Nolan injury clouds buyout plan

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

A knee injury suffered by Owen Nolan in March of 2004 may create a headache for the Maple Leafs and their expected plans to buy him out.

Nolan is slated to have his right knee examined by Dr. Tony Miniaci in Cleveland on Monday, and it's expected Nolan will have surgery the following day.

Under the provisions of the old collective bargaining agreement -- and presumably under the terms of the new one -- injured players can't be bought out at two-thirds of their contracts. Though no one from the Leafs, including general manager John Ferguson, has publicly said the club definitely wants to buy out Nolan, it has been inferred. Under normal circumstances, Nolan likely would be bought out at two-thirds of his $5.6-million US contract, or approximately $3.7 million.

Now, with another operation looming, it's not clear what the Leafs will do with Nolan. Buying him out would give the Leafs more money to chase free agents this summer.

Ostensibly, the Leafs still could buy him out, but for more than the two-thirds they could have done if Nolan had not been injured.

"It is disappointing to Owen that it has taken this long to identify the problem that he has been having over the past six or seven months, but he knows he is in good hands with Dr. Miniaci," Nolan's agent, J.P. Barry, said yesterday. "He hopes that he is able to, once the underlying problem is removed, look forward to playing next season."

Ferguson did not return several messages left yesterday.

Barry said he has sent the latest medical reports to the Leafs. If the Leafs contend Nolan's ongoing knee woes are not a result of the hockey injury, Barry could file a grievance.

Nolan suffered tears of his MCL and ACL, as well as bruising and meniscus damage during a game against the Ottawa Senators on March 27, 2004.

He didn't play for the rest of the season.

Nolan was cleared by the Leafs medical staff -- which was fired last month -- last November, but sought another opinion from Dr. Miniaci.


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