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No more distractions for Leafs as Kaberle signs multi-year deal

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care

The Leafs got better Tuesday with the announcement that Tomas Kaberle signed a multi-year deal with the team. While contract negotiations looked shaky at times, both sides came away happy. Kaberle will make a minimum of $5 million for three years - which was reported on Tuesday - and the Leafs get a 23-year-old defenceman at a price that they feel is market value.

But the best news for the Leafs is the distractions that came with Kaberle's absence are now gone and he will improve this defensive unit. Toronto got off to a slugglish start to begin the year and much of the criticism was placed on the team's defence. Turnovers plagued this unit early, but Coach Pat Quinn must be elated that he doesn't have to answer any more questions about Kaberle's contract situation.

However, Kaberle doesn't come back to a team that's in disarray defensively. Over the last four games, the Leafs have allowed only four goals. Where Kaberle will help the Leafs the most is offensively. While he struggled at times last season, Kaberle finished as the team's top scoring defencemen with 39 assists and 45 points. His skating and puckhandling ability make him the quarterback of the Leafs' power play.

"We have Tomas Kaberle in our lineup at a salary that we consider to be reasonable," said the Leafs' Assistant to the President Bill Watters. "I think at the end of the day the mandate of my particular position and that of the agent (Jay Fee) is to get the player on the ice and we succeeded in doing that."

While the big question facing Kaberle is his endurance - he missed all of training camp - it shouldn't take him long to get into game shape. Kaberle played nine games with Kladno of the Czech league before the start of the NHL season and will arrive in Toronto on Wednesday. He will take his medical on Thursday and the team hopes to have him practicing by Friday.

"I'm happy it's all worked out," Kaberle told Leafs TV. "I'm happy that both sides got together and I can be back. It's been a long time and I haven't played and haven't seen any of the guys."

Kaberle said that he's kept himself in good condition and isn't concerned about missing training camp and the Leafs' first 12 games of the season.

"I've been doing the same things," he said. "I've been working out and practicing."

Kaberle's play should pick up where it left off last year. During the playoffs, he was one of the team's best defencemen. He scored the winning goal in the last minute of regulation time in Game 5 of the second round against New Jersey and his teammates know what a bonus he'll be to the team.

"He brings a lot of offensive ability to this team," said defencemen Dmitry Yushkevich. "Our power play will be better and he's a young talented defencemen who's been around for three years. He will make us better."
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