Rebuilding of Leafs begins in earnest

Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:59 PM ET

Brian Burke is committed to rebuilding the Maple Leafs, but other National Hockey League teams were just as determined not to let him do it with their best draft picks.

Burke’s attempt to wrestle a first rounder for Nik Antropov and a high second rounder for checking centre Dominic Moore were only partially successful on a day when the Leafs also shut down goalie Vesa Toskala with hip/groin surgery and added goalie Martin Gerber and defenceman Eric Reitz on waivers.

Antropov is taking his act to Broadway, dealt to the New York Rangers at today’s 3 p.m. deadline for a second rounder and a conditional pick, likely based on the Rangers making the playoffs.

Toronto began the day with a first pick in the top 10 at the June draft and hoping to parlay Antropov into another, but had no second or fourth rounder. It turned out just one first-rounder changed hands as the anticipated slow day because of salary cap concerns came to pass.

Antropov was the Leafs’ second leading scorer and was with the team since 1998, but clearly wasn’t in Burke’s plans. Moore went to the Buffalo Sabres for a second rounder, the first trade between the geographical enemies since Dave Andreychuk, a first rounder and Daren Puppa went for Grant Fuhr in 1993.

Gerber, scooped from provincial rival Ottawa Senators, was needed after Toskala was advised to get the surgery done as soon as possible, so that his four-month recovery doesn’t conflict with 2009 training camp.

Criticized by Burke and coach Ron Wilson for poor practice habits at mid-season, Toskala had played very well of late and was coming off of Tuesday night’s 49-save effort in a 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey.

“We’re all on the same page now,” Toskala told reporters today.

Gerber is short-term insurance for Toskala’s recovery and is slated to start Thursday against Washington ahead of Curtis Joseph. Gerber could eventually also cover for rookie Justin Pogge next season, in case he experiences more growing pains.

Gerber has not been able to hold No. 1 status as he was usurped by Cam Ward during the Carolina Hurricanes’ Cup push in 2006 and he had two or three cracks at being top dog with the Sens. But many believe the quiet 34-year-old is best situated as a back-up. He was 4-9-1 in Ottawa this past season with a 2.86 goals-against average, before the club went in another direction in search of a No. 1.

The Leafs couldn’t afford Moore, but the Sabres felt they couldn’t do without the centre’s two-way play and prowess in the faceoff circle.

Moore, who ranks 13th in NHL faceoff percentage with 54.8% success, fetched a second rounder. The Sabres needed insurance up front to revive playoff hopes, sitting just six ahead of the 11th-place Leafs in the Eastern Conference before tonight.

Moore’s agent, Larry Kelly, virtually guaranteed his client wouldn’t stay in his hometown when he wouldn’t go much lower than $2 million a season on a multi-year deal. Burke was very clear that Kelly’s request, which started out close to $2.5 million US a year didn’t get close enough to a reported three-year, $5 million offer by the Leafs.

Moore can sign with his new team or try and get the kind of money he thought he was worth with a strong playoff push prior to entering free agency on July 1. A waiver pick-up of the Leafs 14 months and two general managers ago (John Ferguson), Moore had a career year in Toronto with 41 points.

Reitz is a 27-year-old fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2000. The Detroit native played 42 games this year with a goal and assist. He is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos