Fergie able to relax

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

John Ferguson is feeling a lot more safe about his job these days.

The Maple Leafs general manager is not yet 100% sure he won't be usurped or even replaced by a senior advisor. But with training camp opening in just six weeks, Ferguson continues to make the key hockey office decisions with no sign of big brother watching him. That had Ferguson in an upbeat mood yesterday at the Air Canada Centre as he talked up the team's future to the media.

"I have had recent contact (with executives at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd)," Ferguson said. "It's too early to tell (if he's status quo), but it has been said all along that it would have to be the right fit (working with him)."

No news indicates MLSEL has put the idea of getting help for Ferguson on the backburner. The board rightly didn't want to add to his troubles a few weeks ago when his father John Ferguson Sr. passed away from a lengthy battle with cancer, but neither have they found someone who wants the advisor's job under the board's terms.

Former Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler has been the only person formally interviewed so far, almost a month ago. MLSEL also spoke to Scott Bowman, who wanted more powers.

Ferguson is not yet out of the woods, needing to end a two-year playoff drought to survive beyond 2007-08. Almost drained of salary cap room, he will continue sniffing around for a bargain free agent, but repeated he is quite comfortable opening the season with the changes made in June and July, namely newly acquired goaltender Vesa Toskala and 40-goal free-agent winger Jason Blake.

He's also hoping the fates don't conspire to slow the club with injuries.

"We lost Darcy Tucker and Kyle Wellwood and had three defencemen out of the mix right at the start of camp last year (Carlo Colaiacovo, Andy Wozniewski and Staffan Kronwall)," Ferguson said.

Ferguson tried to put to rest rumours he is seeking to trade Matt Stajan, arguing it made no sense to unload a forward the Leafs had drafted and nurtured just as he's coming into his prime in his mid-20s. But if Ferguson is to free up any cap room for a future move, it's believed either Stajan or No. 2 netminder Andrew Raycroft likely will be the ones sacrificed.

Reacting to the Anaheim Ducks not matching the Oilers' Group 2 offer sheet to Dustin Penner, Ferguson raised some eyebrows by saying he would consider a similar move down the road if the risk was warranted.

"I don't think it (the Oilers' bold move and the Ducks' decision to take draft picks) was a surprise," Ferguson said. "It's a function of the collective bargaining agreement. There are probably a lot of (salary issues) with Anaheim that will come out later.

"I wouldn't dare tell another team how to run its business, but the deals we made are the ones that made sense to us."

Ferguson said he planned to get back to Mike Peca's agent, Don Meehan, in the next 24 hours on the status of a new deal. Now an unrestricted free agent, the 33-year-old Peca broke his leg a few days before Christmas. It's understood any return to the Leafs would be at a lower price, but it has yet to be determined if there is still a good match here, as the Leafs strive to get younger.

The Leafs have announced their annual Blue and White charity game will be moved to General Motors Centre in Oshawa. Tickets for the Sept. 16 intrasquad game go on sale Tuesday at noon through Ticketmaster (416-872-5000).


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