Going, Going. . .
|PAUL HUNTER/TORONTO STAR|
|Nik Antropov's future is up in the air right now.|
As it turns out, neither Nik Antropov nor Dominic Moore will get to take a final curtain call in front of Maple Leaf fans on home ice tonight. Sources have confirmed the Leafs will scratch both players for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils in anticipation of deals involving both players in the next 24 hours.
The decision was made by GM Brian Burke in the last hour after a flurry of negotiations with Moore and his agent, Larry Kelly, were fruitless. Rather than risk injury to either player that would make them untradeable before Wednesday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, the Leafs decided to yank them from the lineup.
It's the kind of move we've been seeing around the league in recent days, and may see more of tonight.
Bill Guerin was held out of a Saturday game by the Islanders and hasn't played since while he awaits word on an deal. The Avalanche made the surprising move of making Darcy Tucker a last-minute healthy scratch yesterday even though the former Leaf winger's name hasn't really been bounced around much in recent weeks in trade rumours. Either Tucker is going to be moved or he was legitimately a healthy scratch, neither of which is a positive situation for the truculent one.
For the Leafs, there's some concern internally of a public backlash if they sit players tonight, but they'd have been be foolish not to scratch Antropov and Moore if they thought deals were available. If the intent is to move Antropov, for example, and he were to be injured tonight and a second round pick or even a first rounder lost, it would mark yet another important Leaf loss without getting anything in return.
With 22 other clubs in action tonight, of course, more than a few GMs and coaches are facing similar choices, particularly those with an eye on qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The deadline was moved to Wednesday from Tuesday this year partially because of all the games on the schedule tonight, but that may prove to complicate matters more than simplify them because of the risk of injuries possibly affecting deals in play.
That said, you'll have 12 winners tonight and 12 losers, and teams in both situations may find themselves more or less compelled to act based on that result.
For a team like the Leafs, of course, some players who could be traded tomorrow will be in the lineup against the Devils because it would be impossible to recall enough players from the minors to be able to ice a full lineup given the 23-man roster restriction. GM Brian Burke indicated today that defenceman Tomas Kaberle is unlikely to be moved, mostly because he hasn't yet spoken to a single team about Kaberle and trade scenarios.
As far as Moore goes, there's little reason to believe a deal will be struck today that results in a new contract between the Leafs and Moore. Cutting difference in the middle is unlikely given that $1 million or more per year separates the two sides.