Tucker's contract talks positive -- Ferguson

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- The Darcy Tucker contract talks are reaching a critical stage at the same time the Maple Leafs move toward the buyers' table for the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline.

General manager John Ferguson twice yesterday used the term "positive" to describe his recent dealings with Tucker's Seattle-based agent, Carlos Sosa. And it's known Sosa was in Toronto this week where the Tucker has been laid up in a cast, before Sosa took a flight home last night.

Asked if a multi-year deal for the potential free agent now looks more likely after a winter of little movement, Ferguson said "I wouldn't want to characterize (talks) that way, but they have been positive overall."

Tucker had a team-leading 19 goals when he suffered a cracked right foot in late December. He has been a bargain this year at $1.6 million US on his old pre-lockout deal,but Sosa was hoping to vault him into the $3.5-million-$4 million range that some lesser offensive talents squeezed out of their teams.

But then came the injury and a New Year's surge by the Leafs that put them a win out of the playoff picture before last night's game in Nashville. Ferguson said Tucker will be re-evaluated today or tomorrow by club doctors at which time it might be decided to remove the cast.

After last night, the Leafs have eight games before the trade deadline and barring disaster, they should remain in the hunt for eighth place or higher into March. To fall out of the pack would leave Ferguson the difficult decision to move players such as an unsigned Tucker.

"Our play of late gives us reason to believe we can achieve and improve," Ferguson said. "Our objectives and goals haven't changed since the pre-season, to have this team at its best at the right time. How that relates to the deadline remains to be seen.

"The deadline is a step, the same way the draft deal (for Andrew Raycroft) was, the same way our July 1 signings were. If there's something that can assist us, we'll look at it.

"But we don't know today whether (selling) teams have made definitive decisions. You've see things happen some places already, such as Phoenix and Los Angeles. All we can do now is keep our focus on the task at hand."

The wild card for the Leafs is that the addition of Tucker sometime this month, Kyle Wellwood in late March and perhaps Michael Peca at some point would be as good as a trade, if the current lineup keeps them in the race.

"That would be a good fifth line," Ferguson said in jest. "But without sounding flip, the potential addition of those players is part of our (deadline) consideration."


Videos

Photos