Brian Burke addressed the media on a conference call Sunday night to talk about the 21 training camp cuts made as well as a few words on Nazem Kadri. Here are the highlights from his comments:
His thoughts on Kadri:
"I don't know why it is but... he's not playing anywhere near to the level he was expected to. I don't know why that is and he's running out of time. His comments seem to indicate he thinks he's got a lot more time. But he's running out of time here."
Burke said if Kadri doesn't make the Leafs, he would go to the minors, not junior (at least to start): "This is a guy who I think has learned everything he can learn in junior. He has to play at the next level -- if he doesn't make our team, which right now it's looking like he's not going to, then he starts with the Marlies for me. We'll meet organizationally on that, I may get overruled but I doubt it. Then we have nine games with the Marlies to decide to send him back. He can play nine games with the Marlies and still go back.
"This is not uncommon at all with a young player -- that there's a lot of hype, maybe a lot of pressure on a nearly hometown kid. Whatever the reasons. We haven't lost faith at all in Nazem Kadri. But his play right now indicates he's not ready to contribute at this level."
On what will happen at centre without Kadri:
Burke: "We're not out of options. No one's ever said we were going with this group. We said we'd go to camp with this group. We're still in great position for waiver claims, we've still got our scouts out scouring, we haven't ruled out doing something. But we're very pleased with the play of Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski. They both had really good camps. Then after that, there are guys who have had individual games and shown strength, guys who haven't played well, so we may need to augment at centre. It's not a priority for us now -- we're just kind of keeping our eyes and ears open."
The situation on defence:
Burke said he believes Leafs will have eight defencemen on the roster to start the season. He added that Brett Lebda, nursing a shoulder injury, may not be available opening night.
Lebda's injury is more serious than the shoulder injury Matt Lashoff has. Lebda is out 2-3 weeks, doesn't need surgery; Lashoff is 7-10 days, no surgery there either. Jeff Finger, meanwhile, is close to returning from a knee injury and will play in preseason games. Lebda, Lashoff and Finger will battle to be among those eight defencemen, but one will likely miss out.
On Finger and speculation he could be demoted:
Burke: "We don't have any cap issues if Kadri isn't on our team. You're all calculating the cap with Nazem in there. If he's not on our team, we don't have a cap issue. This speculation that Jeff Finger has been earmarked for assignment I don't think is fair to Jeff. It's not what a professional athlete who signs as a free agent is entitled to. I think he's entitled to a fair look. You can't come in with a preconceived notion that that's how you're going solve your cap issue. That's not fair to the player. You start doing stuff like that then players aren't going sign with your organization. I think you all know we place a premium on fairness with the players. So our plan would be to get him in and see what he can do."
On Sjostrom's shoulder injury recovery:
He is supposed to be back for one or both of the Detroit exhibition games (and maybe sooner). Cleared for contact and could play in a few days.
On Wayne Primeau being released:
"Well it's a sad day for us. I think Wayne worked really hard for our team last year. I think he worked really hard to prepare for the season and through training camp. I feel we need to move in a different direction. He was told in no uncertain terms coming into camp that that was our feeling. And nothing he did, despite working hard, has changed my view on that.
"Dave Poulin talked to him. I will speak to him later this evening. We're going to send an email to all the teams tomorrow informing them that he's available and how hard he worked and what a good guy he is. Hopefully we can help him get something. But I think for the direction we're going, we need to go in a different direction."
On the juniors that were returned to their teams:
Burke says Brad Ross had a groin injury coming out of junior camp and then a hip flexor and Sam Carrick had a hip flexor. "They didn't get to demonstrate what they can do." Burke added he was impressed with Jesse Blacker and Andrew Crescenzi in camp.