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Coveted defenceman could be available -- Part II

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Elliotte Friedman

Elliotte Friedman is a reporter and commentator at The Score, Canada's 24-hour sports highlights and information network. He has covered the Leafs extensively for a number of years and has a birds-eye view of what's going on with the Leafs and the NHL.

To read the first part of this column, CLICK HERE.

When the normally astute Craig Patrick made the veteran defenceman an arbitration offer that called for a $1.15 million salary this season, Gandler quickly accepted even though it represented a $450,000 pay cut. Why? Because it means Kasparaitis is a 10-year NHLer earning less than the league average, and that qualifies him for unrestricted free agency this summer, even though he is just 28. Kasparaitis won the lottery, even though he can't collect for awhile.
Darius Kasparaitis is a likely candidate to be traded by the March deadline.
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

With Mario Lemieux more concerned about the Olympics than the regular season, the financially strapped Penguins are probably going to miss the playoffs. There's no point in losing Kasparaitis for nothing, and judging from the Jaromir Jagr trade, you can have the defenceman for something young and cheap.

He has proven to be a very good playoff performer. Kasparaitis was a major reason the Islanders prevented a Penguin three-peat in 1994, and scored the series-winner last year against Buffalo.

Toronto would have no obligation beyond this season, so Quinn could let him walk if the open-market price was too high. It would require sacrificing future prospects like Brad Boyes, but that's a necessary risk.

The blueline remains the Maple Leafs biggest weakness. Their playoff experience is possibly the Maple Leafs greatest strength. Adding Kasparaitis solves the problem and increases the advantage.

Letting anyone else in the Eastern Conference get Kasparaitis would be a major mistake. The kind of mistake that kills you in May. 
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