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Svehla unveiled in Trencin

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley


Svehla listen to a question from the media.
TORONTO -- In Robert Svehla, the Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired a veteran defenceman with an offensive flare. But the team also gets a relationship that could produce hockey talents like him for years to come.

Earlier this week, Svehla was introduced to the media in the city of Trencin, Slovakia. The 33-year-old donned the Blue and White for the first time since agreeing to abandon a short-lived retirement and sign a series of one-year deals with the Leafs. A key component to the contract is a working relationship and financial agreement between Toronto, through Svehla, and his old club team Dukla Trencin.

"What has impressed me most about Robert, has been his dedication and commitment to his club team," Leafs assistant to the president Bill Watters said as he addressed the Slovakian media via conference call. "On many occasions I have said to Mr. Winter (Svehla's agent) 'that I couldn't believe the generosity and genuine feeling of responsibility that Robert shows toward Dukla Trencin'."

Over the last few months, Dukla has been dissolved and Trencin's team became a privately owned club. Former team president Ivan Piovarcik, Frantisek Hossa, father of Ottawa Senators' Marian Hossa, and Svehla are now in charge of the organization. Prior to the privatization, the team was government run.

"I fully realize the type of person the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting as a player and his commitment to Trencin is something we look forward to sharing when he comes to the Maple Leafs," Watters said.

Robert Svehla and agent Rich Winter pose for a picture at press conference in Trencin.

Svehla wanted to rework his deal with the Panthers so that he could have the same type of arrangement he now has with the Leafs. That wasn't conceivable with new GM Rick Dudley and it opened the door for the Leafs to acquire Svehla for Dmitry Yushkevich.

"We talked with the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline and tried to make a trade for him at that point and we were told by Florida management along with Mr. Winter that Robert was going to retire," Watters said. "And then in further conversations that commenced around June 22, we tried to convince Robert that it would be fun to play in Toronto, not only for him, but for his family. That was our job for the month of July and here it's the 23rd and we've got it done."

Coming out of Trencin in the past have been players like Miroslav Satan, Peter Bondra, Ziggy Palffy, and Zdeno Chara. If this relationship can produce a player even close to their ability, the Leafs will look back on this as one of the team's better decisions.

"That's what we are hoping to do in developing an exchange of information that will be beneficial to us and our young prospects as we draft," Watters said. "And as well hopefully assisting Robert and Dukla Trencin in any opportunities that might evolve from an advertising/promotional stand point, we're prepared to assist them in that regard."

It seems that everyone gets a little something in this deal. Toronto gets a quality defenceman and avoids what was shaping up to be a difficult contract situation with Yushkevich. Svehla gets to help his team remain financially viable and creates a relationship with a leading organization in the NHL.

Now all that's left is to see if Svehla can improve the Leafs on the ice the way management believes he can.
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