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The return of Yushkevich

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - Dmitry Yushkevich has decided to bury all the hatchets thrown at the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was traded to the Florida Panthers in July.

In fact he may forget the situation altogether after he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. The veteran rearguard, who played seven seasons with the Blue and White, is not holding any grudges when he goes looking for deal.

"I always say that Toronto is the best city to play hockey in," Yushkevich said from the unfamiliar visitors dressing room before his Panthers dropped the Leafs 4-1, Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

"There's always the hope, I mean who knows? When I become a free agent lots of teams will have an interest in me so ... there's always possibilities."

The big, rugged Russian played over 30 minutes and had a plus/minus rating of +3 in the victory. Beating the Leafs didn't give him any extra pleasure, surprisingly.

"I'm empty right now," Yushkevich said trying to describe what it was like playing against his old mates. "It was different, like a Blue and White scrimmage in training camp."

Upset the organization wouldn't permit him to play with a blood clot during the playoffs along with his inability to get a long-term contract done and then being traded for Robert Svehla, Yushkevich has ran the emotional gambit over the last nine months.

"He seems to think we kept him out of the lineup for some other reason than to save his life. I can't change that," GM/coach Pat Quinn said.

Yushkevich has no regrets and still believes to some degree he wasn't treated fairly.

"I know what I know and I believe what I believe and nobody can change my opinion. Everything is in the past and I'm just happy to get back to playing," Yushkevich said.

"In April the ownership didn't want me to play. They were concerned about my health first of all and second of all there was legal issues. Everybody knew if something happened they were going to be in trouble."

Despite how cut and dry it appears to him now, it wasn't at the time. He basically lashed out at the organization after being dealt to a non-hockey market. Quinn re-stated the biggest reason for the trade was financial.

"The simple fact is it was his agent's request for a contract that made us look elsewhere. His agent tried to get into free agent money before he's a free agent," Quinn said. "I still think he's a terrific guy. I'm glad I had a chance to coach him for as long as I did."

Would the Leafs go after Yushkevich next summer?

"Next year he's going to go out into the marketplace and do the best he can. Maybe Toronto's the place that does sign him but I can't predict that far down the way," Quinn said.

There's no doubt Yushkevich loves Toronto and all that comes with playing in hockey's hometown but his return is really all about the money. Can he get it in Toronto or will the greenbacks pull him away once again from the place he loves?

"It would be nice to come back but if it doesn't happen ... ," Yushkevich said.
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