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Leafs duo heads to Florida

by John McGourty

The Florida Panthers added some size and toughness to their lineup by trading for former Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Chad Kilger and Wade Belak.
The Florida Panthers got bigger and meaner with the acquisitions of former Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Chad Kilger and Wade Belak at the NHL trade deadline Tuesday. The latter can also play defense. Kilger can also play left wing.

Both players should help with team chemistry in Florida.

Belak was acquired in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, while Kilger cost the Panthers a third-round selection in the same draft.

Kilger, 31, is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, while Belak, 31, is 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds.

Kilger was seen as a disappointment for several years after Anaheim made him the fourth-overall pick of the 1995 Draft. He probably was taken too early, but that was the era of giant centermen like Eric Lindros, Mark Messier, Joel Otto and others.

Kilger has a good hockey background. His father, Bob, played with Bobby Orr and Danny O'Shea on the 1963-65 Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey Association. He later coached the OHL Cornwell Royals in the early 1980s. Future NHL star Doug Gilmour played there for Bob Kilger.

Kilger has been traded four times and Toronto claimed him off waivers from Montreal in March 2004. Kilger seemed to find a home in Toronto, playing a strong two-way role. He had 10 goals and seven assists in 53 games this season and was plus-1. Kilger has 107 goals and 111 assists for 218 points in 714 NHL games in which he is minus-44 in 12 seasons. He has three goals and two assists in 36 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Belak was also regarded as a disappointment after he was selected by the Quebec Nordiques with the 12th overall pick of the 1994 Draft. Same motivation: big was an important commodity then. He has also played for the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames. Toronto claimed him off waivers from the Flames in February 2001.

Belak has eight goals and 21 assists in 425 NHL games while going minus-36. He has one goal and is plus-2 in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had one goal in 30 games with Toronto this season.

Belak racked up 320 penalty minutes while playing for the AHL Hershey Bears and coach Bob Hartley in 1996-97. His presence helped the Bears win the Calder Cup.

Kilger is seen as the better player and brought a higher pick to the Maple Leafs. Belak's intangibles could make him just as valuable to the Panthers.

Both men play tough and use their size to protect teammates. But both men are easy-going and very likable off the ice. Belak has a zany sense of humor and the sense to know when to use it to bring relief to frustrated players on a losing team.

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