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Maple Leafs Acquire Jeff O'Neill

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

July 30, 2005

OTTAWA (CP) _ The Carolina Hurricanes granted veteran forward Jeff O'Neill his wish Saturday.

The Carolina Hurricanes traded the former 41-goal scorer to his home-town Toronto Maple Leafs at the NHL draft, a deal that's long been rumoured. The Hurricanes received a conditional 2006 fourth-round draft pick.

Carolina was likely not going to tender O'Neill his $2.812-million US qualifying offer. O'Neill, 29, can become an unrestricted free agent next summer because he's played more than eight years in the NHL.

"We need some scoring on our right side and we feel he can do that for us,'' Toronto general manager John Ferguson told TSN. "He has something to prove and we're going to give him an opportunity to return to form.''

O'Neill, a native of Richmond Hill, Ont. who publicly told Toronto media earlier this month he would love to sign with Toronto if the Hurricanes didn't qualify him, has 198 goals and 218 assists in 673 regular-season games.

O'Neill also added nine goals and eight assists in 34 career playoff games with Carolina.

O'Neill, a nine-year NHL veteran, was Carolina's first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 1994 when the franchise was based in Hartford.

The trade comes just over two weeks after tragic loss for the O'Neill family. Donny O'Neill, Jeff's older brother, was killed in a car crash July 21 in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto.

Donny O'Neill, 33, died when his vehicle rolled over on a ramp linking two major highways. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Jeff O'Neill was in Toronto at the time of the accident attending NHL Players' Association meetings.

Jeff O'Neill's best NHL season was 2000-2001 when he scored 41 goals but he slumped to just 14 goals in 2003-'04.

O'Neill played his junior hockey with the Guelph Storm, being named the OHL's top rookie in 1993. He also played on the '95 Canadian team that won the world junior hockey championship.

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