The newest Toronto-area player to seek a job with the Maple Leafs could have the best chance of sticking.
A National Hockey League source says the Maple Leafs are in talks with free agent Mike Peca, a deal that would put him on the same team with one-time arch-enemy Darcy Tucker.
"(The Leafs) are trying to make something work, not only with money, but with the look of the team," the source said.
Peca made $3.99 million US last season with Edmonton versus $4 million to $5 million believed to be remaining in Leaf general manager John Ferguson's budget. Peca told the FAN 590 earlier yesterday that "it would be a dream come true" to play for the hometown Leafs.
It appears Gary Roberts won't be coming back, at least via trade, while Anson Carter's asking price is believed to be too high. Recent Leafs Eric Lindros and Jason Allison want to return, but it will have to be at cheaper prices than they played at last season.
There is the likelihood these free agents, with the exception of Roberts, are offering the Leafs hometown discounts in exchange for longer terms. But Carter's agent, Pat Brisson, sounded more doubtful of a deal last night and said his client is looking at other teams as well as the Leafs.
Ferguson's own dicey contractual situation came up last night after Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. CEO Richard Peddie praised the GM during his guest address at Hockey Canada's International Coaches Conference.
"I'm not a believer in the lame duck theory," Peddie said when asked about Ferguson entering the final year of his contract. "I'm optimistic the way (Leafs' prospects) are coming in and our expectation is to make the playoffs.
"We're not negotiating (an extension) with John now, but we'll be starting to look at it in the new year."
Peddie also revealed the Leafs will be hiring a third assistant coach to handle "player development."