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Is Mike Foligno an ex-Sabre? Are Christian Ruuttu and Benoit Hogue on their way to Toronto? Is Al Iafrate coming to Buffalo?

The misfortunes that plague the Buffalo Sabres only add to the rumor mills, and in recent days certain Sabres have been subject to big ones.

A report in the Toronto Sun Thursday speculated on a deal that would send troubled Toronto defenseman Al Iafrate to Buffalo for Ruuttu and Hogue.

WGRZ-TV reported Wednesday that Foligno's days as a Sabre are numbered and that he no longer figures in the team's plans. The News Thursday learned that Buffalo recently engaged the New York Islanders in trade conversation and that Winnipeg General Manager Mike Smith, Toronto General Manager Floyd Smith and Quebec General Manager Pierre Page were all in town Wednesday. Former Quebec coach Andre Savard, now a Nordiques scout, was also here Wednesday.

While most of the above were here to watch the Soviets, Sabres General Manager Gerry Meehan on Thursday acknowledged that he has had contacts with Floyd Smith and that Iafrate's name did surface, but Meehan said he would not add to any speculation about a possible deal.

It is known that Iafrate has been shopped to a number of teams, including Edmonton, Philadelphia, Boston and Hartford as well as Buffalo.

A source in Toronto told The News that Iafrate-to-Buffalo talks have heated up in recent days with Buffalo, not Toronto, taking the initiative in discussions.

However, a two-for-one deal is rated as risky, according to Toronto sources who maintain that Iafrate is currently beset with personal problems and may not be the player he was a season ago. The big defenseman last season went through a difficult divorce. Two weeks ago, he was named in a paternity suit by a woman from St. Louis.

A Foligno trade revives an almost season-long scenario. Foligno was linked to trade rumors involving Detroit and Los Angeles last month, but those rumors cooled after Donald Audette was injured and Foligno seemed to find a spot on Dale Hawerchuk's left wing.

There was speculation Thursday that Foligno would no longer even dress for a Sabres game, but Sabres coach Rick Dudley said he had not been told anything about playing or not playing the team captain.

Meehan said he would not discuss any trade rumors, especially regarding Foligno. He said he was angry with the fact that Foligno's name continues to be bandied about by the media. Meehan, however, did not rule out any trade possibilities now or in the near future.

Foligno Thursday said he was tired of all the speculation and limited his statements to questions about team problems and the recent inability to win.

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