Leafs empty up the middle

Small piece by small piece, Brian Burke’s Maple Leafs are getting better.

But for every Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong the Leafs add, what becomes more apparent is just how weak this team is at centre, the most important position on a hockey club, other than goaltender.

Who won the last three Stanley Cups?

Islanders GM Garth Snow in discussions with agent of perennial 40-goal scorer Il

An NHL source confirmed Friday night that Islanders GM Garth Snow has held discussions with the agent for perennial 40-goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, the top unrestricted free agent on the market following a midseason trade to the Devils last season.

Flyers Exploring Trades for Gagne

The Flyers are in “exploratory” talks with at least one NHL club about trading Simon Gagne, who has a no-trade clause, according to one NHL source.

Sources said no trade is imminent, but Gagne has agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

Gagne, the Flyers et al., were asked to think about the deal over the July 4 weekend, sources said.

Hockeybuzz.com first reported that the Flyers had asked Gagne to waive his no-trade clause.

Kuleimin re-signs in Toronto

According to Darren Dregger, Nikolai Kulemin has agreed to a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The contract will pay Kulemin 2.35 million dollars per season.

Numbers suggest Bieksa trade in the works

Mike Gillis wants to wait until the dust settles from a successful foray on the first day of NHL free agency before deciding what to do about a glut of defencemen.

That dust may not take long to settle.