Responsible Fergie

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

John Ferguson has a few holes to fill in the Maple Leafs lineup but it's possible he could be done shopping.

The Leafs general manager may not have much choice. Though the Leafs have approximately $32 million US committed to player salaries for the 2005-06 season, putting them below the $39-million cap, Ferguson not only wants to leave a cushion of a couple of million dollars but also factors in a full salary of $4.5 million for centre Jason Allison when considering the money spent for the coming season. Allison is bound to make $1.5 million in base salary, but could earn approximately $3 million more in bonuses.

"We like where we are at but we continue to have discussions and analyze where we can improve our club," Ferguson said. "That never ends."

Given that Ferguson does not have much space left, there could be greater opportunities for youngsters such as Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen and Kyle Wellwood to make an impact. Also, Ferguson continues to have contract talks with a trio of restricted free agents -- defenceman Karel Pilar and forwards Nathan Perrott and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Players who may hope to suit up for the Leafs this season but have not yet signed probably shouldn't count on getting much more than the NHL minimum of $450,000.

To no surprise, Pilar's agent, Mark Stowe said his client didn't sign his qualifying offer because he wants to get away from a two-way deal, one that would pay Pilar much less if he was sent to the minors.

"The fundamental problem was the two-way contract," Stowe said. "He has played in 102 NHL games (with the Leafs, including playoffs). But the Leafs have treated him more than fair (in the past)."

Pilar would have been up for $450,000 had he accepted his qualifier. Stowe wouldn't say whether he had an issue with money.

One area the Leafs could use some sandpaper is the blue line, and it's possible they could turn to Bryan Marchment, who had 106 penalty minutes in 75 games for the Leafs in 2003-04.

"John has suggested there is continued interest in having Bryan," Rick Curran, Marchment's agent, said. "We're willing to be patient. He would prefer to stay in Toronto."

Meanwhile, Ferguson confirmed players will report to Toronto for medicals on Sept. 12, with training camp beginning in earnest the following day.


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