Colby Armstrong had two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs he’d just as soon forget. The veteran forward won’t get a chance to make amends in the third one.
The Leafs placed Armstrong on unconditional waivers Saturday with the intention of buying out the final year of his contract.
It was a tough blow for the popular Armstrong, who posted a message on Twitter after being delivered the news: “Thanks to the leaf nation for the support over the last couple seasons. Although I had tough luck thanks for everything.”
The move will open up US$2 million in cap space for Toronto next season and will save the team $1 million in salary overall. Armstrong was scheduled to earn $3 million in the final year of his contract and will instead be paid $1 million by Toronto each of the next two seasons.
This was not how Armstrong or the Leafs saw things playing out when he was signed as a free agent in 2010.
Expected to bring leadership and grit to a young team, the 29-year-old Armstrong had trouble staying out of the trainers’ room. There was a broken nose, broken foot, tendon problem in a finger, concussion, badly sprained ankle and a spate of blurred vision and dizziness.
All in just two star-crossed seasons.
“I honestly don’t even know what to say about them,” Armstrong said of his injury troubles in December. “I tried to wrap my head around them while I was sitting out. The first couple weeks that I was down this time again, I was like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’
“But there’s no real answer to it.”
During his two years with the Maple Leafs, Armstrong dressed for fewer games (79) than he sat out (85). He had just nine goals and 26 points over that span.
Extremely popular with teammates and members of the media, Armstrong did his best to remain upbeat under trying circumstances. The Leafs alternate captain only began to show hints of frustration after returning to full health in the second half of last season and being made a scratch repeatedly by former coach Ron Wilson.
Armstrong will become an unrestricted free agent after officially being bought out by the Leafs on Sunday, leaving him free to sign with any NHL team.
Toronto is now paying two players who are no longer on its roster. The team owes Darcy Tucker $1 million each of the next two seasons as part of his buyout from 2008.