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Changes in Leaf Land?

Ron Wilson has been coach of the Maple Leafs since 2008, but are his days numbered? (Getty Images)

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Ron Wilson has been coach of the Maple Leafs since 2008, but are his days numbered? (Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke continues to shop for more scoring depth for his struggling team, but it’s tough to make a deal at this time of year.

CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reported Thursday the Leafs had interest in Philadelphia left winger James van Riemsdyk, but the Flyers don’t wish to part with him.

Meanwhile, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported no major changes are expected in the near future for the Leafs - and that includes behind the bench, where some fans and media have questioned the job being done by coach Ron Wilson.

Dreger also reported Leafs management hasn’t found any trades worth considering at this point, suggesting a shake up involving a swap of fourth-line players on a “dollar-for-dollar” basis has even been tough to find and, really, how much would that do to shake the Leafs from their current funk?

Burke’s self-imposed Christmas trade freeze is approaching at week’s end, so if he wants to get a deal done, he’ll have to move soon.

SENATORS WORKING ON TRADE FOR KEVIN BIEKSA?

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray isn’t fairing any better, as he’s been shopping around for an experienced physical defenseman since mid-October.

Defenseman Brian Lee cleared waivers late last week, but remained with the club as a seventh defenseman, while Murray tries to trade him.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported Murray might be working on a larger deal, suggesting the Vancouver Canucks management would also like to make a move.

Garrioch believes Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa would address the Senators’ need for more blueline grit.

It’s assumed the Canucks won’t make any moves until blueliner Sami Salo is ready to return to the lineup, at which time they’ll need to free up sufficient cap space to absorb his $3.5 million cap hit. Salo is believed to be at least a month away from returning, so management doesn’t have to make any significant moves yet.

CAN RANGERS AFFORD BRAD RICHARDS?

Dallas Stars center Brad Richards remains a fixture in this season’s rumor mill.

ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported the New York Rangers are very interested in Richards and would be willing to pursue him if he’s on the market before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

However, Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported the Rangers might not have sufficient cap space to acquire Richards and the remainder of his $7.8-million cap hit for this season.

The Blueshirts currently have around $1.54 million in available cap space, with center Todd White and defenseman Matt Gilroy ($4.125 million combined salary) being frequent healthy scratches. Brooks believes the longer GM Glen Sather has expensive “spare parts” on his roster using up cap space, the harder it becomes to land Richards.

Brooks also claimed Sather doesn’t want to part with the young assets the Stars would want in return for Richards.

If the Stars fall out of the playoff race by February and their ownership situation hasn’t been resolved, Richards will certainly be shopped. If they’re still riding high in the standings, though, they’ll probably hang onto him in hopes a playoff berth will improve the team’s value to potential owners.

WILD NEED A “GAME-BREAKER”

The Minnesota Wild are another slumping team whose management has threatened a shake up if things don’t improve soon.

GM Chuck Fletcher told Michael Russo of Star Tribune trade talks are starting to pick up around the league and he would hold the players accountable, but would give them one more opportunity to get back on track.

Russo noted the Wild are lacking “a game-breaker” as well as a young star or two, plus many players are underachieving, with veterans making costly mistakes.

Potential trade candidates include forwards Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen – both of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer – and defenseman Cam Barker, who has only three points and is minus-9 in 22 games this season.

The Wild have been linked to the Senators and Maple Leafs in this season’s rumor mill, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Fletcher has been in touch with those teams, but it’s unlikely he’ll find any game-breakers from those struggling clubs.

 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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