Klee is just not listening

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

If Ken Klee became upset every time his name was mentioned in trade scuttlebutt, he would never get any shut-eye.

That's why the veteran Maple Leafs defenceman is not fretting at all at recent speculation that the team is attempting to peddle him, either to free up cap space or to simply shuffle personnel.

General manager John Ferguson reportedly has said the club was examining the market in order to discover if a deal is there to be made.

But he is handcuffed because the Leafs' payroll already is approaching the $39 million US salary-cap limit.

"They're just rumours," Klee said yesterday after taking part in an informal game of shinny at a Toronto-area arena. "If we paid attention to things like that, there would be a lot of sleepless nights.

"Things are different for a player once you get into your 30s. (A trade) no longer involves just you and your spouse. There are kids to think of. You have to look for a house, things like that."

Of course, Klee is no stranger to having his name bandied about.

When the new collective bargaining agreement was inked last month, there were suggestions that Klee and his $1.9-million salary would be bought out. Instead, Ferguson opted to keep the solid, if not spectacular, blue liner on board.

"As I said before, if they didn't want me, well, I didn't want to be where I'm not wanted,"Klee said.

"Having said that, I'm glad to be back. I wanted to be a Maple Leaf and it seems they wanted me."

Klee joins Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe and Aki Berg as returnees to the Leafs defence corps from the 2003-04 season.

Also on board is Alexander Khavanov, the former St. Louis Blue who was snapped up in free agency.

Gone, however, is future Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, a trade deadline acquisition from March 2004 who opted to sign a free-agent deal with the division rival Boston Bruins.

"People must remember that Brian Leetch was only here for about 20 games," Klee said.

"He was a great addition, but I don't think Brian Leetch was the reason for our 100-plus point season."

Meanwhile, Ferguson and agent Rick Curran continue their attempts to hammer out a deal for restricted free-agent winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Curran said yesterday that his client has no intentions of playing in Europe.

"He wants to play in Toronto and they are interested in him," Curran said. "We just haven't found a common number that both sides can live with."


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