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Maple Leafs won't let playoff push affect trade plans

Earlier-than-expected success will not alter long-term focus, coach Mike Babcock says

NHL.com @NHL

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock slowed some of the trade speculation surrounding his team during a radio interview Friday.

Appearing on "Leafs Lunch" on TSN 1050 Toronto, Babcock intimated that the push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs will not influence the aggressiveness by management in the days leading up to the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, which is 3 p.m. ET on March 1.

"Right now, if anybody is looking for us to be in the news on trade deadline day, I would find something else to do," Babcock said.

Toronto, which finished with an NHL-low 69 points last season, is 26-19-11 and has the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the New York Islanders. Toronto is one point behind the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division and has played two fewer games.

But the accelerated improvement, achieved in part through four better-than-expected rookies -- forwards Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander, and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev -- has not pushed the Maple Leafs to deviate from their rebuilding plan, Babcock said.

Marner, who is day to day with an upper-body injury, leads the Maple Leafs with 48 points. Matthews has 27 goals, which leads the Maple Leafs and is first among NHL rookies. Nylander has 38 points, fifth on the team. Zaitsev leads Maple Leafs defensemen in average ice time per game (22:23) and points (26).

"We've got a long-term plan here," Babcock said. "We would like to do anything we can to be in the playoffs that wouldn't get in the way of our long-term plans.

"People can speculate, but the reality is you look at our group and I think this is our group moving ahead. What we can do in the offseason to help ourselves, that is a big job for our management team."

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