MONTREAL -- Darcy Tucker can't wait to get back on the ice and start earning his new millions.
While Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson held off making an official announcement that he alluded to on the weekend, the deal appears even more lucrative than yesterday's report of three years at an average of $3 million US.
"It's better than that in term, but it's for Toronto to announce," Tucker's agent, Carlos Sosa, said yesterday from Seattle. "We're very close to signing."
Tucker also is likely to have a no-movement clause inserted in the deal, cementing his desire to remain "a Leaf for life."
"I think both sides are excited about the last couple of days," Tucker said of concluding season-long negotiations.
There were a few road blocks, including an autumn deal reached between Brendan Morrow and the Dallas Stars, paying that winger $24.6 million through six years. That's the kind of comparable Sosa likely brought up as his client approached 20 goals at Christmas. But then came a broken foot on Dec. 26, which has kept Tucker on the sideline for two months. The Leafs posted a record of 12-7-4 without him before last night, but he could return as soon as weekend games against New Jersey and Buffalo.
"It felt better today than (Saturday) and it's moving in the right direction," Tucker said.
"It's something we have to be cautious with because we don't want a setback.
"Hopefully, I can get to a point where I'm back practising with the team in the next few days."
While some suggest the Leafs could make a playoff push without Tucker, his one-timer on the power play has been missed as the unit began to slide in the past few games.
Though he still slips into theatrics now and then, few players are better at raising hackles than Tucker when he locks radar on an opponent.
"He finishes checks, he drives the intensity up, he plays the kind of game we want to play," coach Paul Maurice said. "We all have things we like to bring to the table and Darcy has that edge and that competitiveness about him."
Maurice noted that it took exactly two months for someone other than team leader Mats Sundin to pass Tucker's 19 goals. Jeff O'Neill reached 20 on Saturday.
"Darcy has got a lot better set of hands than people notice because of his feistyness," Maurice added. "There's always a little bit of blood on his shirt and probably somebody else's."