Peca impresses during Q&A

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Mike Peca on Tuesday, inking the free agent centre to a one-year...

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Mike Peca on Tuesday, inking the free agent centre to a one-year deal. (Toronto Sun/Mark O'Neill)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

When Michael Peca accepted an invitation to Paul Maurice's house in Oakville for a face-to-face meeting on Sunday, the Maple Leafs coach was impressed.

When Peca gave positive answers to a slew of questions Maurice had prepared before the coach even had a chance to ask them, Maurice knew he wanted Peca on his club. That meeting, which also included Leafs general manager John Ferguson, was one of the final touches that led to Peca's official signing with the Leafs yesterday.

"I didn't think John and Mike and I sitting down in a restaurant worked," Maurice said. "Word gets out around here, apparently. (Peca) talked about last season and what he went through, where he thinks he can best help our club, and when he was done, I had no questions left. I left that meeting thinking, 'This is the guy.' "

The 32-year-old Peca, who grew up in North York, was able to accomplish yesterday what so many young Toronto boys dream of doing but rarely get the chance -- pull on a Leafs sweater that he actually will wear in NHL games. Peca is a Leaf for one year and $2.5 million US, but both he and Ferguson made it clear that if all goes well, it could be the beginning of a long partnership.

Peca was joined for the news conference in the platinum lounge at the Air Canada Centre by his wife, Kristin, and their children, Trevor and Emily. The kids were wearing matching No. 27 Peca sweaters.

"When I think of playing with the Leafs now, I think of all the kids who are seven, eight, nine (years old), the way I was, and what I thought about when I played hockey in the streets," Peca said. "It goes without saying how big this is (for him). But it goes deeper than that. My willingness to play in Toronto goes far beyond being from Toronto."

The two-time Selke Trophy winner, who was great for the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs after a slow regular season, will be the Leafs' No. 2 centre. Part of what intrigued Maurice was Peca's desire to not only be the guy who takes on the role of shutting down the opposition's top players but to do so without cutting into teammates' ice time.

"The answer I got from him is the flow of the bench is important," Maurice said. "And that was important for me in how I want to run the bench."

Peca could have taken more money and longer term to play elsewhere, but he is intent on becoming a consistent force again.

"I felt it was important to come in and prove to the organization that I am not going to come in and milk off a long-term deal," Peca said. "I want to re-establish my identity as I did through the playoffs and sustain that. If I do that, it will help the team be successful."


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