest heading into tomorrow.

There also has been a story going around that the Leafs have interest in Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire.


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