Dmitry Yushkevich knows what teammate Tomas Kaberle is going through. He knows how tough it can be to be waiting for a contract settlement while your teammates start training camp. It appears that Kaberle, who is at a contract impasse with the Leafs, won't be joining the team any time soon and Yushkevich can relate to his plight.
"What Thomas is doing, it's his right," said Yushkevich." I was in a similar situation two years ago. I was holding out for a couple of months and finally we got an agreement."
During his contract holdout Yushkevich felt he was being underpaid for what he was delivering on the ice. The situation was made more difficult seeing his team play without him and the frustration of not playing increased.
"Your first thought is that the team underrates you," he said. "They say you play well and then all of the sudden they don't want to give you the salary you deserve, so from that point it's really hard. You really want to play for the team but sometimes you don't want to be underrated especially with the players making so much money right now."
Along with the holdout is the fear that Kaberle won't be in game shape were he to finally reach a contract agreement with the Leafs. It's one thing to keep in shape by doing a lot of skating and weight training, but playing in actual NHL gams can't be simulated.
"It's very hard to sit back and watch," Yushkevich added. "I can't say (how it will affect him). He might be strong. He might come here really disturbed."
Even with Kaberle's contract situation not resolved, Yushkevich said the loss of Danny Markov should not be overlooked. Markov was traded to Phoenix in return for Robert Reichel, Travis Green and Craig Mills. During the Leafs run in the playoffs last year, Markov was one of Toronto's steadiest defenceman and his play with the organization didn't go unnoticed.
"I think it's going to be very hard to replace both players," said Yushkevich. "We just hope Tomas is going to sign before the season starts. It's going to be really tough to replace Danny. He was the heart and soul of this team. He was a real character guy and you could rely on him in any situation. He was a true warrior. We're going to miss him."
As it stands now, the Leafs will be going into camp with the likely scenario of having Yushkevich, Bryan McCabe, Aki Berg, Cory Cross, Dave Manson and Anders Eriksson as their top six defenceman Yushkevich likes the maturity he sees in both McCabe and Berg, but unless the Leaf defence can duplicate its playoff performance, the big Russian will be counted on even more this year.