'We're happy with the trade results': Leafs GM Fletcher
With five players who refused to waive their no-trade clauses, Toronto Maple Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher could only make a handful of minor deals prior to Tuesday's NHL trade deadline.
Toronto started the day by sending forward-defenceman Wade Belak to the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round pick in this summer's NHL draft.
The Leafs then traded away forward Chad Kilger to Florida for a third-round pick this year, and dealt defenceman Hal Gill to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second-round pick in June and a fifth-rounder in 2009.
"It's been a very busy two days. Lots of dialogue and lots of telephone calls, but the reality of the situation in the Maple Leaf world is that we weren't skating in the same arenas as some of the other teams," Fletcher told reporters Tuesday.
"I'm dealing for draft choices today, and my son is dealing for Marian Hossa," Fletcher joked, referring to his son Chuck, an assistant GM with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who acquired Hossa in a blockbuster deal with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Many Leafs fans were hoping Fletcher could pull off a couple of big trades to help rebuild a team that currently sits 12th in the Eastern Conference and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
But Fletcher's hands were somewhat tied behind his back as five marquee Leafs — forwards Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker, and defencemen Pavel Kubina, Brian McCabe and Tomas Kaberle — had declined to waive no-trade clauses in their contracts.
In spite of that, Fletcher said he felt Toronto made some good deals.
"We felt that we accomplished what we were trying to do today. We picked up some draft choices that will be very important to us moving forward in the future, and we're happy with the results of the day," Fletcher explained.
"It's been well-documented about the five players who had no-trade clauses in their contracts who exercised their rights and said they would not accept a trade. So moving on from there, we went to work and were able to put four draft choices in the bank to help us go forward starting in June."
Fletcher revealed that one of the players decided to waive his no-trade clause on Monday, but then changed his mind after Toronto's 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators Monday night.
Some NHL teams asked Toronto about the availability of Nik Antropov, but Fletcher said there was little chance the Leafs were going to trade the Russian forward.
"There were inquiries made about Antropov, but you have to decide where you're going to start building your base from, and [goalie] Vesa Toskala and Antropov fit nicely into that pattern. While we would have entertained offers for them ... those are two players that we'd like to see around and be part of the future," Fletcher said.
Players from the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate, will be given the chance to audition during the last 18 games of the season with Belak, Kilger and Gill gone, Fletcher said.
Fletcher also said the Leafs will be very aggressive in the free-agent market this summer.
"Moving forward at the end of the season, we will look to the draft in June, we will look to trades, some of which were started by preliminary discussions that took place the past few days, and we'll look aggressively when free agency starts July 1," Fletcher explained.