No rush to go home

Trade rumours involving Darcy Tucker are heating up with a month to go until the NHL trade...

Trade rumours involving Darcy Tucker are heating up with a month to go until the NHL trade deadline. (Toronto Sun File/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Clutching crutches in his hands and wearing a cast on his foot, Darcy Tucker seemed amused yesterday at the news that teams are knocking on the Maple Leafs door inquiring about his availability.

With the NHL's Feb. 27 trade deadline now less than a month away, Tucker fully expected such trade talk to heat up at this time.

Among those teams said to have asked about Tucker are the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the two NHL teams that are rooted in Tucker's native province of Alberta.

Some blogs and websites have reported he would be seen as the perfect fit to play alongside Flames captain Jarome Iginla, a suggestion that did not catch Tucker off guard in the least.

"Jarome and I played together in junior, so talk like that isn't really any kind of shock," said Tucker, who hoisted the Memorial Cup along with Iginla back in 1995 as members of the Kamloops Blazers.

"I haven't heard any kind of specific talk myself. But with the month of February closing in and the deadline looming, it's not unexpected.

"When you are someone who is a pending unrestricted free agent, things like this are going to come up. I can't control that."

Having said that, Tucker's opinion has not wavered, even with the deadline approaching.

He does not want to be traded.

"I think both sides have made their opinions known," he said. "They want me, and I want to stay. (Leafs general manager) John Ferguson has been very good to me, and I think Paul (Maurice) and I have a very good player-coach relationship.

"Still, the bottom line is, it's something that has to work."

For his part, Ferguson feels it was inevitable that teams would come calling with interest in a commodity such as Tucker, who brings the rare combination of leadership, goal-scoring ability and grit to the table.

"Yes, it is," Ferguson said.

Nevertheless, he has maintained for months that his plans are to re-sign Tucker to a long-term pact.

"That stance has not changed," Ferguson said.

Easier said than done.

Ferguson would like to keep both Tucker and captain Mats Sundin in the mix, but will be hard-pressed to shoehorn both under the salary cap for next season.

With Sundin holding a no-trade clause, Tucker would appear to be the more logical candidate to be moved should Ferguson's hand be forced.

The Leafs hold a $4.56-million US club option on Sundin for next season. If they were to pick up that option, the deal would chew up $6.333 million of cap space, the average of his salary over the term of his existing contract.

Tucker, meanwhile, is in line to at least double the $1.596 million salary he is scheduled to earn this season. Talks between the Leafs and Tucker's agent, Carlos Sosa, are ongoing.

In the meantime, Tucker's injured left foot will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

"It could be one week, it could be two weeks, I don't know," Tucker said. "I'm hoping it's sooner than later."


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