Czerkawski digs T.O.

MIKE ZEISBERGER and LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

The Maple Leafs addressed one of their holes on the wing yesterday by locking up Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Could veteran Mariusz Czerkawski be next?

The forward certainly would like to be a Leaf, judging by his comments that appeared in yesterday's edition of a Polish newspaper.

Speaking to the Przeglad Sportowy, Czerkawski, 33, called Toronto the "mecca of hockey," adding that he would love to play for the club.

"I dream of winning a Stanley Cup with the Leafs," he told the publication.

The story suggested nothing was official as of yet, with a medical and contract signing still pending.

Czerkawski was one of the forwards the Leafs showed interest in several weeks ago, but general manager John Ferguson opted to wait until training camp neared in order to see if the price would come down.

"There are a number of players who fit into that category," Ferguson said last night, refusing to specifically comment on the Czerkawski situation.

In order to fit under the Leafs salary cap, it is believed that Czerkawski would get just slightly more than the league minimum of $450,000 US.

Czerkawski joins the swelling list of players hoping to land a contract with the Leafs, a group that is said to also include veteran forwards Steve Thomas, Yanic Perreault and defenceman Bryan Marchment.

But Ferguson hinted the signing of Ponikarovsky means the roster is almost set heading into training camp, which begins Sept. 12 when players report for medicals.

"We're just about where we want to be," he said.

Ponikarovsky, 25, played 19 games for Voskresensk of the Russian Hockey League last season collecting six points (one goal, five assists) with 16 penalty minutes. In 2003-04 with the Maple Leafs, he played 73 games collecting a career high 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) with 44 penalty minutes.

"We look for him to be a regular and improve his game," Ferguson said.

Ponikarovsky feels he can do just that, claiming a 20-goal season is a realistic possibility.

"Toronto is where I want to play," he said.

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