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Leafs Set On Defence

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
July 4, 2006

TORONTO (CP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs may have missed out on blue-liner Zdeno Chara, but they still added a pair of hulking defencemen in Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill.

Hal Gill brings a physical presence to the Leafs.
(Getty Images/NHLI)

Chara signed a long-term contract with the Boston Bruins shortly after the start of the NHL's free-agent signing period. Toronto made its moves a short time later, with Kubina inking a $20-million US, four-year deal and Gill signing a $6.3-million, three-year contract.

Gill is an imposing six-foot-seven, 250-pounder while Kubina checks in at six-foot-four and 244 pounds. With Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle also signed long-term, Kubina and Gill - both unrestricted free agents - should give the Leafs some much-needed depth on the blue-line for the next few years.

"It was an area that we wanted to address,'' said Leafs GM John Ferguson. "We've done that and we feel really good about these signings. We think we've really shored up our back line.''

Kubina, who made $2.58 million last season, had five goals and 33 assists in 76 games with Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old added a goal and an assist in two playoff games.

Kubina said seven or eight teams were interested in his services. He added it will be tough to leave Tampa Bay, but he's looking forward to playing in a city where hockey is king.

"I know there's a lot of good hockey players in Toronto like (captain Mats) Sundin, McCabe and Kaberle,'' Kubina said during a conference call. "I know Tomas Kaberle very well and that was the reason why I signed with Toronto. It's a great organization too.''

Gill, a 31-year-old native of Concord, Mass., made just under $1.6 million last season with the Boston Bruins. He had one goal, nine assists and 124 penalty minutes in 80 games.

"We've got some players now and we can really spread around the ice time,'' Ferguson said. "They all fit really well, that's the key here.

"It's a really good fit. Kubina with the right shot and Gill on the left side.''

The moves soak up a good chunk of the team's available salary cap room, but Ferguson said he still might do a little tinkering over the summer.

It's possible that forwards Eric Lindros and Jason Allison could return although they'd probably have to take pay cuts to stay.

About half of the NHL's 30 teams were said to be interested in Chara, who is leaving Ottawa for a $37.5-million, five-year contract with the Bruins.

"I couldn't say if we were close on any other deal that got done,'' Ferguson said. "As of 12 o'clock, you start getting involved and you make calls and offers and counter-offers and you talk to players and agents.

"We like where we ended up.''

It has been a busy off-season for Ferguson, who has made several moves since the Maple Leafs missed the playoffs.

Coach Pat Quinn was let go and replaced by Toronto Marlies coach Paul Maurice. Goaltender Andrew Raycroft was acquired in a trade with Boston and forward Tie Domi and netminder Ed Belfour have been let go.

Ferguson chose to reserve comment on the possibility of Gary Roberts returning to Toronto. The veteran forward, who has a year left at $2.25 million US on his deal with Florida, has asked for a trade back to the Leafs so he can be closer to his teenage daughter. The Panthers have said they would try to accommodate Roberts.

"There's not much to discuss other than (the trade request) has been disclosed publicly already,'' Ferguson said.

Kubina was selected by Tampa Bay in the seventh round (179th overall) of the 1996 entry draft and has spent all eight of his NHL seasons with the Lightning. In 533 career regular season games, he has 65 goals and 144 assists for 209 points. He also has 663 career penalty minutes.

Gill was taken by the Bruins in the eighth round (207th overall) of the 1993 draft. He has 20 goals and 77 assists for 97 points in 626 career regular season games, all with Boston. Gill has 588 career penalty minutes.

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