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Marchment Helps Fill Svehla, Wesley Void

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed unrestricted free agent Bryan Marchment to a one-year deal worth $2 million US.

The 34-year-old defenceman is a hard-hitting player who will add the kind of physical presence the Leafs were desperately looking for after the apparent retirement of Robert Svehla. Marchment had two goals, 12 assists and 141 penalty minutes last season with San Jose and Colorado. He has 2,126 penalty minutes in 814 career games with Winnipeg, Chicago, Hartford, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, San Jose and Colorado.

When veteran defenceman Glen Wesley, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year, $2.75-million deal with Carolina earlier this week, the Leafs needed to find help in a hurry.

Toronto's blue-line took a hit in late April when Robert Svehla announced his retirement during the world hockey championship in Finland. The Leafs were caught off guard by that and suddenly faced the prospect of having only Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle as quality defencemen.

Thinking that Svehla might try to play in Europe next season the Leafs picked up his $4-million contract option for 2003-04 to prevent him from signing with anyone else in the world.

But now the Leafs feel like they have their hands tied with Svehla wavering on whether or not he'll come back to play after all.

The Leafs want to now whether or not they're on the hook for $4 million.

Svehla's agent Rich Winter has had talks with the Leafs aimed at resolving the issue and one option would be to buy out Svehla and make him an unrestricted free agent.

That way the Leafs could quickly move on and spend their money elsewhere.

"We will give them a proposal on how that (making Svehla a free agent) can happen and how it can happen immediately," Winter said Friday from Edmonton.

"We're waiting for the Leafs to call us back and we'll communicate our position to them," Winter added. "Then we'll give them the weekend to think about it and hopefully they'll make a decision."

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