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Quinn says Svehla better than Yushky

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

With one trade the Leafs have resolved a contract issue and upgraded a defenceman.

The Leafs announced they had acquired veteran blue-liner Robert Svehla for the rights to Dmitry Yushkevich, who is a restricted free agent.

"Statistically speaking Svehla's a better player in the offensive category. He also is solid defensively," Leafs GM Pat Quinn said via conference call Thursday afternoon. "We had him rated a little bit better that Yushky."
Robert Svehla and Alyn McCauley will be on the same team next year.

One of the biggest reasons for the trade was Yushkevich's contract situation and Svehla's retirement.

The Leafs tried to workout a long-term deal with Yushkevich but the demands were deemed too high. The rugged defenceman becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

"We explored the situation with Yushky's agent (Mark Gandler) to see if we could put a larger deal together and the term and number sent back were frightening really," Quinn said. "When Yushky filed for free agency we knew it was a one-year deal in his mind.

Quinn said the fact Yushkevich is coming off a blood clot in his leg had little to do with the trade. He has been medically cleared to play and the Panthers are fully aware of his health.

Gandler's clients have a history holding out on the Leafs. Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev both were traded because of contracts couldn't be worked out as they headed into their final season before unrestricted free agency. Yushkevich is in that exact situation.

"We've had players with this particular agent before and we've never been able to keep them," Quinn said.

The 33-year-old Svehla comes to Hogtown after a being unable to workout an agreement with the Panthers, so he retired at the end of last season. He has agreed to a series of one-year deals with Toronto and will hand over 25 per cent of his salary to his former club team in Slovakia, Dukla Trencin, something that was a stumbling block with the Panthers.

"We know what the concept is and certainly agree with the player's right to manage his money any way that he wishes and that's the way we viewed this," Quinn said. "It is very generous,"

Svehla is the second player to join the Leafs in as many days. Veteran Tom Fitzgerald was signed on Wednesday. Quinn also said the team is looking for another defenceman to add to their roster.

Last season Svehla netted 7 goals and 22 assists and was second in the NHL with 385 hits. He is currently on a streak of 300 consecutive games played and has missed only six games since joining the NHL. Svehla is the Panthers all-time leader in games and assists and is first among defencemen in goals and points.

The 6-foot-1, 210 pounder was originally drafted 78th overall in the 1992 Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. On September 29, 1994, his rights were traded with Magnus Svensson to the Florida Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick.

Notes: Jonas Hoglund has accepted the Leafs qualifying offer, forgoing salary arbitration ... The Leafs will be working with Aki Berg to avoid salary arbitration right up until the date of his hearing, which scheduled for the first week of August.
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