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Leafs won’t ask Marner to waive no-trade ’til they see offer they like

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SUNRISE, Fla. — There are no plans to ask Mitch Marner to waive the no-trade arrangement on his contract with the Maple Leafs.

But that doesn’t mean the Leafs don’t have serious interest in dealing Marner, possibly closer to the NHL draft or into the summer.

Here’s the plan, much as there is one: The Leafs have basically let it be known in the hockey world they are in trade mode. Just about anyone and everyone is for sale except for Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

The idea, according to those close to general manager Brad Treliving, is to build a Leafs team that can be more competitive come playoff time — better and tougher to play against — both stronger defensively and steadier in goal.

It’s a tall order for the GM, considering the Florida Panthers are playing for the Stanley Cup for the second straight year and Tampa was in the Cup final the three years prior to that. If the Leafs want to go deeper in the playoffs, the road goes through Florida, Tampa and Boston, teams they’ve struggled with in the past.

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The NHL knows it’s open season on Marner offers. How often is a 95-point, penalty-killing winger available? The Leafs won’t put the cart before the horse here. They will listen. If one of the offers meets their needs, then — and only then — will they involve Marner in the process and try to convince him why it’s in his best interest to look elsewhere.

If no deal for Marner can be completed — or he doesn’t allow one — it makes next season a greater challenge than expected. The Leafs need help in goal and on defence and, with next-to-no money to spend, what’s Treliving to do?

One year from now, Marner’s contract and that of captain John Tavares will expire, opening up $22 million in payroll, with an increasing salary cap and only $40 million committed. That’s when Leafs management — and not players — will be in control of the payroll and, by extension, the team.

But not until then.

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Panthers head coach Paul Maurice regales the media on Friday before the Stanley Cup final. GETTY IMAGES
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice regales the media on Friday before the Stanley Cup final. GETTY IMAGES

THIS AND THAT

If there was a Hall of Fame for news conferences, Paul Maurice would be a shoo-in. But it’s tough for an NHL coach to get Hall recognition. Joel Quenneville, Mike Keenan, Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, Darryl Sutter, Tom Watt and Bryan Murray all have Hall credentials, but no entrance to date. It’s a little easier for a GM to get in. Among those currently working, but already in the Hall: Lou Lamoriello, Ken Holland and Jim Rutherford. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the retired David Poile gets elected this year … The Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2024 later this month without sure things. Personally, I’d like to see Curtis Joseph and Alexander Mogilny acknowledged. After that, Pavel Datsyuk. After that, maybe Shea Weber. It’s the first time Datsyuk and Weber are eligible … And when does Bill Daly get the call? … How long has it been since the best offensive player in the NHL gone head-to-head with the best defensive centre for the Stanley Cup? This year, it’s Connor McDavid versus Aleksander Barkov. The last time it happened came in 2008 and 2009 when Sidney Crosby and Datsyuk went head-to-head in Cups won by Detroit and then Pittsburgh … Why Canadian television networks kowtow to the Maple Leafs, flaws and all: Game 7 in the Leafs-Boston series did more than five million viewers. Game 6 of Edmonton-Dallas in the Western Conference final did half that audience … If the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win — and who are we to doubt the commercials? — then I need to know this: What’s the easiest trophy to win? … We talk too much about shots on goal. We talk too much about shot attempts. Scotty Bowman thinks we need to talk more about scoring chances … Dallas was eliminated by Edmonton, not because it had too many shots without scoring, but because the Stars took too many weak shots that didn’t challenge Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner enough. I was surprised at how little quality offence was produced by the Stars in that series … The biggest change in these Cup playoffs: How well the Oilers have played without the puck. That’s used to be a built-in flaw with this team. It’s not anymore.

New Leafs associate coach Lane Lambert.
New Leafs associate coach Lane Lambert behind the bench of the New York Islanders in his previous head-coaching gig. AP file

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HEAR AND THERE

These numbers are sad, but true. It is 57 years since the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup and 57 years since they last played in a Cup final. Since then, 20 different teams have won NHL championships, 26 teams have played for the Cup. The only other teams not to play in a final besides Toronto post-1968 expansion: Arizona/Salt Lake, Minnesota, Columbus, Winnipeg and Seattle … In those 57 years, the Montreal Canadiens have won 10 Cups and been to the final 12 times … When I started covering the NHL in 1980, a Canadian team played or won the Cup in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990. Twice, in ’86 and ’90, Canadian teams played against each other for the Cup … No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup or the World Series since 1993 … Lane Lambert comes highly recommended to Craig Berube’s Leafs coaching staff. He was an associate coach of Barry Trotz with the Washington Capitals and then held the same title with Trotz and the New York Islanders, before winding up as head coach. I’m not sure what the exact difference between being an assistant coach and being an associate coach is, but Lambert likes the title. He’s an associate with the Leafs … Among those Lambert played with in his 17-year, five-league, professional career: Steve Yzerman, Darryl Sittler, Brad Park, Peter Stastny, Michel Goulet and Dale Hunter … True story about Panther coach Maurice: Years ago, he was coaching in an NHL all-star weekend when a famed broadcaster approached him. Because Maurice looked so young back then, the broadcaster mistook him for Teemu Selanne, who was playing in that all-star game. Maurice was with his parents at the event when the broadcaster asked, slowly and deliberately: “Teemu, do your parents speak English?” Maurice, not wanting to embarrass the man, answered: “Yes, yes they do.” The conversation continued. He did his best Teemu rather well … In the eight seasons prior to this breakout 57-goal campaign for Sam Reinhart, this son of a great former NHL player averaged just under 25 goals. Florida is going to pay Reinhart giant money for the one giant season. It might wind up as an overpay … In an absolute one-sided deal, Holland fleeced the Nashville Predators, giving up Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, a first-round draft pick and another pick for Mattias Ekholm, the steady hand, steady mind on defence for the Oilers. Edmonton doesn’t advance this far without Ekholm … Nashville used the first pick on Tanner Molendyk, who may play one day. We’re just not sure when.

