As the guest draw master for the $1.5-million Pepsi North American Cup for three-year-old pacers at Mohawk on Saturday, Brian Burke selected the fifth position for 2-to-1 favourite Well Said.
Then the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager departed for Montreal with Leafs executive David Nonis in the hopes of increasing their odds to make a trade at the 2009 NHL entry draft on Friday and Saturday.
Burke revealed more than two months ago that he has set his sights on moving up in the draft to land sniper John Tavares of the London Knights. But while Burke has yet to make headway with the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche - the teams holding the Nos. 1 to 3 picks, respectively - he did admit progress was made in other trade discussions in the past few days.
There is belief the Maple Leafs have been zeroing in on New York Rangers defenceman Wade Redden and forward Peter Schaefer of the Boston Bruins.
Schaefer, 31, was buried in the minors by the Bruins last season because of salary cap concerns. He has one more year on his contract at $2.3-million (U.S.). Redden, 32, was signed to a six-year, $39-million unrestricted free-agent deal last summer, and the Rangers would not be averse to moving him.
The Leafs have plenty of salary cap room - $10-million to $13-million depending on the contract given to restricted free-agent forward Mikhail Grabovski - to accommodate both players.
But if the Leafs have interest in Redden, it means Burke must be serious about trading away either Tomas Kaberle or Pavel Kubina. The two veteran defenceman have no-trade contracts, but a window in which they can be traded opens when the draft commences on Friday.
"I'm going [to Montreal]to listen to offers," said Burke.
The other development the Leafs have been patiently waiting on is which team Swedish unrestricted free-agent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will select. The Leafs, Dallas Stars, Avalanche and San Jose Sharks are on the shortlist.
Burke remarked yesterday he believes Gustavsson is better than Jonas Hiller, a free agent Burke signed for the Anaheim Ducks who emerged as a playoff hero this season.
The Leafs GM said if his team is not successful in its pursuit of Gustavsson that a fallback could be to try to acquire Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who lost his No. 1 status to Hiller. "Yes, we have interest, but not until later in the summer," Burke said.
Giguère has a no-trade clause, but has put Toronto on a list of teams he would agree to waive his veto for.
The Leafs have the seventh-overall selection in the draft on Friday, two second-round picks and seven choices in total. While Burke has made public his desire to trade up in the hope of landing Tavares - a player the Toronto GM compares to New York Islanders legend Mike Bossy - he also didn't rebuff the possibility of moving down in the draft.
Tavares, Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman and Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene are the consensus first three selections. Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is expected to go fourth to the Atlanta Thrashers, and Brandon Wheat Kings forward Brayden Schenn will likely go fifth to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Leafs also have interest in Schenn, the younger brother of Toronto defenceman Luke Schenn. But if Toronto can't secure him by trading up, they may settle for 6-foot-5 blueliner Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs.
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