Maple Leafs on hold

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

MONTREAL -- John Ferguson has a subtle message for any "selling" teams trying a trade deadline squeeze on the Maple Leafs: The clock works both ways.

"We're down to less than 48 hours," Toronto's general manager said last night. "Teams have to figure out what they're going to do."

Ferguson was asked if yesterday's cell phone traffic between the 30 GMs indicated prices were falling from a week earlier at meetings in Naples, Fla., where first-round draft picks and/or prospects were the going rate for quality playoff rentals.

"It's a matter of perspective," Ferguson said. "What I would consider a (fair) price might not be what someone else agrees with."

So, the Leafs head into their last pre-deadline game here tonight, looking through the catalogue for a markdown, still mindful they will get two and possibly three injured starters back regardless if they stand pat not.

On the other hand, the 10th-place Leafs can't consider themselves locks to make the playoffs, not with 20 games remaining and the Eastern Conference leaderboard in constant upheaval.

The Canadiens made a significant trade yesterday, sending defenceman Craig Rivet and a fifth-round pick to San Jose for defenceman Josh Georges and a first-rounder.

While the indications are that Ferguson will tweak the Leafs roster rather than drastically alter it before 3 p.m. tomorrow, he is also trying to tie up contract matters with winger Darcy Tucker.

A day earlier on Hockey Night In Canada, Ferguson was asked about the possibility of wrapping up a multi-year deal with Tucker's agent, Carlos Sosa, by the deadline or soon after.

"I don't see why not," was his reply and last night he repeated that "everything looks positive" in that regard.

THORNY ISSUE

He was also questioned on the contract of Mats Sundin, who would have been the object of many club's trade intentions had the Leafs crashed and burned this year. Sundin has stated loud and long his desire to remain a Leaf, though how Ferguson approaches the club option remains a thorny issue.

The GM has fought unsuccessfully with the National Hockey League all season to terminate the option of $4.56 million US in favour of working out a new agreement that wouldn't strain this year's team cap, already near its $44-million limit. Ferguson said those discussions are ongoing and likely will pick up steam once the trade deadline passes. However, he was adamant that he wasn't intentionally prioritizing Tucker's contract ahead of Sundin's.


Photos