Report: Maple Leafs’ Burke Inquired About van Riemsdyk

Despite already having the youngest team in the National Hockey League, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is looking to get younger.

According to Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun (via Tim Pinaccio of csnphilly.com), Burke contacted Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren about the availability of forward James van Riemsdyk. The report says Holmgren was quick to tell Burke that van Riemsdyk is not available.

Burke has been rumored to be combing the entire league for a trading partner in an attempt to spark his team, especially offensively. With over $3 million in salary cap space to work with, Burke certainly has the ability and flexibility to make a big trade.

Van Riemsdyk, 21, has three goals and seven assists in 22 games this season, which would put him seventh on the Maple Leafs in points with ten. In 100-career NHL regular season games, van Riemsdyk has 18 goals and 27 assists. He also played in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 World Junior Championship tournaments for team USA, scoring a total of 21 points in a combined 12 games.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

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Burke Still Looking to Trade, Could Use Goalies as Bait

Despite the recent success the Toronto Maple Leafs have been experiencing (winning three of their last four and three straight at home), general manager Brian Burke is still looking to make a trade, according to TheFourthPeriod.com (via the Toronto Sun).

The report suggests Burke still wants to add an “offensive-minded” forward, be it a centre or a winger.

The speculation has led many to wonder what Burke might use as potential trade bait, naming Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and, of course, Tomas Kaberle as options. However, with sophomore Jonas Gustavsson, the injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere and surprisingly impressive minor leaguer Jussi Rynnas all under contract, the goaltending position could be a focal point.

Gustavsson has been getting plenty of playing time during Giguere’s absence. In nine games this season, Gustavsson is 3-4-1 and has a save percentage of .922 to go along with a goals against average of 2.30. With a career record of 19-19-10, save percentage of .906 and goals against average of 2.77, Gustavsson could be in line for a much bigger role with the Maple Leafs.

Giguere, meanwhile, has also been impressive. The 35-year-old is 5-5-2, has a save percentage of .895 and has a goals against average of 2.78 in 12 games this season. Unfortunately, however, he earns $6 million this season and could be feeling the pressure from Rynnas, who has a GAA of 1.79 and a save percentage of .941 in 12 games with the Toronto Marlies this season.

The problem with trading Giguere is that he has a no-trade clause, meaning he gets to block any trade he is involved in. Any deal would be hard for the Maple Leafs to complete before Christmas, however, as Burke’s self-imposed holiday trade freeze goes into effect on December 9th.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

Richards to Maple Leafs Becoming More Likely Each Day; Ribeiro Also a Possibility

For months now, people have been talking about a potential trade between the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs that would see Stars’ centre Brad Richards become a Maple Leaf, possibly in return for Tomas Kaberle.

However, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has yet to speak publicly about a trade involving the two teams, and has not yet been spotted at a Stars game, not that it really matters anyways.

But even though Burke hasn’t been speaking of a trade, does that mean it won’t happen? Of course not. As everyone knows, Burke is the kind of general manager who likes to keep his mouth shut, and give very little information involving transactions.

With that being said, the chances of Richards becoming a Maple Leaf could be increasing each day, given the way he has been playing, his contract situation, and the Stars’ ownership/revenue situation.

Richards, 30, is off to a blazing start this season. In 18 games, the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward has nine goals and 15 assists, a total of 24 points, to go along with a plus-10 rating. He is earning $7.8 million in this, the final year of his contract with the Stars.

Also well-documented has been the Stars’ current ownership situation, which will make it extremely hard for general manager Joe Nieuwendyk to re-sign Richards. Stars owner Tom Hicks has reportedly set an internal budget that is well below the league mandated $59.4 million salary cap, meaning it will be next to impossible since Richards will likely want about $8 million per season.

That’s not to say the Maple Leafs will want to pay him that much, although their salary cap room next season may allow them to.

Richards would be a nice addition to a team that does not currently have a top-six centre.

The addition of Richards could also mean good things for the development of Nazem Kadri, who, with three assists in four games, appears to be becoming more of a play maker than a goal scorer, although his career is only five games old.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported on Saturday not only that the Maple Leafs are interested in Richards, but Mike Ribeiro as well.

Ribeiro, a three-time 20+ goal scorer, is currently the Stars’ second line centre. He is earning $5 million per season, but still has two more years left on his contract following this season. With that and the fact that the Stars would get a greater return for Richards in mind, Nieuwendyk would likely rather trade Richards over Ribeiro.

However, Garroich said the New York Rangers are also interested in both Richards and Ribeiro. Both have a no-trade clause, meaning they can block any trade they’re involved in. Unfortunately, for the Maple Leafs, that could be a problem, as the Rangers have four more wins in two more games this season.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

Wayne Primeau Wants Back on the Leafs: Does He Fit In?

Wayne Primeau

35-year-old National Hockey League veteran Wayne Primeau wants to return to the National Hockey League for the 2010-2011 season, which would be his 16th in the League, according to TheFourthPeriod.com (via Toronto Sun).

