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(Ronald Martinez/2009 Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/2009 Getty Images)

Mailbag: Are the Leafs after Brad Richards? Add to ...

I've been told that Nick Kypreos mentioned a Tomas Kaberle for Brad Richards type rumour during the intermission last week. Is there any legitimacy or is it something Kypreos was just throwing out there? Are there any more details available? Would it require a fall in production on the part of the Dallas Stars?

- Bill M.

Put this firmly in the speculation category for now, especially given Tomas Kaberle has been one of the better Leafs defencemen in the early going and still has that no-trade clause we've heard so much about.

A few things make this a plausible "rumour" to put out there, however.

One, the Leafs have that much talked about cap space from sending Jeff Finger to the minors, with the ability to add $3.5-million in salary and still fit comfortably under the cap. (Keep in mind that Toronto needs to save a little cap room for call ups should there be injuries and can't spend every cent of the $4.73-million space.)

Two, Toronto has a desperate need a top flight centre, made worse by a slow start for Tyler Bozak this season. Phil Kessel's been able to produce a lot of offence without a lot of help so far this season but that may not continue given the tight checking he's seeing.

And, three, Richards is a pending unrestricted free agent on a Stars team many thought wouldn't contend for a playoff spot in the West this year. Of the players who will potentially become UFAs next July, Richards is coming off the most productive season (91 points).

The other options on the rental market aren't nearly as appealing.

That said, the fact that Dallas is off to a 5-2-0 start and may not necessarily be a seller this season is a big strike against any potential deal. Richards has been excellent, too, with 10 points in the seven games, and it's unlikely a team with a shot at the postseason would deal it's top centre.

Brian Burke's statement on AM640 this week that "we're starting to get some action" has really ignited the trade talk in Toronto, but it's likely he waits to see how this current group performs over a 20- or 30-game stretch before making a deal. And, when it comes, expect the Leafs to be "helping out" a team in a tight cap situation rather than taking on an expensive pending UFA.

In other words, don't be surprised if nothing happens until at least December or January. I'm convinced, however, that Burke will do something with that cap space this season - especially if Toronto's offence continues to struggle.

Questions for James Mirtle can be sent to hockey@globeandmail.com

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