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(Richard Wolowicz/2009 Getty Images)
(Richard Wolowicz/2009 Getty Images)

Burke says Kadri was always his top pick Add to ...

For more than two months leading up to the 2009 NHL entry draft, there was plenty of bluster from Brian Burke, but it turned out to be nothing more than hot air from the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager.

Burke, as he set out to, failed to trade up for first overall choice John Tavares and he couldn't pull off a deal for the fourth or fifth selection to take Brayden Schenn, who was drafted fifth by the Los Angeles Kings.

Instead, he was left with the seventh overall selection, which he used to draft London Knights forward Nazem Kadri, a speedster who overcame a broken jaw early in the season to score 25 goals in 56 games.

The New York Islanders, who snatched Tavares, did not solicit an offer for the first pick, but the Tampa Bay Lightning was willing to trade the second selection in exchange for Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn.

"Could we have moved up? Easily," Burke said. "We could have done it two weeks ago if we threw Luke Schenn into the deal. But that's a step backwards for our franchise. My ego is not that big that I have to get up there in the first two picks every couple years.

"I think we made a prudent decision to keep the kid who will be our captain in the next couple of years."

On the Leafs did dangle veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle, whose summer-time window on his no-trade clause opened last night, and were shopping Pavel Kubina, too. However, there were no takers.

The Boston Bruins made a pitch for Kaberle, but they also thought they were getting the Leafs' seventh overall selection, a steep price to pay in exchange for Bruins 36-goal forward Phil Kessel.

Burke remarked that he is reluctant to trade Kaberle.

But he felt after soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Jay Bouwmeester signs with a new team that eight or so teams will make offers for Kaberle.

"I think the phone will ring off the hook and we'll see if there is a way to get better," said Burke, who added that interest in Kubina likely won't develop until the summer.

The Leafs were never in the sweepstakes to land Chris Pronger, who was traded by the Anaheim Ducks to the Philadelphia Flyers. Toronto also was in talks with the San Jose Sharks about forward Ryane Clowe.

When Burke walked up to the stage to make his selection at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens fanatics began chanting "67, 67" to remind the Leafs boss of the last time his team has won the Stanley Cup. They Montreal fans then booed Burke as he stood at the podium and jeered Kadri, too.

"I don't give a rat's ass about that," Burke said. "I will tell you this: the best hockey fans on the planet are not in Montreal, they're in Toronto. When we host this event in a couple years and Montreal goes up to pick this will seem like child's play for the booing they will get in Toronto."

The NHL has yet to award the draft's venue for the next two years, but the Leafs have bid to play host to the event as soon as possible.

In the six-foot, 167-pound Kadri, the Leafs GM stated that they plucked the player they wanted all along.

"They think he's creative and explosive," Burke said. "He's intense and they like his physical play even though he's not that big guy."

Burke doesn't expect Kadri to play in the NHL next season because he needs time to mature physically.

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