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Veteran free-agent centre Mike Peca confident he can help a team next season

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Veteran free-agent centre Mike Peca confident he can help a team next season

The Canadian Press
By:

But the two-time Selke Trophy winner, an unrestricted free agent, remains confident he'll be under contract for next season.

"I'm going to help somebody next year, wherever it's going to be," Peca said Wednesday during the NHL Players' Association annual charity golf tournament.

One of those options remains the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom he played 35 games last season before his season was cut short by a serious leg injury.

"Right from the end of the season it's been 'We want you back, we'd like to re-sign you,"' the 33-year-old centre said of his communication with the Leafs. "But they've had some cap issues that they're trying to resolve. And that's basically where it's at.

"I know (Leafs GM) John (Ferguson) had contacted (Peca's agent) Don Meehan about a week and a half ago just reiterating the same thing."

When asked if his preference would be to return to his native Toronto, Peca revealed - with a laugh - that he's been harassed by a newly signed Leaf.

"Considering how many phone calls I get from Jason Blake in a week, yes," Peca said of his former Islanders teammate. "But you know what? There are options out there. I need to consider everyone and look at each situation both professionally and personally."

The Carolina Hurricanes had shown some interest earlier this month, with head coach Peter Laviolette - Peca's coach when both were on Long Island - leading the charge. But the Hurricanes decided instead to reacquire centre Matt Cullen last week. The New York Rangers have been another team linked to Peca, especially after dealing away Cullen.

"I think's there been some interest (from the Rangers)," said Peca, an 11-year NHL veteran. "That would be a great fit. Is it going to happen? I'm not 100 per cent sure. We'll see what happens."

Then there's the Buffalo Sabres. While GM Darcy Regier politely told Meehan he wasn't interested in Peca, rumours won't go away in Buffalo that others in the Sabres organization would love to reacquire their former captain and fan favourite in the community where Peca still calls home with his family.

"Buffalo would have been top of my list for sure had it been an option," said Peca. "But I indicated (to Buffalo media) that I didn't think it would be an option. I heard from different people that there was some interest in the organization but unless the general manager calls you and says that he's interested, then there is no interest."

Peca, one of the league's top penalty killers, had 15 points (4-11) and a plus-2 rating in 35 games before going down with the leg injury in a game at Chicago last December. Are teams apprehensive to sign him because of the leg injury?

"I don't know," Peca said. "I don't think they would be if they looked at my medical reports and checked on my progress as far as healing. Matt Nichol, the strength and conditioning coach in Toronto, could vouch for me as much as anybody how ready I am to play."

There are no lingering effects from the injury, Peca said.

"I feel very comfortable and confident, with the physical part of my game and my leg," he said. "And mentally, I've been saying since the end of last season, I just feel very excited about getting back out and playing."

Note: Peca was among 48 current and former NHL players taking part in Wednesday's 15th annual NHLPA Golf Classic, which raised over $120,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Players Helping Players Fund. Other players on hand at The Club at Bond Head golf course north of Toronto included Adrian Aucoin, Marty Turco, Eric Lindros, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Scott Walker and Alyn McCauley.

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Veteran free-agent centre Mike Peca confident he can help a team next season