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Can the Leafs find a new home for Komisarek?

Toronto Maple Leafs' Mike Komisarek

Darren Calabrese/THE CANADIAN PRESS

In a three and a half year span during which the Toronto Maple Leafs have played 268 regular-season games, he has been in the lineup for just 158 of them, missing more than 40 per cent of action due to injuries or – more often of late – sitting as a healthy scratch.

And it's really not certain just when (or if) Mike Komisarek will draw back into the Leafs lineup.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had opened the crack for the veteran a little to start the season, playing him in four of Toronto's first eight games in third pairing minutes.

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The past month, however, Komisarek has been relegated to the press box full time in favour of younger, cheaper players, and there is now talk around the league that he would welcome a change of scenery.

Which, at this point, can't come as a surprise, despite the fact he has a no-movement clause attached to the $22.5-million deal he signed as a free agent in 2009.

"Mike Komisarek gave Leafs a list of 12 teams he'd accept a trade to, but I'm told he'd pretty much accept a trade anywhere," St. Louis-based broadcaster Andy Strickland posted on Twitter on Saturday. "Wants to play."

Komisarek's contract is such that he has to provide that list of 12 teams every June 15, so that part is not exactly news, but if he is willing to play anywhere, league wide, that may give Leafs GM Dave Nonis a couple more options to pursue.

Toronto would likely have to assume the max salary they're allowed to (50 per cent, or $2.25-million annually) to move him – especially given how little Komisarek has played – and even then it may be difficult to find a home for him.

Being in limbo like this is a difficult situation for the player, too, as regardless of the money involved, this is hardly what Komisarek wanted when he chose Toronto as a free agent in the summer of 2009.

He was asked about the rumours after practice on Sunday and wasn't revealing much.

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"I'm not going to be commenting on what someone in St. Louis said so," he said. "I don't even know the guy or why he would say that. I'm curious to see where you guys get your stuff. That's all I can say at this time.

"You want to play and you want to contribute; that's the biggest thing. You don't want to be a passenger; you want to be helping the team out. I can just worry about what I can control and that's coming to the rink with a positive attitude and working my butt off.

"I've got to be ready for when an opportunity comes – when and where that is, who knows? We'll see how it unfolds. Right now I'm just taking it day by day."

Not exactly the words of a player dying to stay in Toronto.

The likely endgame for all of this is Komisarek getting one of the Leafs two compliance buyouts in the summer, especially given the organization likely doesn't want to carry the "dead" cap space a trade would leave them with through the end of the 2013-14 season.

Until then, however, the team will have to carry Komisarek on their 23-man roster, making it unfortunate for both sides that the Leafs didn't simply go the Wade Redden / Scott Gomez route with his contract prior to the season.

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Komisarek's no-movement clause means he cannot be placed on waivers or demoted to the AHL, even with a roster crunch with injured forwards Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul getting close to returning.

That leaves the Leafs with a tough decision in terms of who goes, as unless they waive or trade someone else, the only candidates to go down would be Korbinian Holzer, Leo Komarov or Frattin (temporarily to recover from the minor knee surgery he had).

Nonis declined to comment on Komisarek's situation on the weekend, saying only that they needed to make some sort of roster move to make room for Frattin, who is likely to play either Monday or Wednesday.

To Komisarek's credit, through all of this, he hasn't been a distraction to the team, remains popular with teammates and is a smiling face on the ice at practice everyday.

Asked about Komisarek and John-Michael Liles on Sunday, Carlyle praised the attitude of his two oldest players during their recent benchings.

"I've been in that situation before," Carlyle said, referencing his own playing career. "All you can ask is for people to tell you the truth. And if you can't handle the truth, then it's your fault.

"I think they've handled it like utmost professionals. It hasn't been one iota of negativity from either of those gentlemen."

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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