Well, what do you know? The Buffalo Sabres have been deemed worthy of figuring into Michael Peca's career plans. He'd love to make another go of it here, turn his offseason pit stop into his full season home.
The Sabres are A-1 on Peca's priority list as he mulls over the multitude of enticing offers he's received from exemplary organizations. He could be a Ranger he wants you to know, teaming up with the departed Chris Drury. Keen interest has been expressed by the Carolina Hurricanes, another franchise Sabres fans have come to despise. But there's no need to suffer the indignity of Peca signing with them because he really wants to be here. In Buffalo. This is where his heart is (cue the violin accompaniment), at least for the moment, or until the Maple Leafs make him an offer that extends his stay in his native Toronto.
There's no telling what it is Peca really desires, only that, as we well know, he's adept at playing the leverage game to take him where he wants to go. He was quoted on www.sportsnet.ca in late June as saying "My No. 1 priority is to stay in Toronto." Maybe by tomorrow Philly's his new paradise. Guess it all depends on who shows him the money.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier has been noncommittal on the issue of a Peca return, hinting such a signing is unlikely while declining to flat-out squash the possibility. And that's far better treatment than Peca deserves from the GM whose life he made miserable during an acrimonious contract holdout that put Captain Crunch the Numbers on the sideline all of 2000-01.
Another GM would have spewed venom or laughed uproariously at Peca's invitation to play nicey-nice after enduring what Regier endured. But Regier, ever the upstanding diplomat, never the mudslinger, reacted with nothing more than a noble nonchalance. That's one of the interesting things about Regier. Some of his decisions may confound but the resulting heat never gets to him, even as Peca insists all the animosity from the long-ago stalemate was diffused upon the conclusion of the Rigas family ownership. How quickly Peca's forgotten that it was Regier who bore the brunt of assaults, the intensity of the complaints increasing as the GM held out throughout the season and until the draft for a deal he could deem acceptable.
Peca got his trade, to New York, and an excessive salary that typified the Islanders' penchant for overpaying. Two years in New York were followed by a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in Edmonton and an injury-abbreviated season with the Leafs, who are retooling with youth and feel no great urgency, and perhaps have no yearning whatsoever, to tap into upcoming seasons Peca says will be among the best of his career. Really?
Peca has scored 24 goals his last 182 games. He's never matched his career best of 27 goals set here in 1998-99 despite rules changes that have fueled increased offensive production (it should be noted he had a nice playoffs during Edmonton's run to the finals, after sleepwalking through the regular season).
A case could be made for Peca being worth the risk of an incentive-laden contract. And a case could be made that he isn't. Despite the losses of Drury and Daniel Briere the Sabres aren't exactly hurting at center, not if Tim Connolly and Paul Gaustad return healthy and Derek Roy's arbitration award fits into the budget. All three are on the rise. All three are and assets on special teams. Their presence relegates Peca to the fourth line, so what's the sense?
As for leadership, the Sabres have plenty of potential generals after two deep playoff runs. Besides, if leadership was such a concern Drury should have been retained. Signing a poor man's version of their former co-captain wouldn't be close to the same.