"We will value his contributions on all hockey decisions and he will be a great asset to our organization."
-- Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Cliff Fletcher on Joe Nieuwendyk
In his 20 seasons in the NHL, Joe Nieuwendyk was known as one of the smartest players in hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs moved to tap that intelligence on Tuesday by signing the former All-Star center as a special assistant to general manager Cliff Fletcher.
"Joe is an extremely intelligent individual who has experienced success throughout his entire hockey career," Fletcher said in a statement. "We will value his contributions on all hockey decisions and he will be a great asset to our organization."
The Maple Leafs were stymied in their first attempt to add Nieuwendyk to their front office when the Jacques Martin and the Florida Panthers denied the Leafs permission to talk to Nieuwendyk until his contract expired on June 30.
In 1,257 NHL games, Nieuwendyk, 41, collected 564 goals and 562 assists for 1,126 points. Nieuwendyk played in 64 games for Toronto in 2003-04 and recorded 22 goals and 28 assists. While with the Dallas Stars, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1999 as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Fletcher originally drafted Nieuwendyk, who came to the NHL with the Calgary Flames in 1987 after playing three seasons at Cornell University and scored 51 goals in each of his first two seasons. He won the Calder Trophy in 1987-88 and helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1988-89. He won another Cup with Dallas in 1999 and a third with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
After one season with the Leafs, he played with Florida in 2005-06 and 2006-07 before retiring in December 2006 due to chronic back problems.