Aug 30, 2011, 5:45 PM EDT
By almost every account, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their trade with the Nashville Predators simply by unloading Brett Lebda in exchange for useful offensive defenseman Cody Franson. That being said, Matthew Lombardi‘s health will determine if Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke hit a single or a home run.
The speedy and versatile center is trying to fight back from concussion problems that sidelined him from all but two games last season. While Lombardi still has a long way to go – Burke admits that he probably won’t be ready for the first day of training camp – The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran reports that Lombardi has been declared symptom-free.
Again, it’s important to temper some of the excitement with realistic expectations. Lombardi isn’t skating yet – he’s just been cleared for full activity on an exercise bike. Going from the bike to skating alone to being subjected to full-contact regular season hockey requires quite a few steps.
Still, it’s heartening to hear that he’s at least making progress.
“He is cleared for full activity on the bike,” Burke said in a phone interview. “The last report I got he was doing 20-plus minutes without symptoms. He has been declared symptom-free and now it’s about getting the workload back up.”
With concussions, teams know there are no guarantees. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had advanced further than Lombardi — skating at about 90 per cent — but recently is reported to have suffered a setback. Lombardi is not skating.
“I don’t believe he will be there for the first day of training camp,” said Burke. “He may, but it’s not clear he will. But we’re very pleased with his progress.”
In other Maple Leafs news, Burke spoke a bit about Luke Schenn‘s prolonged contract negotiations. McGran reports that the restricted free agent’s representative Don Meehan said that he expects to meet with the Leafs later this week while Burke is optimistic about a deal getting done.
Burke said fans shouldn’t be concerned that Schenn hasn’t yet inked a deal.
“We’ve had some discussions,” said Burke. “We remain optimistic that we’ll sign him before camp.”
A training camp deadline is a wise one to set for Schenn and other noteworthy RFAs, such as Drew Doughty. The Maple Leafs have reasons to be optimistic going into training camp in a September, but getting Schenn under contract and Lombardi closer to 100 percent health would make the future that much brighter.
(H/T to On the Forecheck.)
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