“I still feel I can play and contribute to a team,” Primeau told the Sun. “Hopefully someone steps forward and gives me a chance.”

“My ultimate wish is to come back to Toronto for another season and be a veteran (presence) to help the younger guys. But it seems to be looking dimmer and dimmer as the days go on.”

With the Maple Leafs becoming a younger team each year and very unlikely to win the Stanley Cup this season, is it really fitting for a 15-year veteran of the League who has never won a Stanley Cup to return to Toronto?

No. The Maple Leafs have too many bottom-six forwards (which Primeau is) for him to fit in on the roster. If he was to play on the wing, he still wouldn’t fit in with the bottom six. Colby Armstrong, Luca Caputi, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Fredrick Sjostrom all have more important roles with the Maple Leafs, and all add just as much grit, if not more.

At age 35, if Primeau were to return to the Maple Leafs, he would be the oldest player on the roster (current oldest player is Jean-Sebastien Giguere at age 33) and the oldest forward on the roster by seven years.

Not just that, but the signing of Primeau would also take away crucial cap space from general manager Brian Burke, who is currently trying to use that cap space, and possibly Tomas Kaberle, to fill the forward hole in the Maple Leafs lineup.

With that being said, not only would returning to Toronto be a poor career decision by Primeau, but it would also be a poor decision by Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke, who already has enough veterans on the roster.

Primeau has scored just 194 points (69 goals, 125 assists) in 774-career regular-season games. Three of those goals and five of those assists came in 54 games with the Maple Leafs in 2009-2010. He was acquired from the Calgary Flames in July of 2009 along with a 2011 second round draft pick for Anton Stralman, Colin Stuart and a 2012 seventh round draft pick.

**Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Five Free Agents the Maple Leafs Should Consider

Owen Nolan

It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs offence isn’t exactly the best in the league. Sure the Maple Leafs roster consists of two-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, two-time 20-goal scorer Kris Versteeg and (likely) rookie Nazem Kadri, who is expected to be a large part of the Maple Leafs offence, but the offensive talent level drops significantly after those three.

Many people wanted and expected Tomas Kaberle to be traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke by August 15th, in return for a top-six forward, preferably a top-line centre. With Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri or even Mikhail Grabovski playing the centre ice position however, Tomas Kaberle remaining a Maple Leaf may not be such a bad thing. 

The trade route is not always the way to go when looking to acquire offence, defence or a goalie, even now that Evgeni Nabokov, Sergei Gonchar and Matthew Lombardi have all be signed. In fact, there are still players with offensive talent and/or potential available.

While there are some free agents still available that could no doubt help the Maple Leafs, Brian Burke can’t go out into the free agent market and sign a couple of players who used to be big time point producers, hoping that they can become the surprise-of-the-year.

What it does mean is invite about five players to training camp and see if anyone impresses. If someone does, sign them to a one-year contract that won’t be too hard to move if needed.

Here is a look at some free agents still searching for a team that the Maple Leafs should think about inviting to training camp:

Owen Nolan

Although he is considered by many to be injury-prone, don’t let Nolan’s 38-year-old age fool you. The 6’1″, 214 lbs big man netted 16 goals and 17 assists in 73 games with Minnesota last season, after scoring 45 points in 59 games in 2008-2009.

The Belfast, Ireland born forward spent parts of two seasons with the Maple Leafs between 2002 and 2004 before sitting out for 2005-2006 season after loosing a season of hockey due to the 2004-2005 lockout. Over that two-year span with the Maple Leafs, Nolan scored 60 points in 79 games (26 goals, 34 assists).

Should the Maple Leafs sign Owen Nolan before training camp even begins? No.

Should the Maple Leafs invite him to training camp? Yes.

Will be need to impress? Oh, you bet he will.

It is unlikely that the Maple Leafs would sign Nolan to a contract out of camp if he doesn’t crack the top-six, or even the top-nine. With the Maple Leafs’ youth and speed on the top two lines, its unlikely that Nolan will receive a contract offer contract, but he should get his chance.

Patrick O’Sullivan

After being a massive disappointment last season with Edmonton (11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points), Patrick O’Sullivan was placed on waivers, cleared them and was traded to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer, where his contract was bought out.

O’Sullivan, now a free agent, was a cap hit of $2.95 last season, according to CapGeek.com and would likely take a significant drop in salary if a team were to offer him a contract, giving him a chance to play. At age 24, he would be more likely to make the Maple Leafs if invited to training camp than Owen Nolan. The 5’11”, 190 lbs O’Sullivan is a former 22 goal scorer and could match that total again if given the chance.

Much like Nolan, however, he would have to impress everyone at training camp.

Todd Fedoruk

Many people want, or are expecting the Maple Leafs to sign Raffi Torres by the time the regular-season begins, however there may be a more affordable fit. Although Todd Fedoruk does not quite put up the same offensive numbers that Torres does, he can still provide the same, if not more, amount of grit.

