Sid talk is on hold

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Fantasizing about Sidney Crosby in a Toronto Marlies uniform and getting him here are two different things.

With time running out for the locked-out National Hockey League to come up with an equitable draft format to determine Crosby's status, the Rimouski junior star is going to be looking to cash in somewhere for 2005-06.

Since late March, Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson has said he has been studying his options about luring Crosby to Toronto's new American Hockey League address at the 9,000-seat Ricoh Coliseum.

Ferguson has said in the past he would pursue Crosby only after the season and only if he does, in fact, come on to the open market.

Meanwhile, Troy Crosby, Sidney's father, said yesterday that his son hasn't brought up the idea of playing in Toronto.

"No, never," Troy said with a laugh. "Are you kidding? I don't know where that came from. Maybe (agent) Pat (Brisson) and John have been talking, I don't know. Of course, we will look at different options, but we will start to think about it in June. When the season begins, of course we hope the NHL is back.

"This is not something Sidney is focused on right now and he doesn't want to be bothered about it. He is thinking about Rimouski and nothing else."

Ferguson, however, is not alone. Other AHL teams with big buildings to fill -- such as the Chicago Wolves and Philadelphia Phantoms, who can seat more than 16,000 -- also are interested.

Then there is the cost of signing Crosby, which could climb into seven-figures.

"We're open to hearing anything our general managers (Ferguson and Raptors' Rob Babcock) bring to us," Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said yesterday. "If John thought (Crosby) was viable, we'd look into it. To date, he has not approached us."

Crosby's value in this market -- with his five-year, multi-million-dollar Reebok sponsorship deal -- is tantalizing.

"If I'm representing Crosby, I'd want to hit a home run with the Marlies," a prominent player agent said yesterday. "You're definitely not talking a standard AHL contract (an estimated $75,000 to $200,000 US). Would it be in the millions? Ask Pat Brisson."

Though Brisson often complains about the media distracting Crosby from leading Rimouski to the Memorial Cup, he is just as responsible for keeping the buzz about his pro career in the spotlight. Recently, he said Crosby would strongly consider starting his career in Europe, even if the lockout was settled, because of an anticipated drop in NHL rookie salaries.

On the Marlies' coaching front, Peter DeBoer and Greg Gilbert appear to remain frontrunners, but Ferguson said he is no rush.

"It's more important to find the right man than to (act quickly)," he said.

Maple Leafs assistant coach Keith Acton politely declined to put his name in the mix when contacted yesterday.


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