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Toronto GM Burke expects to be in demand as deadline approaches

by Dan Rosen
Normally not a big deadline dealer, Brian Burke expects to be quite active in the days leading up to this year's NHL trade deadline, March 4 at 3 p.m. ET.

However, Toronto's president and general manager also wants to warn the legion of Leafs' fans out there not to be overly optimistic.

"I think there is going to be less movement than people expect," Burke told in a wide-ranging interview during the second intermission of Saturday night's game against Vancouver at the Air Canada Centre. "I think we have some good players that, as our team gets better, will be valuable parts of what we're trying to do. I know people are expecting wholesale change, but I don't expect that."

Translation: Anybody signed beyond July 1 could still be a Leaf when the team travels to Washington for a March 5 game. That means Alexei Ponikarovsky, Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle, Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake may not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Nik Antropov is a different story.

The forward is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season and Burke said he is most definitely fielding calls on the big Kazakh and believes the offers will get serious soon.

"Guys with time left, I don't anticipate moving them; but if they do go it will be in hockey deals. It won't be for rental players, it will be for guys that can be around for a couple of years," Burke said. "Nik Antropov is in a different situation because he's unrestricted at the end of the year and certainly I have to listen on him. He's a good guy, but I have to listen on him."

Antropov has picked up his game of late with seven goals and two assists since the All-Star break to give him 44 points this season, second on the team. Burke hinted Antropov's improved play should help in trying to secure the best possible return for him.

"I would say yes, but the deals haven't materialized yet so it's premature," Burke said. "He has played well and I give him credit for that."

Burke doesn't believe the economy will affect how many players are moved by this year's deadline, but the types of deals may be a bit different.

"I sense a real willingness to move long-term contracts and a real reluctance to take them," Burke said. "A lot of people are looking not so much at '09-'10, but more at '10-'11 as a year where we possibly might see a change in the economics where it really comes home to roost. It's too early to say that, obviously, but that's what I sense; teams trying to move guys with contracts that carry into that year and beyond and reluctance on the clubs' part to take contracts that carry into that year and beyond.

"I don't think it will change the number of players that move that are in the last year of their contract or maybe have one year remaining."

Burke's agenda hasn't changed one bit.

He is out to make the Leafs a contender for the long haul. That said, he's not conceding anything this season.

Even though everyone has the Leafs penciled in as one of the bottom seven teams in the Eastern Conference come April 12 - they are currently in 11th place and 12 points out of eighth - the playoffs are still a topic of conversation with Burke.

"Absolutely, and not only that, our orientation hasn't changed," Burke said. "When you leave this box tonight, if I get a call that will get us into the playoffs and not affect our long-range plan, I'm going to do it. We owe that to our fans and that's in our DNA anyway. But, those deals are not presenting themselves right now.

"The deals that I have been presented with tend to be seller deals."

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