A fighter, Fedoruk put up 54 penalty minutes last season in 50 games. The 31-year-old has posted 1050 PIMs in 545-career regular-season games.  

Marek Svatos

A two-time 25+ goal scorer (32 in 2005-06, 26 in 2007-08), Svatos has never played more than 69 games in a season.

With the Maple Leafs lacking another top-six winger and Colby Armstrong best fitted for the third line, Marek Svatos could fit in very well on the right side of the second line. If Svatos can turn in a healthy season, the native of Slovakia has the potential to put up 50+ points.

A cap hit of $2.05 million last season, Svatos would come in nicely somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million.  Had it not have been for his struggles last season (seven goals, four assists, 54 games), Svatos would likely come in at a much more expensive price, something that would be unaffordable.

Ryan Johnson

Johnson, an exceptional penalty killer, would bring nothing but good to the Maple Leafs. One of the most underrated players in the League, Johnson is one of the most fearless forwards around.

The 34-year-old is a great shot blocker, and was a staple on the penalty kill in Vancouver. For a team that finished dead least in the League on the penalty kill last season with a 74.6 percent rate, the former Panther, Lightning, Blue and Canuck would be more than welcomed in Toronto.

At a cap hit of $1.10 million last season, Johnson is not getting any younger and this could be his last chance at playing in the National Hockey League. With that being said, he would more than likely be willing to sign a contract worth somewhere around $875 000. 

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors. Information from HockeyDB.com and CapGeek.com was used in this post.

Kaberle’s Father Speaks Out

Tomas Kaberle

Tomas Kaberle may be staying quiet about his situation with the Maple Leafs and coach Ron Wilson, but his father certainly isn’t.

In an interview with Czech hockey magazine Hokej (via Toronto Sun), the elder Kaberle, Frantisek Senior, said he’s surprised that his son is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I cannot image how he will get along with coach Wilson, who relies primarily on aggression and stress. That’s not Tomas, he’s a technical type of defender,” said the former member of the Czech national team. “I think that during the course of the year he will be traded to another club. There is only one chance for Toronto to get something back in return for Tomas now. In my opinion, I can’t see Tomas entering a new contract with the Toronto. Not if Ron Wilson continues to be employed there.”

Tomas Kaberle was not traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke before his no-trade clause was reinstated on Sunday, August 15th.

Frantisek Sr. also talked to the magazine about the possibility of Marc Savard becoming a Maple Leaf.

“The problem is his health. He suffered a concussion last season and there is the possibility of a similar blow to his head and it could even end his hockey career. In this regard, such a trade for Toronto would have been very risky,” said Kaberle Sr., who also believes that NHL superstars no longer want to play for the Maple Leafs.

“I have been following Toronto for a long time,” he said.  “I didn’t believe it much in the beginning, but it seems that the best players don’t want to go to this club. The reason is because of the huge pressure from the fans, and especially the media. Not every hockey player is able to deal with it.”

He does, however, believe that his son can put up with the large amount of pressure put on Maple Leaf players.

“I think that Tomas won’t even comment on (trade possibilities) anymore,” he said. “He is content in Toronto with both the club and the city. I still think though that some change would be welcomed.”

Frantisek Kaberle Senior has a lot of hockey experience. Not only did he play for the Czech national team, but he also coached in the elite league in the Czech Republic.

The 32-year-old Tomas has spent his entire career with Toronto, scoring 80 goals and 402 assists. He is known as one of the best defenceman in the National Hockey League but has been listening to trade rumors about himself for the last two years.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

NHL Tests Potential New Rules at Research and Development Camp

National Hockey League

The NHL has begun testing potential new rules during the research and development camp at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence. Up to 21 potential new rule changes are being tried out, including a new, much wanted, icing rule, called hybrid icing.

With hybrid icing, the risk of major injury is reduced significantly, if not gone.

Hybrid icing is a mix of no-touch and touch icing. When the defending player reaches the faceoff dot before the attacking player, the linesman will blow his whistle.

Lately, the debate about icing has become almost as popular as Tomas Kaberle trade rumors. From staying with touch icing, to making the game less entertaining with no-touch icing, it looks like the NHL may have found the median.

Here is a list of all potential new rules being tested during the National Hockey League research and development camp:

  1. Hybrid icing rule;
  2. No line change for team committing an offside;
  3. Crease reset rule;
  4. Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
  5. Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).
  6. Bigger crease;
  7. Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
  8. Wider blue lines;
  9. Line changes zone in front of each bench;
  10. Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
  11. OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).
  12. No touch icing;
  13. Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
  14. Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
  15. Second referee located off the playing surface;
  16. Delayed penalty rule;
  17. No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  18. OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players;
  19. Variations of special teams play;
  20. OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

The teams that competed on the ice with the above rules are almost completely made up of Canadian Hockey League players, meaning many NHL general managers, coaches and even scouts attended the tw0-day event, including Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and Senators general manager Brian Murray.

The two-day hockey camp wraps up on Thursday, August 19th in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Information from NHL.com was used in this post.