Trades by recovery

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

With his arms leisurely crossed and wearing a confident look on his face yesterday, coach Paul Maurice practically guaranteed that his Maple Leafs will pull off a trio of significant deals to bolster their roster.

But before you get too excited, don't pencil in the names of Gary Roberts, Marco Sturm and Bill Guerin into the Toronto lineup quite yet.

"We're in an unusual situation," Maurice said yesterday. "We are about to make three phenomenal trades in the next two months, ones that will allow us to add Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and, hopefully, Michael Peca, to the lineup."

Sure, Maurice was having a bit of fun at the expense of a reporter, who had just asked him if he expected his team to be active before the arrival of the trade deadline next Tuesday afternoon.

But it wasn't all just a front, either.

In Maurice's mind, the potential returns of Tucker, Wellwood and Peca from their respective injuries is just like acquiring talent from other teams in a trade, especially since none of those key cogs have appeared in the lineup in the past seven weeks.

Tucker seems to be the closest to returning.

While he didn't participate in yesterday's workout at Lakeshore Lions Arena, the feisty winger did attempt to squeeze his healing left foot into a skate boot.

Should all go well, Tucker, who accompanied the team on its three-game trip to Long Island, Philadelphia and Montreal, hopes to be back on the ice for practice tomorrow. He has played just one game since suffering minuscule fractures in the foot while blocking a shot against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 26.

"I just want to get out there and see how it feels," said Tucker, who was wearing a plastic brace on the foot as he prepared to head to the airport to catch the team charter.

"I've been able to do certain things in the gym with my shoes on. (Strength and conditioning coach) Matt Nichol has done a great job helping me build up the muscle I lost in the foot (during my inactivity).

"Welly, Michael and I just want to get back. I don't think the three of us care what capacity we fill when we return."

The best-case scenario would see Tucker participate in game action within a week.

While Maurice would be more than satisfied if his roster remained intact after the deadline, general manager John Ferguson continues to explore trade options.

With TSN.ca reporting that Sturm is closing in on a four-year pact with the Boston Bruins, there likely is one less alternative for Ferguson.

"We'll pay value if a deal make sense," Ferguson said last night en route to Toronto from the GM's meetings in Naples, Fla. "But we don't want to overpay."

Ferguson is wary of trading away the future for short-term gains. To this point, the asking price remains high.

"The teams who are attempting to move guys, feel they are asking fair value," he said. "I do not share that perception."


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