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Peca Says His Leaf Days Are Over

June 26, 2007, 8:08 PM ET [ Comments]
Howard Berger
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
TORONTO (June 26) -- It was a short and bittersweet marriage between Michael Peca and the Toronto Maple Leafs. One that lasted only two-and-a-half months, and 35 NHL games. "I don't expect to be back with the Leafs," Peca told me earlier today from his home in Buffalo. "In my after-the-season meetings in April, I got the feeling the team didn't want me to return, and I have the same feeling today. My agent [Don Meehan] talked briefly with John Ferguson a week before the draft and John said he had some other things to look after. To my knowledge, he hasn't called Donny back and I don't expect him to."

A free agent acquisition last summer, Peca's right leg was obliterated in a collision with Chicago's Jim Vandermeer in a Dec. 22 Leafs-Blackhawks game at the United Center. He required extensive surgery -- including knee-ligament repair -- and was lost for the remainder of the season. And though the Toronto native worked dilligently to rebound from the horrific injury, Peca believes he'll have to resume his NHL career elsewhere. "It's sort of like the situation with Eric Lindros last year," said Peca. "He was also a Toronto kid who dreamed of playing for the Leafs and he obviously wanted to do more for the team. But, the organization looked at him differently after he got injured and he went somewhere else [to Dallas]. For me, it's the same scenario."

Lindros signed as a free agent with the Leafs after the 2005 lockout but played in only 33 games. He suffered a torn wrist ligament in a mid-December match against Dallas at the Air Canada Centre and tried in vain to avoid surgery. In the end, he needed an operation and he played only one more game for the Leafs before going under the knife.

Peca was a solid addition to the club last season. The Maple Leafs benefitted from his penalty killing and faceoff efficiency, and they missed him after he got hurt. "To be honest, I'm feeling great and I'm ready to take on more responsibility than I had with the Leafs," he said. "I'm physically and mentally prepared to handle the kind of role I had in Edmonton two years ago, when I played in all situations, including the powerplay. Is that going to happen for me in Toronto? Probably not. So, I'm set to move on, and it looks like the Leafs are as well."

Replacing Peca's physical talents likely won't be that difficult for Toronto. Replacing his character will be a far greater challenge.

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