TORONTO – Two hours before the NHL trade deadline, Brian Burke knew in all likelihood he wouldn’t be making a splash.
“We had some lines in the water. We worked on a bunch of things but none of the pricetags for the things that we worked on made sense,” the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager told media gathered at Air Canada Centre shortly after Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline came and went.
“We didn’t get a bite that made sense. We did most of our major surgery before we got (to today).”
Burke did make a minor deal Monday, sending forward John Mitchell to the New York Rangers for a 2012 seventh-round pick. The quiet deadline day was nothing like the flurry of activity in recent weeks that saw Burke ship three veterans out of town.
The Maple Leafs started their roster overhaul by sending defenceman Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim on Feb. 9 for Joffrey Lupul and a prospect before dealing Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia on Feb. 14 for first- and third-round picks in this year’s draft.
But Burke’s biggest move came Feb. 18 when he traded veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle to Boston for prospect Joe Colborne, a first-round pick in 2011 and a conditional second-round pick in 2012.
The Maple Leafs currently sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, four points behind eighth-place Carolina. Despite his team’s recent playoff push, Burke is wary of sacrificing too much on deadline day.
“We set the prices before we go into these things, or else you overpay,” Burke said. “We had set values on all of the assets that we had that we were willing to talk about.
“We set prices on all the assets we were looking to acquire and when those prices weren’t met, then we sit tight.”
Burke says he doesn’t know if another deal was ever close, adding there wasn’t the back-and-forth discussions that usually come when a trade looks imminent.
“You make a call and the other GM is mulling it over and says he’ll call you back, so sometimes you don’t know how close it is,” Burke said. “You don’t know if they had a heated debate in the boardroom or if they had a good laugh over what you proposed—you don’t know.”
There was talk in the leadup to the deadline that the Maple Leafs might look at trading winger Clarke MacArthur if an agreement on a new contract can’t be reached.
The 25-year-old MacArthur, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent July 1, is having a breakout year with Toronto, already setting career-highs in goals (19) and assists (29) while playing on a line with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikail Grabovski.
Burke says he had several trade offers for MacArthur but instead of pulling the trigger decided to continue negotiations on an extension.
“This is a hard value to fix, where a player has had a breakthrough year. So what’s he worth?” Burke asked. “Is he a 70-point player or is he a 40-point player? Is he what he’s been to this point, or is this what we’re going to get from now on? It’s not an easy process.”
Notes: Burke said rookie goaltender James Reimer should be at practice Tuesday after getting kneed in the head in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Atlanta. J-S Giguere surrendered all three Thrashers goals in relief. … The 26-year-old Mitchell had been playing for Toronto’s AHL team. He spent his entire career with the Maple Leafs organization after being a fifth-round draft pick in 2003. In 159 career NHL games, he has 20 goals and 55 points.