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Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis optimistic about Luke Schenn and Matthew Lombardi

Aug 18, 2011, 9:46 PM EDT

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Even with the limitations of a salary cap ceiling, the NHL’s richest teams still enjoy some advantages thanks to their superior resources. When it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, they have the money to make their worst contract choices (such as Cristobal Huet, Wade Redden and Chris Drury) go away. The Toronto Maple Leafs and their GM Brian Burke haven’t taken frequent advantage of CBA loopholes like some of their deep-pocketed peers, but they enjoy the unusual advantage of employing a handful of former NHL general managers as assistants.

That group includes former Atlanta Thrashers executive Rick Dudley and former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who discussed two important issues on TSN 1050 today: Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations and the status of recently acquired center Matthew Lombardi.

Nonis said that he expects the team to come to terms with Schenn before Toronto’s training camp begins on September 16. Schenn is represented by agent Don Meehan, whose clients have been the focus of many of this off-season’s critical contract talks.

“Contracts sometimes take a little longer to get done,” Nonis said in the one-on-one interview. “This isn’t the first one that’s gone into late August.

“When [your] starting point is the player wants to be here and the team wants to have him, usually you find a way to get it done.”

For a little more about Schenn’s negotiations, check out his optimistic outlook on the discussions and another update that focuses on his contributions to the Maple Leafs.

As usual with players dealing with concussion-related injuries, Nonis didn’t give a clear timeline for Lombardi’s return to NHL action (he played just two games in the 2010-11 season). That being said, he seemed optimistic about the situation and even downplayed the concussions issues, pointing to the other issues Lombardi is dealing with.

“We’re very comfortable that he’s on his way back, that the concussion isn’t an issue at this point,” explained Nonis. “But there’s a lot of things that happen when you have that kind of injury; there’s neck issues, there’s nerve issues and those all have to be addressed.

“With Matthew, there is no timetable. He’s getting better. He’s been feeling very good. His workouts have increased in duration and intensity, but he won’t be playing for us until he’s ready to play. So whether that’s a month or six months, who knows when that’s going to be. We’re not going to rush him, but we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to get him ready and prepared.”

Lombardi might not be a star player, but he’s a speedy, versatile center. His murky health is one reason why the Leafs’ group of centers seem primed to be both fragile and exciting in 2011-12. Keeping their sturdy young defenseman Schenn in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either.

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