Toronto Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas said Monday that trade talks were furthered at the NHL Scouting Combine, and reports are that forward Phil Kessel is involved.
"Last week at the Combine, we started to have a lot more conversation with other teams, and chatter starts to pick up; that's just the way it goes," Dubas said. "… I didn't know that until we got there last week, and you start to feel your way around and start to see that other teams are starting to talk now that the [NHL Draft] is coming up, the salary cap is starting to be set."
The combine for draft prospects, held in Buffalo, ended Saturday. Sportsnet reported trade discussions for Kessel picked up over the weekend, and that the Maple Leafs could be seeking draft picks and prospects for the 27-year-old right wing.
Dubas was asked about Kessel twice during a media availability Monday but did not address him specifically.
"In any trade we are talking about -- and I won't get into specific players and rumors -- any trade that were going to be making, we're going to be looking to add as much as we can back to the organization," Dubas said. "That's not to say we won't be looking for good present-day players. We can't just lose year after year. That's not the plan to lose, that just brings up our players in a losing environment and that's not good.
"Our plan is going to be to make the trade that best helps our organization, whether that's draft picks, prospects, current NHL players. We aren't good enough to be picky about what the type of assets come back is. We hope to get there one day, but we aren't there yet."
Toronto finished 30-44-8 this season, 30 points out of a playoff berth from the Eastern Conference.
Kessel has seven years left on his eight-year, $64 million contract that carries an annual NHL salary-cap charge of $8 million. He scored 25 goals and had 61 points with a minus-34 rating in 82 games this season, and has scored at least 30 goals in four of the past six seasons.
Toronto also could be willing to trade the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, which begins June 26 in Sunrise, Fla.
"It's something we would definitely look at," Dubas told The Toronto Star on Saturday. "If someone else was adamant about a player, we're pretty comfortable with the players in that cluster.
"We need to be acquiring as many draft pick assets as we can, as many prospects as we can. If there was something that made sense, we'd be open to listening and having some thorough discussions on the fourth pick."
The Maple Leafs hired coach Mike Babcock on May 20; their search for a general manager to replace Dave Nonis, who was fired April 12, is being led by president Brendan Shanahan.
"We are communicating about what's being said about our team, what our possibilities are as a team, and what we are looking to do in the draft, and everything that we're evaluating, so it's just a non-stop continual flow of communication and it's been great," Dubas said.