– While rumors continue to percolate that Toronto Maple Leafs
defenseman Tomas Kaberle
will be the next big name in play in what has been a wild lead-up to the start of the 2010 Entry Draft, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke
said Thursday that nothing is imminent.
"This is not a transaction that is draft-specific," Burke explained during a break in the NHL Board of Governors Meeting here. "This is just as likely to happen after the draft, or not happen at all as it might happen here."
"We're not even close. I hate saying that because that can change with one phone call. But right now, nothing is imminent."
With that said, it is fair to say that the pursuit of one of the League's top defensemen has become much more serious.
"It's double digits," Burke said of the interest from other teams in his most precious asset. "We've had four hard offers, like concrete offers, and we expect two more today from teams that have said they are going to step up. Whether that happens or not, I don't know."
Burke says not only are more teams in play, but the amount of serious interest has grown in the past 24 hours or so, resulting in the presentation of legitimate offers that could provide the framework for a finalized deal somewhere down the road.
"(The deals) took a hard turn north last night as far as getting things where we had to at least go back and look at them as a group," Burke said. "But nothing that we even certainly considered accepting."
Burke also said he is not interested in draft picks for Kaberle, who played more than 22 minutes a game last season and recorded 49 points in 82 games. Instead, he wants bodies that can help him win now.
"That's our top priority, to find a forward that can score," Burke said. "If he comes with some size all the better. If draft picks come as part of another deal, that's fine. It's not a priority. I think people should figure out with the (Phil) Kessel deal, we are trying to get better right now. Draft picks don't help me now."
Burke once again addressed the controversial Kessel deal. Last season, he traded his first- and second-round picks in 2010 and his 2011 first-round pick for the services of the high-scoring Kessel, who was with Boston at the time. The final piece of the trade will happen during Friday's first day of the Entry Draft when Boston makes the No. 2 selection, expected to be either Taylor Hall or Tyler Sequin, the two hottest prospects in this year's draft. Burke expressed no regrets over the bounty he surrendered.
"That's right, it could have been my pick and I could have played all year without a 30-goal scorer," Burke said. "We made this deal and we'd make it again. It bothers you guys a lot more than it bothers me. I'd do it again. We talked about this when we made the deal. We said, 'All right, what if it is Taylor Hall?' We had this conversation. We said, 'All right we have a 21-year-old that scored 36 goals last year and we are doing it anyway.'"