Blake could bolt
Pre-deadline deals with others could hurt Avs' pursuit of Blake
By Terry Koshan and Dave Fuller, SLAM! Sports
The Maple Leafs may be closer to acquiring elite defenceman Rob Blake than they know -- providing they can afford him.
Blake, set to become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday, has been hoping to re-sign with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche before then.
But his signing is predicated on Colorado being able to secure new deals with Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, who also will become unfettered free agents this weekend. Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said earlier this week he has been trying to sign Sakic, Roy and Blake as well as another unrestricted free agent, Jon Klemm.
"Colorado low-balled Joe and neither Blake nor Roy have received an offer from Colorado," an NHL source said Thursday. "Rob, Joe and Patrick decided they all wanted to stay in Colorado, providing Colorado wanted to bring them all back. If not, each was going to shop around."
Toronto would be at the top of Blake's shopping list -- a fact The Toronto Sun's Al Strachan reported last February when Blake, 31, a native of Simcoe, Ont., was a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings gave Toronto, Colorado and several other teams permission to negotiate a future deal with Blake before the March 13 trading deadline.
The Leafs, according to another source, dropped out after Blake turned down their five-year, $44-million pitch.
The Leafs, according to another source, aren't keen on upping the ante now, but might if Blake is willing to defer part of his contract. Every contract Blake signed during his 11 seasons with the Kings included deferred money.
Blake is thought to be looking for Chris Pronger-type money -- about $10 million a season.
Blake could not be reached for comment.