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(CP) - Michael Peca took a break from some do-it-yourself work -- putting up shelving in the garage of his Buffalo home Wednesday -- and pondered the question at hand: What does he think will happen when the free-agent market opens this weekend and he can sign with any of the NHL's 30 teams?

"Who knows where I'll end up," said the 11-year NHL centre. "The funny thing is, even though it's going to be a short summer, the playoffs were so enjoyable from a team aspect and from a personal aspect - I'm just looking forward to playing again.

"So hopefully in the next week or two weeks I'll know where I'm going."

Very likely not back to Edmonton, where he helped the Oilers to within a one win of a Stanley Cup with a brilliant playoff performance. As Peca points out, the Oilers have a full plate: star defenceman Chris Pronger wants a trade, and starting goalie Dwayne Roloson and playoff hero Fernando Pisani are days away from unrestricted free agency.

"They've got their hands full with Chris, and trying to get Rollie signed to shore up their goaltending, and I know Fernando is one of their priorities - he's a local kid and very popular in the neighbourhood and obviously had a terrific playoff run as well," said Peca.

"Some of us unrestricted guys at the end of the year kind of got the 'Thanks for your great work in Edmonton' speech where it was kind of clear that there wasn't going to be much interest on their end."

So where now? Peca wants to make one thing clear, he's got an open mind.

"There were a lot of reports late in the season that I would probably end up back in the Eastern Conference," said the 32-year-old Toronto native. "That's not necessarily true. I mean, I think 95 per cent of the players in the league want to find some locations that would just be more accommodating to them and their families but I realize that can't always be the case when you're looking for the right situation for hockey and for family.

"There's places in the West and there's places in the East where I would certainly enjoy playing but again it all depends where the interest is." Peca, who earned $3.99 million US last season, rebounded with a strong playoff after a disappointing regular season. He put up six goals, five assists and a plus-5 rating in 24 playoffs games, winning key faceoffs and killing penalties while centring a line between Pisani and Raffi Torres that was instrumental in Edmonton's magical run.

"The difference with the last month of the regular season and playoffs was that our line had a role, we were together all the time, there was no confusion as to where I fit into the lineup," said the two-time Selke Trophy winner. "Where as most of the regular season there was the uneasiness as to where I fit in and I practically played on the fourth line for the better part of four months or so."

The sting of losing Game 7 in Carolina hasn't gone away. It may never.

"You know, I still think about Game 6 in '99," said Peca, whose Buffalo Sabres lost to Dallas in the Cup final that year. "I think it's something that will never go away. You're always going to think about it.

"But my goal is to win one sooner rather than later to put all those memories to rest. Because if you don't get an opportunity to win one, those are memories that will stick with you, from time to time, for the rest of your life."

Peca, who has 394 career points (160-234) in 693 regular-season games with Vancouver, Buffalo, Long Island and Edmonton, was traded to Edmonton from the Islanders last Aug. 3 in exchange for forward Mike York and a fourth-round draft pick.
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