The Toronto Maple Leafs signed unrestricted free-agent defenceman François Beauchemin yesterday, increasing the likelihood the NHL club will trade defenceman Tomas Kaberle later this summer.
Although the 29-year-old Beauchemin doesn't have the offensive talent Kaberle possesses, the addition of the former Anaheim Ducks blueliner takes care of the need for a puck-moving defenceman the Leafs require if Kaberle is moved for an elite forward.
Toronto general manager Brian Burke has stated he won't move Kaberle, who still has two seasons remaining on his contract at a bargain-basement salary of $4.25-million (U.S.) a year, unless the package in return "blows the doors off."
Beauchemin, who played a valuable role when Burke's Ducks won the 2006-07 Stanley Cup, signed a three-year, $11.4-million pact with the Leafs.
"I was waiting for Anaheim. I had four great years there," said Beauchemin, who didn't receive an offer until last Saturday. "If they weren't going to sign me, I wanted to come back East to a hockey market and the Leafs showed the most interest."
The Montreal Canadiens originally drafted Beauchemin in the third round of the 1998 entry draft and they again expressed interest in native of Sorel, Que.
"I just felt that I wasn't the No. 1 guy and that they had other interests," Beauchemin said of the other interested teams.
The addition of Beauchemin, who was invited to the Canadian 2010 Olympic team's summer camp, means the Leafs now have nine defenceman under contract, 10 if you include Anton Stralman. Besides Kaberle and Beauchemin, the others are: Garnet Exelby, Jeff Finger, Jonas Frogren, Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn, Mike Van Ryn and Ian White.
The glaring hole on the Leafs roster is now a top-three forward. Dealing Kaberle could help Toronto land such a player.
Toronto now has 24 players under contract at a payroll of $54.3-million.
Also yesterday, the Leafs signed first-round draft pick Nazem Kadri to a three-year, entry level contract worth $2.7-million and fortified the AHL's Toronto Marlies lineup with by locking up forwards Ben Ondrus (one year), Ryan Hamilton (one year), Tim Brent (one year), Richard Greenop (three years) and defenceman Jay Rosehill to contracts.
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