As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare for tonight’s matchup against the visiting Florida Panthers, there was a noticeable absence from the team’s gameday skate at the Air Canada Centre: Tyler Bozak.
This news, of course, sent Leafs Nation into a frenzy with everyone from seasoned journalists to armchair GM fans speculating that Bozak is in play on the trade market.
The 31-year-old pending unrestricted free-agent has been the subject of trade rumours for weeks now, with fans and analysts speculating on his future. Will he stay or will he go? Will Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello seek to cash in Bozak prior the the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline to recoup some future assets? Or will he hang onto Bozak for the stretch drive and the playoffs, but risk losing him for nothing in free-agency?
Today’s development had Leafs fans at a fever pitch. That is… until Mike Babcock took the mic.
Well… so much for that theory. With all the trade talk around the league these days, you can't blame Leafs fans for getting a little bit excited over a "maintenance day".
In any case, there's still a very realistic possibility that Bozak could be on the move before Monday's trade deadline. He, along with pending unrestricted free-agents James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov are certain to draw interest on the trade market. But again, it all comes down to the return and whether or not Lamoriello feels the return is worth hurting the Leafs' chances headed into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 31-year-old center has nine goals and 31 points in 60 games for the Leafs this season and has consistently been linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins in trade rumours. Where there's smoke, there's fire? Time will tell.