GM: Leafs well-prepared

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson does not have first-hand knowledge of what the new collective bargaining agreement will contain but is ready to meet the challenges of the new-look NHL head on.

"We have been preparing for it for two years," Ferguson said. "We are ready to compete, make no mistake."

The only competing Ferguson will be doing in the early stages of the post-lockout NHL is with himself. With the probability of a salary cap in the range of $35 million-$40 million US, Ferguson has eight players under contract to the tune of $26.6 million. It's believed he will buy out Owen Nolan, who is slated to make $5.6 million after the 24% salary rollback that almost certainly will be part of the CBA.

Ferguson likely won't have much wiggle room this summer, but even with the restrictions of a salary cap, he is confident the Leafs will be able to attract and sign top-drawer players.

"I know this is as desirable as there is in the world to play hockey,"Ferguson said. "(Playing) in front of a packed house every night, the type of media coverage we get on hockey's biggest stage, there are a host of reasons why we will attract the top players to augment our lineup."

Having said that, however, Ferguson indicated that one reason he is glad to have the proven Paul Maurice behind the bench of the AHL Marlies is the benefit for the development of players. Hence, a greater emphasis in that area means the Leafs, if Maurice does that part of the job well, won't have to try to lure big names to Toronto.

"This is an area that we have chosen to re-allocate our funds and invest wisely in our future," Ferguson said.

Ferguson is optimistic an agreement between the NHL and its players' association is around the corner.

"My sense is it certainly appears everything is going in the right direction," Ferguson said. "(The new NHL) will be sustained competitiveness. When everybody competes under a model that no one has before, there is going to be some change. We won't know until we get playing what it will mean to us."


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