It's the only place to play

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

By having Matt Stajan and Carlo Colaiacovo room together, the Maple Leafs are putting the future of their franchise under one roof.

Too bad it won't be in Toronto.

After facing each other countless times during their minor hockey days in Mississauga and later in the Ontario Hockey League, the two prospects hoped to adorn Toronto Maple Leafs blue this season.

They will be teammates all right, but not in the place they expected.

NHL ON HOLD

With the NHL on hold over a new collective bargaining agreement, Stajan and Colaiacovo find themselves on the verge of living in Newfoundland and playing for the St. John's Maple Leafs of the American Hockey League in the coming months.

Stajan, whose rise to prominence in Toronto last season wowed the Leafs brass, was looked upon to fill a more significant role for Pat Quinn's team in 2004-05.

But when the NHL locked out the players, Stajan had little choice but to report to St. John's. Because the Leafs did not require Stajan to clear waivers before assigning him, sending him to the farm was an easy decision for management.

Asked if he felt uncomfortable playing on the Rock at a time when his Toronto teammates were locked out, Stajan said the situation was tolerable.

"The union wants the young guys playing, whether it's in Europe or the AHL," he said. "It's kind of weird coming to camp and not seeing all the big names, but I know a lot of the prospects in the organization. I just want to go there and play hard and help the team, whether it's putting up points or shutting down the other team's top line.

"I don't look at it like I'm going to go in and dominate. I'll just treat it as another league and do my job and do what the coach wants me to do."

Stajan's enthusiam was echoed by Colaiacovo.

"I thought this might be my year to play in Toronto, but you just make the best of the situation," he said.

While Colaiacovo and Stajan had few options but to report to the Rock, the same can't be said for veteran journeymen Nathan Perrott and Clarke Wilm. The two forwards, who were on Toronto's playoff roster last spring, were under no obligation to head to the farm, but decided on their own to sign AHL contracts.

"This was the best place for my development," Perrott said. "Maybe its not the best situation for other guys. For me, it's a chance to stay in shape and improve my game."

Added Wilm: "The way I look at it, I'm still playing. I don't look at it as a (demotion)."

Another player expected to be in Toronto this season was goalie Mikael Tellqvist, who admitted he spoke with Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League during the summer.

"There were discussions, but I feel I still can learn a lot in St. John's," he said. "The Leafs wanted me back and that was my mindset.

"I thought I had a good chance to make Toronto this season but, because of the labour situation, what can you do?"


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