Leaf GM makes play for Czerkawski
Other NHL clubs also interestedWinger, 33, former 35-goal scorer
Thanks to - KEN CAMPBELLSPORTS REPORTER
With precious little room left under the salary cap, the Maple Leafs have set their sights on another former offensive star who has fallen on hard times and will come relatively cheap.
Rebuffed in their attempts to get Peter Bondra, the Maple Leafs have turned their attention to former 35-goal scorer Mariusz Czerkawski, who scored 25 goals and 49 points for the New York Islanders in 2003-04. Last season, he struggled in the Swedish Elite League, scoring 15 goals and 24 points for Djurgarden.
Sources say that Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson has had ongoing discussions with Czerkawski's agent, Neil Abbott, on a one-year deal worth about $500,000 (all figures U.S.). That price may go up slightly since more teams have reportedly joined the pursuit of the first player born and trained in Poland to ever play in the NHL.
The 33-year-old is primarily a right winger, but can play either wing and could turn out to be a good fit on one of the Leafs' top two lines if the NHL remains serious and vigilant about its crackdown on obstruction. Czerkawski is a terrific skater who is very good at finding open ice and possesses an outstanding shot. He is also reportedly very good friends with Leaf captain Mats Sundin.
The downside for Czerkawski is that he has earned a reputation as the kind of player who plays well for bad teams, but can't seem to have much of an impact in a pressure-filled atmosphere. He tends to disappear when play turns physical and has only eight goals and 15 points in 42 playoff games. He has a tendency to start seasons strongly and fade as the year goes on and even though he was plus-8 for the Islanders in 2003-04, he is regarded as a weak defensive player.
But if the Leafs can get him for as little as has been speculated, he could be another player who pays significant dividends. The Leafs currently have about $36.5 million committed in salaries this season and hope to be in the $37.5 million to $38 million range when the season opens Oct.5.
Speaking of the Islanders, there is speculation in Long Island that the club will take a run at Leaf defenceman Bryan McCabe if he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
McCabe started his career with the Islanders and was briefly captain of the team before being traded to Vancouver.
As being reported on the fan, former 2-time Maple Leaf Yannick Perreault is rumored to be wanting to come back to the team that drafted him into the NHL. As a top third line centre, the leafs could use his faceoff expertise.