Rival clubs interested in Maple Leafs blueliner Jake Gardiner, a list of defensemen who could help the Leafs, and an update on Penguins d-man Matt Niskanen.

Rival clubs interested in Leafs d-man Jake Gardiner.

Rival clubs interested in Leafs d-man Jake Gardiner.

CBC.CA: Elliotte Friedman reports some clubs have spoken with the Toronto Maple Leafs regarding promising defenseman Jake Gardiner, who is off to a shaky start to this season. Friedman considers the enquiries more of a “feeling-out” process, rather than the Leafs actively shopping Gardiner. He does feel if the Leafs do move the young blueliner, it’ll be for “young talent or assets”, suggesting to look at clubs like Dallas, Florida or Minnesota.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think it’s too early to suggest Gardiner’s available, especially with the Leafs off to a good start (3-0-0). He’s young and will need time to mature, but he has considerable promise. If the Leafs give up on him too soon, they could regret it for years. Not surprising some teams have interest, but I’ll be shocked if the Leafs move him. Maybe that changes if the club is struggling later in the season and needs to address a serious depth issue. Not now.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran observed the Leafs have chased a stay-at-home defenseman since trading Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk, . While acknowledging it’s too early in the season to know which blueliners are available, he listed Anaheim’s Luca Sbisa and Bryan Allan, Carolina’s Tim Gleason, Nashville’s Kevin Klein, Calgary’s Shane O’Brien, Phoenix’s Derek Morris and Philadelphia’s Hal Gill as those the Leafs should keep an eye on this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As McGran noted, if any of these rearguards become available, it’ll be later in the season, depending upon their salaries, UFA status and which teams believe they’re playoff bound. In other words, mid-season at the earliest.

POST-GAZETTE.COM: Shelly Anderson reports Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen is already feeling very comfortable in his new role filling in for the injured Kris Letang.  He’s currently leading the team in points (3) and plus-minus, and is tied for the team lead in blocked shots. Niskanen acknowledged the trade rumors which dogged him during the off-season, claiming they never originated with the team but rather from fans and media. He acknowledged the Penguins’ limited cap space was behind the speculation, admitting the possibility it could still happen, but said he’s focused on his game and loves playing for the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Niskanen could get moved at some point in the season, but everything I’ve read and heard since September indicates management would rather keep him.  If he keeps playing as well as he has to start this season, he’ll become entrenched as an invaluable member of the Penguins defense.