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Trade talk disruptive
Michael Traikos, National Post
Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TORONTO - The NHL trade deadline is still four weeks away, but already speculation has begun as to which Maple Leafs might be on the move.

The Anaheim Ducks are apparently interested in captain Mats Sundin, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are reportedly trying to acquire forward Darcy Tucker, and several Stanley Cup contenders are supposedly making bids for veteran Michael Peca.

They may all be rumours with little or no validity. But according to Leafs head coach Paul Maurice, they have the ability to isolate players and tear apart a dressing room if not handled properly.

Perhaps that is why Maurice decided to create a rumour of his own when he was told of Edmonton's and Calgary's interest in Tucker.

"What's the matter with the rest of the teams? They don't want him?" he asked yesterday. "There's a story there. Twenty-seven teams in the league don't want Tucker. You guys said it. I didn't."

When asked if it makes sense for Tucker to return home to his home province of Alberta, Maurice shook his head.

"He hates it there, he told me himself," Maurice joked. "Darcy wants to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I know that for a fact."

Tucker has expressed all season long that he hopes to sign a long-term deal to remain in Toronto. The problem is the Leafs may not be able to afford him and may trade the 31-year-old prior to the Feb. 27 deadline.

Tucker, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is considered underpaid at US$1.596-million a season. Last season, he scored a career-high 28 goals and 61 points, and he was on pace to reach the 40-goal mark this year before suffering a foot injury last month. He has missed the last 11 games with a fractured foot.

Despite his absence, Tucker remains among the league leaders with 13 power-play goals and is tied with Sundin, the highest paid Leafs forward, with a team high 19 goals overall.

Earlier reports suggested that the gritty winger is seeking a five-year contract worth US$17.5-million. But Tucker, who turns 32 in March, may be willing to accept something less if it means retiring in a Leafs uniform.

"I've been here for a long time now, so my loyalties to the Maple Leafs will always be strong," he said. "I've always played hard for the Leafs and would love to continue to do that. Hopefully, [general manager] John [Ferguson Jr.] and I can get something worked out where I can stay here long-term."

Until Tucker and the Leafs negotiate a new deal, the trade rumours are likely to persist.

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