Hockey

Blake, Lindros trade talk distracts Leafs

March 13th cannot come soon enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That is the NHL trade deadline, and only then will all questions cease about Eric Lindros and Rob Blake.

Unless, of course, the Maple Leafs acquire either, or both, before then.

In the interim, the endless questions continue and appear to taking their toll on Toronto, which has won just four of its last 15 games (4-7-3-1)

"All of the talk sometimes creates unrest," Leafs head coach and general manager Pat Quinn admitted.

The Leafs' interest in both Lindros, 27, and Blake, 31, is well-documented and about to reach new heights with both players in town at the same time.

Lindros resides and trains in Toronto, while Blake and the Los Angeles Kings arrive on Wednesday.

But the Leafs are biting their lips.

"We can't comment on other team's players," Quinn said abruptly.

Even so, Quinn covets Blake, who had hit an impasse in contract talks with the Kings and becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The Kings risk losing the 1998 Norris Trophy winner for nothing if they fail to re-sign him or trade him before the deadline.

"He's really continued to develop," Quinn said of Blake. "His experience going to play for Canada at the worlds has really helped him.

"Before that, he was a so-so player."

"Rob Blake is one the best defencemen in the league," Curtis Joseph added. "He's the whole package.

"He's enticing for any team."

Especially one like the Leafs, who rely far too heavily on Tomas Kaberle for offensive support from the blueline.

Ron Salcer, Blake's agent, further fanned the trade flames by announcing last week that he is entertaining offers from all NHL teams.

Blake re-iterated that stance when scrummed by reporters at Ottawa's Corel Centre on Tuesday.

"I'm with the Los Angeles Kings and that's where I want to be, but if something happens this summer, I've got to sit down and look at all the different options," Blake said.

As for Lindros, the Leafs' on-again, off-again discussion with the Philadelphia Flyers appears to be stuck in neutral.

"As far as I'm concerned, it is," Flyers GM Bob Clarke said.

The primary roadblock remains the sentiments of Ed Snider, who publicly severed talks with Toronto last week.

The Flyers owner was frustrated over the Leafs' latest offer, rumoured to include either Jonas Hoglund or Yanic Perreault and conditional draft picks.

Clarke, however, seems less inclined to discount further discussions. "If Pat calls me, then certainly I'll talk," Clarke said. "I think Pat knows how Mr. Snider feels.

"But Mr. Snider could say, `No, you're not.' He's my boss, and if he says, `No, you're not trading him to Toronto,' I'll live with that."

Lindros has made it clear that he wants only to play for Toronto, a posture Clarke claims is preventing both sides from reaching a satisfactory agreement.

"I'm not going to make Toronto better without helping our own club," Clarke said. "All it's done is really tie our hands totally and I think it's pretty much tied Pat's, too."

That said, Clarke admitted a trade to Toronto is not entirely out of the question.

"We're not going to trade him unless we get some players in return," Clarke said. "There may be future draft picks based on how much he plays and there may be draft picks from our club that go back to them if he doesn't play or gets hurt right away with a concussion.

"There's ways of structuring a deal that offer some safety net for the other team."

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