McKee hears Leaf rumours

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The unofficial wooing of Jay McKee to Toronto already has started.

But not by general manager John Ferguson or any other member of the Maple Leafs organization.

Instead it's some of McKee's friends and family who are attempting to recruit the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent to the Leafs when he hits the open market this summer.

McKee, the hard-hitting defenceman of the Buffalo Sabres, isn't even thinking that far ahead.

Right now his only focus is beating the Philadelphia Flyers in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final, which Buffalo leads 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight at the Wachovia Center.

But that hasn't stopped the Kingston native from fielding messages from his chums who have heard his name mentioned in the Canadian media as a potential good fit for the Leafs blue line.

While Ferguson never has publicly mentioned any interest in McKee, the Leafs are looking to fill some glaring holes on the blue line. Aki Berg this week signed a deal with a Finnish elite league team while Bryan McCabe, an unrestricted free agent, reportedly is looking for a five-year deal for $5 million US plus per season.

"I get a chuckle every time my buddies give me a ring," McKee said.

"They're all excited when they tell me they hear my name on the radio or TV or read it in the newspapers in relation to the Leafs.

"I've got a lot of friends who live in Toronto or St. Catharines and they would love if I were to play in their backyard. They have no problem telling me that.

"As for me, I don't listen to any of those broadcast reports (about the Leafs). I know these things come up given my status this summer as an unrestricted free agent, but that stuff doesn't even come into my mind.

"I'm a Buffalo Sabre and we believe we have something special going on here."

McKee and his Sabres suffered a 4-2 loss in Game 3 Wednesday, a game in which Buffalo absorbed more than its fair share of bad bounces.

Both of Peter Forsberg's goals were deflected into the Sabres goal by Buffalo players, including one that ricocheted off McKee's glove and past goalie Ryan Miller.

"Those things happen, but we're not going to let it affect us," McKee said.

"We played a good third period and came close to tying this game. This is a team that never quits and you can count on the fact that we'll come out hard (for Game 4).


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