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Eric Finally Comes Home

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) -- Eric Lindros is a Maple Leaf, finally consummating an on-again, off-again affair that lasted for years.

The one-year deal is worth $1.55 million US.

GM John Ferguson presented Lindros with a No. 88 Leaf jersey at a late-afternoon news conference at the Air Canada Centre.

""It's a little dusty,"" Lindros joked, referring to his long history of being linked to Toronto.

""It's about time. This is great. I'm really excited about it. It's a dream come true,"" he added

In November 2000, Lindros -- then an out-of-favour Flyer -- announced the Leafs were the one and only team he wants to be traded to. In February 2001, Toronto's board of governors actually approved a deal to get Lindros in a trade with Philadelphia. But Pat Quinn, then GM as well as coach, said one day later that the Flyers had pulled out of the agreement.

The 32-year-old forward played for the New York Rangers most recently. He had 10 goals, 22 assists and 60 penalty minutes in 39 games during the 2003-04 season.

He was quick to correct a reporter who cited recent concussions, saying his most recent physical problems were a shoulder that had been repaired.

Ferguson said he was satisfied by the team's ""due diligence"" in checking Lindros out.

""He's passed, he's here and we're pleased to have him,"" said the GM.

Lindros won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1994-95 and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by the players the same year.

But concussions have taken a toll on the big forward during his NHL career.

He missed all of the 2000-01 season recovering from head injuries after a check from New Jersey's Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference final gave him his sixth career concussion.

Lindros has played 678 career NHL games for Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, recording 356 goals 461 assists and 1,285 penalty minutes.

His salary as a Leaf is a far cry from the $8.5-million US qualifying offer he turned down from the Flyers prior to being traded to New York.

In 1991, after drafting him first overall, the Quebec Nordiques reportedly offered him a $50-million deal, 10-year deal with half the money deferred. It was rejected.

An imposing player when healthy, Lindros has always marched to the beat of his own drums -- often making headlines in the process.

In 1989, he was taken first over by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League draft of 16-year-olds but refused to report.

In June 1992, both the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers claimed to have reached an agreement with Quebec on a deal for Lindros. An arbitrator later awarded his rights to the Flyers.

Philadelphia named his captain in September 1994. But the relationship soon turned sour. In March 2000, Lindros criticized Flyers' trainers for not recognizing his concussion. Days later he was stripped of the captaincy.

A string of concussions followed and Lindros eventually wound up in New York.

""Teams were still calling this morning, the interest really picked up, it's interesting how it worked out,"" said Carl Lindros, Eric's father and agent. ""But this is a good situation for him. It's what he wanted.""

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