Aging veterans, including several former members of the Maple Leafs, are being dangled as trade bait by NHL general managers who are all but formally conceding that their clubs already have fallen out of playoff contention.

The clubs willing to complete deals with contenders for youngsters are the Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues. The players on the trade block include Curtis Joseph, Owen Nolan, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Comrie from Phoenix; Gary Roberts, Martin Gelinas and Josef Stumpel from Florida, and, Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin and Radek Dvorak from St. Louis.

•There’s a story making the rounds that Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson apologized to an opponent recently for a cheap shot and then was promptly scolded by Senators coach Bryan Murray for being too nice ... Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter is a vociferous fan of Philadelphia’s hockey team so the Flyers invited him the other day to ride on their Zamboni and sit on the bench with them during pre-game warmups ... Please note that I’ll be launching a weekly NHL Report in a couple of days, exclusively here on the Metro News website.


•Look for Charlie Taaffe, former Montreal Alouettes head coach, to return to the CFL soon from the U.S. college ranks and be hired as the new head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats ... Gary Matthews Sr., former batting coach and broadcaster with the Blue Jays, has been hired as a radio analyst for the Phillies. His son recently signed with the Angels for a truckload of dough ... Speaking of the Phils, they’ll be interviewing Jeffrey Maier for a front-office position. You may remember Maier as the kid who skipped school in New York and interfered with a ball during a Yankees playoff game in 1996. He’s 23 now ... Strong rumblings out of Portland suggest that the Trail Blazers are about to trade centre/forward Jamaal Magloire. The Toronto native, according to the rumblings, could be joining his pal, Vince Carter, with the New Jersey Nets in a swap for centre Jason Collins.

•The wife of the Houston Rockets’ owner is indirectly responsible for the NBA’s controversial switch to a new basketball, according to several U.S. reporters.

They’re passing on word that Nanci Alexander, wife of Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, suggested using the new ball to NBA commissioner David Stern because she is an avid animal-rights supporter. The reporters say Nanci persuaded the commish to replace the customary leather ball because the new one is composed of animal-free material.

Most NBA players abhor the new ball, to the point where they filed charges last week of unfair-labour practice against the NBA.

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