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SCENE AND HEARD

This doesn’t happen often in baseball: Daulton Varsho has batted in every spot 1-to-9 in the Blue Jays lineup this season … The way the Blue Jays season has gone, the Jays could use Varsho hitting in all nine spots most nights … Why I don’t care for underlying numbers in baseball: I like reality. I believe in what I’m seeing, not what I hope to see .. So who screwed up on Alek Manoah? Manoah himself? The Blue Jays’ medical staff? His off-season training? The Jays need to understand how they’ve wasted two — now maybe three — seasons of Manoah’s career. And what comes after that? … It reminds me of an old sign I saw in a boxing gym: “Wasted talent is the oldest story in boxing.” … If you listen to all the gushing about Bowden Francis returning to the Blue Jays, you would think the Jays were bringing back Jimmy Key or Juan Guzman, not some late developer with 55 innings pitched in three attempts at being a big leaguer … When did the walk into the arena — for basketball and hockey — become a thing? Now it’s become a fashion show before every game — look at what Angel Reese is wearing? Don’t they look great? … The walk I like: The one that had Max Domi wearing a Hockey Night in Canada blazer just days after the passing of the legendary Bob Cole. Domi, by the way, is telling people he wants to return to the Leafs. At $4 million a year, he’s got a shot. At more than that, he’ll be looking to move on … Dallas traded for Chris Tanev near the deadline, figuring they were getting a rental player. Then the Stars fell in love with the defenceman. They want him back next year and for years after that. Whether they can get it done, that’s the question … You don’t see stories like this one often. There are no owners in the PWHL. But Natalie Darwitz is out as GM of the Minnesota champions, just days after carrying the Walter Cup. The PWHL draft is on Monday. Darwitz has been bounced — by whom, exactly, we don’t know — but the league makes all calls on everything. Apparently, coach Ken Klee, the former NHL defenceman, won a power struggle here … Should the Boston Celtics win the NBA title this year, which is highly probable, that will be 13 major league titles for Boston since 2000. That’s six for the Patriots, four for the Red Sox, one for the Bruins and potentially two for the Celtics. By comparison, no World Series wins for the Jays, no Cups for the Leafs, one title for the Raptors and four for the Argos in a nine-team league.

Former Blue Jays utility man Cavan Biggio slides past Oakland catcher Carlos Perez in a game last season. In a surprising move, the Jays designated Biggio for assignment. GETTY IMAGES FILE
Former Blue Jays utility man Cavan Biggio slides past Oakland catcher Carlos Perez in a game last season. In a surprising move, the Jays designated Biggio for assignment. GETTY IMAGES FILE

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AND ANOTHER THING

Department of dumb, dumber and dumbest: The U.S. Olympic basketball team has been named and Caitlin Clark is not on the roster. The biggest name in the sport is being left at home and the announcement was made one day after Clark popped in 30 points for the Indiana Fever … Department of shocking: The three letters that come after Cavan Biggio’s name: DFA. He has never been a great Blue Jay, but he has been a versatile and, occasionally, valuable one. He should not have been the player bounced in this season going nowhere … That DFA had to hurt manager John Schneider: Biggio played for Schneider in Dunedin, New Hampshire and Toronto. The manager values those relationships … Bill Scott is the assistant general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s the son of longtime football and hockey agent Gil Scott … Shouldn’t Chris Pronger be sitting on a hockey panel on a network somewhere, talking Stanley Cup and telling stories? … The new television deals will pay the NBA somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6.9 billion a season. The little sister NHL takes in $625 million US from American TV on an annual basis. And here’s what makes no sense to me: Game 1 of the NBA Finals had an audience of just over 10 million on American TV. The U.S. has 10 times Canada’s population. An audience of 1 million in Canada — one-tenth of the U.S. watchers — would be considered tiny for a Stanley Cup final game … When I listen to Chris Cuthbert or Rod Smith or someone like Dan Shulman broadcasting sports, I don’t think of them as male broadcasters. I just think of them as great broadcasters. Same with Doris Burke or Mina Kimes or Cheryl Pounder or Emily Kaplan. When you’re terrific at what you do, gender doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. And if you’re working on network television at the highest level, you should be great. If you’re not, you shouldn’t be there, no matter what gender you happen to be … Smart guy, Shawne Merriman, the former NFL star. Not only is he killing it with his Lights Out Xtreme fighting promotions — sort of a UFC farm league — but he now has a free streaming app called Lights Out Sports, which will make sports, movies and television free on your phones around the world. Not that I understand the technology of how any of that works … Happy birthday to Zach Hyman (32), Bryan McCabe (49), Allen Iverson (49), Wally Gabler (80), Dave Parker (73), Dick Vitale (85), Liv Morgan (30), Bryant Reaves (51) and Thomas Steen (62) … And hey, whatever became of Olli Jokinen?

ssimmons@postmedia.com

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