Who knew that at the trading deadline, two of the biggest stories in Leafland would be Ian White and Dominic Moore?
White, 24, didn’t even get into the Leafs' first 10 games. Dennis Hull used to tell the story of Hawks coach Billy Reay asking him to jump on the ice and keep an eye on Gordie Howe. "I can see him just fine from here," Hull replied and no one has ever doubted the sense of that. In the early days of the season, Wilson's favourite spot to watch White was the press box. Now the Winnipeg native is tied for a career-high eight goals and his ice time careens between 24 and 30 minutes an evening.
"I found out I played 30 minutes (Feb. 21 against Vancouver) about a week after," White said. "It was the first time in my career I ever cracked that barrier. It's nice to know you can be relied on."
Leafs GM Brian Burke turned down a second-round draft choice for White and said barring a mind-blowing deal, he wants to keep White where he is.
White now feels in his heart that he is a top-six player and he has done little or nothing this season to disparage the idea.
"I see myself as a top-six guy," he said. "I feel I've earned the right to be in the lineup consistently. I try to be someone who can be used in any situation. I want to be a complete player."
White said the key to keeping up is to keep keeping on. When he returned to the lineup it was as a forward, but a spate of injuries to the defence brought him back to the blue line. Now White feels the time spent at forward has made him a better, more versatile player.
"You can put a positive spin on anything," he said. "I'm an optimist. The glass is always half full. Whatever happens happens for a reason. You've got to learn from your experiences and grow."
Moore, 28, was a waiver wire refugee who had stints with the Rangers, Pittsburgh and Minnesota.
Now Moore has 12 goals and 41 points. His linemate Jason Blake, a 15-goal-bust last season has 22 goals and may yet make a run at 30. Moore and his agent Larry Kelly are working on a multi-year deal that would keep Moore off the free agent market this summer. The ability to reach that deal will determine whether Moore stays or goes.
"I love being in blue and white," he said. "Hopefully we’ll get something done. My agent and the team have been in contact. We’re making a concerted effort to bridge the game and work something out."
Moore grew up in Toronto an avid fan of both Doug Gilmour and the Leafs. Articulate and well-liked, the Harvard grad was pigeonholed into checking roles until he came to Toronto.
"This is the first real opportunity I've been given and I'm grateful," he said. "I've developed some chemistry with Blakie and it will only get better."
Trade speculation has been so fervent, a few of the Leafs turned the table on the media. Blake shook hands with Wilson and left the ice at practice, leading to a speculation that he was gone. He wasn’t and few people familiar with his contract, he has three years remaining, bit.
The star of Wednesday's trade deadline will likely be six-foot-six forward Nik Antropov. Antropov is on the final year of his deal and it seems unlikely he will be offered a new contract. His combination of size and experience should fetch a good price from GMs looking for a bump into the playoff bracket or for a team with aspirations to go deep into the post-season.