Nolan optimistic about return

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

After seeing Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes mature on other teams, and a first-round draft pick defenceman about to graduate, it would be hard for the Maple Leafs to see Owen Nolan play for another National Hockey League club this season.

But agent J.P. Barry insists there's a chance that Nolan will play again soon -- and the betting is for the San Jose Sharks, who pried the aforementioned talent from Toronto for Nolan three years ago.

Barry told the San Francisco Chronicle this week that Nolan is seven to 10 days away from getting medical clearance after lengthy recovery from a knee injury.

The source of that injury led to three separate grievances between the Leafs and the player. Barry is hopeful nothing will be heard until the spring or later and the NHL Players Association said yesterday no dates had been set.

"I'm not talking to (other teams) because once he is given clearance, there is the matter of the grievance," Barry told the newspaper. "But in the likely scenario that they come to an agreement to hear the case later, one of the first teams we'll contact is the Sharks."

The first grievance was filed in December of 2004 for alleged improper suspension of Nolan, the second in January of 2005 over the Leafs refusal to pay the $5.6 million US salary for that year. The third came in September of 2005 when the club did not honour the option clause in Nolan's '05-06 contract.

Barry and Nolan are arguing that the knee injury occurred while he was playing for Toronto late in '03-04. The Leafs contend Nolan was deemed healthy by the start of the lockout year and that he's owed nothing, though they went on to fire their medical staff.

But Leafs general manager John Ferguson appeared unfazed by the thought of Nolan coming back."

"This can only help our cause," Ferguson said, referring to Nolan's healthy condition.

"Owen's (most recent) rehab is coming along very well," Barry said. "We're trying to decide whether or not we have to go to the Cleveland Clinic or have one of the local doctors look at it."

Nolan played eight seasons for the Sharks but was injured and ineffective in a season and a half with the Leafs.

The trade cost Pat Quinn, then the Leafs general manager, McCauley, Boyes and the pick that became defenceman Mark Stuart, the only player to have appeared in every game this year for the Boston Bruins' farm club in Providence.


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