Setback for Leafs' Pilar

Karel Pilar will do nothing strenuous in the next 1 1/2 months after suffering a recurrence of a...

Karel Pilar will do nothing strenuous in the next 1 1/2 months after suffering a recurrence of a viral condition in his heart. (Toronto Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Karel Pilar will board a flight today to his native Czech Republic with the only certainty that he will be back in Toronto in six weeks for further tests on his heart.

As for when the Maple Leafs defenceman is back on the ice is another matter. Pilar, 27, recently suffered a recurrence of the viral condition that put him on the shelf for 45 games in 2002-03 and 16 more in 2003-04.

"I'm disappointed because I was feeling pretty good mentally after a good season (in the Czech Republic during the NHL lockout)," Pilar said. "The doctors want to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Pilar will do nothing strenuous in the next 1 1/2 months, limiting himself to light, off-ice workouts. Though he may not be back in a Leafs uniform until Christmas or afterward, he remains somewhat optimistic.

"That's what the doctors say, but we will see," Pilar said. "I feel a lot better than I did before (when the viral condition in his heart first became a problem in 2003). I would like to say I will be back sooner, but I don't want to rush it. I want to get another chance and prove I can play here again."

Pilar is unsigned by the Leafs, though he had been pencilled into the Leafs lineup for the season-opener Oct. 5. General manager John Ferguson refused to say whether Pilar's latest setback puts his signing in jeopardy. Pilar rejected his qualifying offer with the intent of shedding a two-way contract.

"We're still assessing the situation on a number of fronts," Ferguson said. "If there's a spot open we look forward to healthy competition from a number of candidates."

Among those who are under contract to the Leafs presently are Carlo Colaiacovo, Marc Moro and Jay Harrison. The Leafs reportedly are interested in signing Newfoundlander Brad Brown, who was not given a qualifying offer by the Buffalo Sabres.

Not that Pilar would make or break the success of the Leafs' blue line group, but his absence won't help. Just four incumbents -- Bryan McCabe, Ken Klee, Tomas Kaberle and Aki Berg -- will return from 2003-04. Also guaranteed of a spot is free-agent signee Alexander Khavanov.

Colaiacovo was taken aback when he learned of Pilar's status.

"I hope he recovers 100%," Colaiacovo said. "I'm stunned. If it means me getting an opportunity, I will make the most of it. It's going to take a lot of hard work in training camp and I have been preparing for that all summer."

Pilar earlier this month began feeling symptoms of the viral condition that settled in his heart in 2003. He was re-examined by a heart specialist in Montreal two weeks ago and the problem was re-diagnosed.

Ferguson, meanwhile, would not say whether contract talks with the agents for restricted free agents Nathan Perrott and Alexei Ponikarovsky are progressing.


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