A minors setback

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

AS MANY NHL players wonder what they are going to do with themselves in the event of a long lockout, Matt Stajan has no such worries. Stajan, who had 27 points in 69 games as a rookie with the Maple Leafs last season, didn't have to clear waivers and yesterday officially was sent to St. John's of the American Hockey League. The 20-year-old centre made some nice steps in the NHL in 2003-04 but doesn't view the AHL as a place where he will be stagnant.

"(The lockout) is not good for anybody, but I'll make the most of St. John's and I am looking forward to playing there," said Stajan, who will make a fraction of the $825,000 US he could earn with the Leafs this season.

"Just sitting out and not playing wouldn't do me any good. I'm at the age where I need to play to develop properly. The AHL is a good league but I hope I am just there for a bit."

That would mean the lockout would have to be a short one, a scenario that few are predicting. Fellow Leafs Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker are in the prime of their NHL lives, but are willing to lose a full season if it helps the NHL Players' Association get what it perceives to be a fair collective bargaining agreement with the NHL.

"It's going to be a long wait, because we are not going to negotiate a salary cap," McCabe, the Leafs' NHLPA representative, said from his home on Long Island, N.Y. "In our (most recent) proposal, we made a lot of concessions, but all we hear is cap, cap, cap. How much more can we concede? We can't negotiate against ourselves."

Tucker has been skating again after having surgery to repair an abdomen/groin injury earlier this summer.

He would love to be reporting to training camp, but spending time at his Toronto home with his daughter, Owynn, and son, Cole, is not a bad alternative.

"My children are excited," Tucker said. "We know this has been coming for a while and now we'll deal with it. But compromise (between the NHL and NHLPA) is a nice word.

"I grew up on a farm and my dad never did a deal that was not fair for everybody."


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