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Vancouver Canucks center Shawn Matthias, center, and right wing Linden Vey, left, celebrate after Matthias scored in second period action during the NHL hockey game. At right is Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed centre Matthias to a one-year contract Monday.

AP

He is enormous – 6-foot-4 and roughly 220 pounds.

He is versatile, able to play left wing or centre, and on both special teams.

And he came downright cheap, on a one-year deal for only $2.3-million.

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You would be reaching, frankly, to come up with a reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn't have signed Shawn Matthias on Monday to their forward group, giving an opportunity to a player that has deserved more than he's been dealt in his career.

It doesn't hurt that he's a local, from nearby Mississauga.

A long-time Florida Panther turned Vancouver Canuck, Matthias is undaunted by the prospect of joining a Leafs team that isn't expected to contend for much next season as the franchise's rebuild gets underway.

"My mindset is to come in and show them how badly I want to be a Leaf every night," said Matthias, who visited the Air Canada Centre early last week, presumably passed a sanity test, and had fruitful conversations with president Brendan Shanahan and head coach Mike Babcock. "This is where I want to be. It's kind of like a tryout, I guess.

"I've got to go in there and show them how badly I want it. This is a dream come true, and they're going to get the best out of me."

Matthias is only 27, but he has been around the NHL for a while – he hit the 400-game mark last season with Vancouver. He was relegated to a checking-line role there, but still managed to score 18 goals in only 13 minutes a night for the Canucks, which includes time on the penalty kill.

Given all the holes in the Leafs lineup, he should be in line for far more playing time than that – and perhaps his first real taste of regular duties on the power play.

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Matthias should also get more of a chance on lines with slightly better offensive talents, something that has been an issue in the past. His most frequent linemates in his career include Brad Richardson, Tomas Kopecky, Jack Skille and Mike Santorelli, the definition of third-line fill-ins.

He has played for other teams in turmoil, but with coaches on hot seats, something that won't be an issue with Babcock in charge in Toronto.

"I've had a lot of rookie head coaches in my career," Matthias explained. "I think all of them. I'm really excited for the opportunity to play for Mike. I think it's a good opportunity for me to grow as a player; he gets the best out of his players. That was a big reason for me wanting to come here."

Along with Michael Frolik, who ultimately went to Calgary on a long-term deal, Matthias is one of a few players the Leafs pursued right from the beginning of the free-agent interview period before the draft.

Like a lot of what Toronto has done in the past two weeks – save for the Phil Kessel trade – there's very little risk involved. If Matthias is a fit, the Leafs can negotiate a contract extension with a player who clearly has an affinity for the team and city, and wants to be part of the long-term solution. If he isn't, they can simply convert him into a draft pick at the trade deadline.

Perhaps the perfect scenario would be for him to go the Dan Winnik route: Play well in increased minutes, get noticed around the league, get traded to a contender for two draft picks at the deadline and re-sign back with the Leafs again next summer with a bit more term.

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Money for nothing and picks for free. As far as franchise-building mottos go, it's a bit better than draft schmaft.

"Florida was the same thing," Matthias said. "We went through rebuilds and everything. It's going to be tough. There's going to have to be a lot of hard work put in. Coming in, I think it's a good opportunity for me to show I can be part of this team and hopefully grow with them. I'm excited for the challenge."

And the Leafs should be excited to have him – for as long as they do.

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