Stumpy back with Leafs?

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

John Ferguson may not yet be ready to close his chequebook.

Sportsnet reported yesterday the Maple Leafs general manager has contacted former Leaf Steve Thomas about returning for a third stint in the blue and white. The 42-year-old Thomas began his NHL career with the Leafs in the 1984-85 season.

In 2003-04, he had 10 goals and 12 assists in 44 games with the Detroit Red Wings.

But a team source last night said Thomas' name had not come up in organizational meetings and that the reported possibility of the club signing Thomas was "right out of the blue."

The thinking is Thomas could provide leadership into the Leafs' dressing room. Much was lost in that regard when Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk signed with the Florida Panthers two weeks ago.

Ferguson -- who has added Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Jeff O'Neill and Alexander Khavanov and re-signed Tie Domi since the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement -- was travelling yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

WAS A BLACKHAWK

Thomas was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks from the Leafs in September 1987 and, after playing for the Hawks, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, was signed as a free agent by Toronto in July 1998. Three more seasons with the Leafs followed before he signed with Chicago in July 2001.

Prior to playing for Detroit in the season before the lockout, Thomas was integral in the Anaheim Mighty Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup final in 2003.

On the topic of old veterans, brief Leaf Ron Francis has not yet filed retirement papers with the NHL. But Ferguson said recently he has not heard from the 42-year-old centre.

Meanwhile, the Leafs hadn't made any announcement on whether forward Nathan Perrott and defenceman Karel Pilar had accepted their qualifying offers prior to yesterday's deadline for doing so. Both were in line for one-year contracts worth $450,000 US (the NHL minimum).

If Thomas returns, it's difficult to see how he could get more than the minimum. Ferguson didn't have much money to start with and has been getting closer to the salary cap of $39 million in the past few weeks with his assortment of signings.


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