The first message left on Michael Peca's phone yesterday morning came from his buddy Jason Blake.
Blake, the Maple Leafs' marquee free-agent pick-up this summer, had hoped that Peca would be retained by Toronto for the new season. The two men became best friends while with the New York Islanders and would have loved a Leafs reunion.
"It would have been awesome to play with Michael again, but that's life in hockey" Blake said of Peca, who is about to become a Columbus Blue Jacket. "He is such a great leader."
Peca, 33, said he still has one regret about his short stint with the Leafs.
"I really wanted to win a Stanley Cup with my home- town team," said Peca, who undergoes a physical in Columbus today. "It would have been great to be in Toronto with Jason but we talked all summer and he knew it was unlikely."
Just 35 games into his life as a Leaf, Peca broke a leg during a collision with Blackhawks' Jim Vandermeer, ending his season.
With the Leafs having little wiggle room under the salary cap, Peca thought he was going to become a New York Ranger. But the deal did not materialize "for some reason" and the Jackets acted quickly.
While Peca's base salary will be $1.3 million US this season with the Jackets, the deal could be worth almost $2 million if he meets certain incentives.