Peca Set to Sign 'Sooner Than Later'
by Alan Hahn
The Islanders are close to signing one of their two
major acquisitions this offseason, as center Michael
Peca yesterday confirmed that he is approaching a
contract agreement with his new team.
"I'd anticipate something happening in the near
future," Peca said from his home in Buffalo. "Sooner
rather than later."
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the
length of the contract is the main point to be
resolved, as both sides are seeking a long-term deal.
"Commitment is always an easy thing if everybody can
agree on the numbers," Peca said. "Obviously, I'd like
to make a commitment to the Islanders, too."
What should be noted is that a four-year contract
would take Peca, 27, past his first season of
eligibility for unrestricted free agency. That fourth
season also falls on the expected 2004 doomsday season
when the NHL collective-bargaining agreement expires.
A contract might include some bonus money to offset
any lost salary from a potential lockout.
Peca, who sat out the entire 2000-01 season after
refusing to sign what he considered a low-ball
contract from the Buffalo Sabres, said he "never
really doubted at all" that he would sign with the
Islanders, adding that the Islanders "knew the basic
ballpark" salary he was seeking. Reports last season
identified that figure at about $3.5 million.
Considered one of the league's best two-way forwards,
Peca was acquired from the Sabres during NHL draft
weekend in late June for center Tim Connolly and left
wing Taylor Pyatt. The Islanders would like to
announce his signing and that of fellow new Islander
Alexei Yashin, who also was acquired in a trade during
the draft, at the same time.
Yashin's agent, Mark Gandler, did not return calls
regarding the negotiations. Length of contract also is
an issue in Yashin's case, as the Islanders would like
to sign him for up to five years.
As with Peca, the fourth year would take Yashin, also
27, past his first year of eligibility for
unrestricted free agency.
Notes & Quotes: Newly acquired defenseman Adrian
Aucoin had until yesterday to accept the Islanders'
qualifying offer but didn't. The team now can offer
him less than his $1.6-million qualifier, or a
longer-term deal in smaller increments if they so
choose. The same goes for forward Mark Parrish
($900,000), but general manager Mike Milbury has been
considering a two-year deal for Parrish . . . The
Islanders aren't denying continued interest in Boston
Bruins center Jason Allison, but don't read too much
into it. A person close to team ownership said the
payroll budget - including Alexei Yashin and Michael
Peca's contracts - is at maximum.