Parenteau’s revived play may take him out of Toronto

Jonathan Bernier stopped 29 shots as the Toronto Maple Leafs ended a four-game skid with a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

P.A. Parenteau spoke in the morning about how much he has enjoyed being a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Then he went out in the evening and may have punched his own ticket out of town.

Parenteau, a 32-year-old former ninth-round pick who says he’s finally untangled the mystery of being a consistent, productive NHLer, was terrific Thursday night with a goal and an assist in Toronto’s 3-1 triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes.

His third period goal off a pretty feed from Nazem Kadri was his 16th of the season, doubling his total from last year in Montreal, and came on the same night 17-goal scorer Andrew Ladd was traded from Winnipeg to Chicago for a first round pick and a top prospect.

While most wouldn’t suggest Ladd and Parenteau have the same market value, Parenteau has played surprisingly well for the Leafs this season, rescuing his fading career, and could clearly fetch something noteworthy before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Given his production, a second round pick certainly doesn’t seem out of the question.

Before the game, he praised the Leafs and head coach Mike Babcock for getting him to “play the right way,” and afterwards reiterated that even if Toronto does trade him, he’d be more than willing to consider re-signing with the club this summer.

“I think they’ve already decided if they’re going to trade me,” he said. ““It’s been a few weeks now that we’ve been talking about it. It’s no different. I’ll just try to think about the game Saturday and go from there.”

Ah yes, Saturday. That’s in Montreal against the Habs, a team that bought Parenteau out of the final year of his $4-million-per-season contract last summer, taking a $1.33-million hit on their salary cap this year and next just to be rid of him.

A concussion set Parenteau back last season, and he just couldn’t make it work with coach Michel Therrien, who as the season progressed gave his ice time away to Dale Wiese.

The Leafs gave him a chance to resuscitate his career, which really didn’t start until almost a decade after he was drafted into the NHL. After a slow start last fall, he’s done just that.

“I made it (to the NHL) pretty late,” said Parenteau, who has a good shot at topping his career high of 20 goals. “I feel like I have a lot left in the tank, hopefully the rest of the league and the Leafs see it that way, too.”

Babcock pulled no punches when asked whether it took a while for Parenteau to gain his trust.

“I was just straight up front with him, told him what he had to do,” said the Leaf head coach. “Told him he had to get to work. Two coaches before couldn’t be wrong. You gotta take it upon yourself and earn your way. He did that. He got in shape and got skating. And now he’s an important player for us.”

Parenteau picked up an assist on a pretty two-on-one with Josh Leivo, who has scored in every game since being recalled from the AHL four games ago. Leivo, who played seven NHL games in the 2013-14 season and nine the year after, joined Parenteau on the rush like he’d been shot out of a cannon, and buried a shot behind Cam Ward in the Carolina net.

“I think I’m a little less hesitant this time up,” said Leivo. “Maybe before I was thinking a little too much.”

It was a costly, crushing defeat for the Canes -- a loss to a Toronto team left shorthanded by trades and injuries, and had 10 players in the lineup who played in the AHL this season. Heck, Oiler castoff Martin Marincin was called upon to play 25 minutes on the depleted Leafs' blueline against the Canes.

While most of the talk going into the game was about Carolina’s high-profile free agents like Ward and captain Eric Staal and their status going into the deadline, Parenteau was the player who ended up looking like he’d be of the most use to another team.

Carolina GM Ron Francis, who was himself dealt to Toronto in a deadline deal back in ’04, was not on the trip, and he has some tough decisions to make by Monday. Staal didn’t talk to reporters in the morning or after the game.

Head coach Bill Peters acknowledged the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the team has been a distraction.

“Probably. That’s human nature to a certain degree,” said Peters. “We’re right there. We’re in the hunt. If you want to keep it together you’ve got to continue to get points.

"If you’re not winning you’re not keeping up. Even when you do, you don’t gain a bunch of ground. When you start losing hockey games, you fall out of it pretty quick. We have to find a way to bounce back (Friday) against Boston.”

Both Eric Staal and his brother Jordan were gone from the game before it was over after getting involved in some chippy play with Kadri.

“You wonder where it was early,” said Peters of the brothers roughhousing.

Parenteau has a wife and two children, aged six and two, and said they’ll stay in Toronto for the rest of the season even if he has to pack and move on.

“I try not to think about it. I’m aware it’s out there,” he said. "I don’t know. It’s up to them. I just try to do my best when I’m out there. Try to skate and make some plays."

Babcock said he didn’t have mixed emotions about seeing a player like Parenteau breathe new life into his career, and then possibly be traded away.

“My job is to help all of them be the best they can possibly be,” he said. “So I’m trying to do that. And then whatever’s best for the organization...we don’t confuse any of that stuff. It’s all business.

“Look, he wouldn’t even be talked about if he wasn’t playing any good. So obviously he’s setting himself up to play longer.”

It just might not be much longer in Toronto. Not this season, anyway.