Foote may want in the door

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

He is a big defenceman, he has played with Mats Sundin, was coached by Pat Quinn and has lacrosse connections in Whitby.

That's enough to make Adam Foote feel welcome at the Air Canada Centre on any day of the week. But with unrestricted free agents up for grabs as of Monday and sources saying Toronto has always been high on Foote's list of new teams, no further background checks should be required.

Foote, like Peter Forsberg, appears to be caught in the salary cap squeeze of the Colorado Avalanche, who have indicated Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, both contracted, are their first priorities in staying under $39 million US, the National Hockey League limit. However, Avs general manager Pierre Lacroix might not want to lose both Forsberg and Foote, unless he has his own free agent in mind as a replacement.

Foote, 34, has been obscured in recent weeks as Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Gonchar and Derian Hatcher were shoved toward the door by their respective clubs. But Foote would be a catch, a two-time Canadian Olympian and Stanley Cup winner with the Avalanche.

TIGHT-LIPPED

Sundin's one-time teammate on the Quebec Nordiques is busy in the Whitby lacrosse scene (he once played the sport in the same area as Leafs' Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk) and is laying low until next week. Leafs GM John Ferguson and Quinn, the Toronto and Team Canada coach, are tight-lipped on the subject of free agents. This week, Ferguson is negotiating with Roberts, Nieuwendyk and Tie Domi, the latter keeping curiously close to Pittsburgh Penguins' owner Mario Lemieux these days.

Ferguson has until tomorrow -- at 5 p.m. -- to decide if he is buying out any Leafs to clear room for his own restricted and unrestricted free agents and next week's league-wide shopping spree.

Foote won't be cheap (he was worth $4.4 million US to Denver in the pre-rollback days), but never underestimate what players will do if they want badly enough to be Leafs. Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., spoke of the club's intangible "star power" on The Fan 590 radio earlier this week.

"Maybe someone would want to play (strongly enough) for Toronto for a little bit less money," Peddie said.


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