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Komisarek Ready To Go In Toronto

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Mike Komisarek wants the heat.


The free agent, signed by the Maple Leafs after seven seasons spent in the Montreal Canadiens system, said he came to Toronto because he wanted the demands and exposure that comes with playing for a Canadian Original Six team.

“I never really saw myself in a non-traditional market,” he said via telephone Thursday.

Komisarek was familiar with Leafs GM Brian Burke through both their involvement in the USA Hockey program. Komisarek said he recognized in Burke an executive who valued what he brought to the rink.

That is, in no small part, a nasty streak that goes 200-feet long and 80 feet wide. He has a work ethic to match, a quality instilled by him by his two Polish parents who came to the United States 30 years ago and built up a business from scratch.

The six-foot-four 240-pound Komisarek has tangled with a long line of bad men including Milan Lucic, the Boston forward who tore through the Maple Leafs this season. Komisarek has just a dozen goals in 361 NHL games and scored just two last season.  The native of West Islip, New York has 496 penalty minutes in that tenure.

Komisarek said he was happy to see Burke’s approach and vision. “He wants a physically aggressive team, a tough team to play against.”

Playing for the Habs, Komisarek said, prepared him to be a Leaf and thrive in a 365-days a year hockey atmosphere. “Montreal,” he said, “was instrumental in helping me grow as a player and a person.”

The free agent frenzy has slowed to a trickle and it seems unlikely there will be more to come.

At least no more NHL free agents.  Burke was in Sweden attempting to land goalie Jonas Gustavsson who you might have heard is the best goalie outside the NHL,

Gustavsson is a fine prospect, but a prospect nonetheless so it’s probably a little soon to cast him as a big difference maker, especially with Finn Vesa Toskala in the fold for at least another year.

While,  the Leafs reinforced their backbone with the acquisition of hardrock defencemen Mike Komisarek and Colton Orr through free agency and defenceman Garnet Exelby and forward Colin Stuart by trade on July 1, they added some skill to the package when they re-signed centre Mikhail Grabovski, Thursday.

The Leafs are set to add to the roster leftwinger Viktor Stalberg, a Swede from the University of Vermont who played two games with the Marlies last year, Notre Dame trained- centreman Christian Hanson and centre Tyler Bozak as well as Jiri Tlusty, who enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Marlies. That makes seven new faces who will make a real push for the opening night lineup. Gustavsson or whoever the Leafs contract to back-up Toskala makes eight.

There is still a glut of discarded Montreal forwards but the players, Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang to name a handful aren’t built along the bruising lines preferred by Burke. The last player built to Burke’s specs, Chris Neil, re-signed with the Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs have already addressed their needs for defense-first rearguards so don’t expect a move for Francois Beauchemin.

If Gustavsson opts for Dallas instead of Toronto, Burke will no doubt pick off a veteran goalie from the free agent pile. Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki, are probably at the top of the list.

Any further roster moves will probably be via the trade. The Boston Bruins and Leafs reached what was believed to be a consensus on a trade last week that would have shipped 21-year old Phil Kessel to the Leafs for Tomas Kaberle but the deal fell through. The defence has become far more truculent to repeat one of Burke’s favourite adjectives so it’s hard to see if the slick Kaberle has become more vital with the trade of the offensively able Pavel Kubina.
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