Nonis could have trouble trading Maple Leafs

There has been increased talk that the Toronto Maple Leafs should consider trading Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t scored a goal in 121 minutes and 13 seconds. And if things continue to go downhill, it could prompt general manager Dave Nonis to begin a roster overhaul.

However, that’s easier said than done.

According to NHL insider Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, Nonis and the Leafs will have difficulty pulling off a big move prior to the March 2 trade deadline.

“Because of the salary cap it’s always a difficult situation. The Maple Leafs will have to take a salary they don’t want,” Lavoie told The Jeff Blair Show Thursday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “I feel like those major deals need to be done close to the draft because the teams have more time to think about what they want. They have a better idea of where the salary cap will be next season.

“With the Canadian dollar — I’m going to use the word collapsing because that’s exactly what it’s doing — it’s not going to help. I don’t think the cap is going to be at $73 million next year…. It’s going to be tough to make major trades in the next few months.”

The Maple Leafs are in a precarious situation. They currently sit sixth in the Atlantic Division and five points out of a playoff spot, but with the all-star break approaching, this is typically the time of the season when management determines whether or not the team is a buyer or a seller.

Since firing Randy Carlyle on Jan. 6, the Maple Leafs are 1-3 and have been outscored 12-2 in the three losses, including back-to-back shutouts by the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. It doesn’t get easier for the Leafs on their western road trip as they visit the San Jose Sharks Thursday and St. Louis Blues Saturday.

If the Maple Leafs continue to take solace in moral victories rather than earning actual victories, it might be a sign that firing Carlyle wasn’t enough.

Sportsnet’s Damien Cox suggested Thursday that Brendan Shanahan should “blow up the Maple Leafs,” and it’s a sentiment disgruntled fans of the team have been echoing.

“Obviously, if you want to trade Phil Kessel, there’s a market for him,” Lavoie said. “I’m convinced there’s a market for Dion Phaneuf. There’s a market for a lot of the Maple Leafs players, but if you trade those guys for draft picks or whatever, is it going to be better?”

Lavoie pointed out that Kessel and Phanuef are in the early stages of long-term contracts, which makes it even more difficult to move them.

“Those players, they’re making so much money, cap-wise it’s so tough to put them in your system. Being a GM in the NHL right now it’s crazy,” Lavoie said. “You’re not going to be able to call the Chicago Blackhawks and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you take Kessel?’ ”

Lavoie added that James van Riemsdyk would garner significant interest from the 29 other teams, but it’s unlikely the Maple Leafs would put him on the trade block.

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