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Joe Nieuwendyk, pictured as player with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004, has returned to the team as a special assistant to the general manager. ((Aaron Harris/Canadian Press))

The Toronto Maple Leafs have brought former player Joe Nieuwendyk back into the fold as the team's special assistant to the general manager.

"Joe is an extremely intelligent individual, who has experienced success throughout his entire hockey career," Toronto GM Cliff Fletcher said in a statement Tuesday. "We will value his contributions on all hockey decisions and he will be a great asset to our organization."

Nieuwendyk, 41, most recently served as a special consultant to the general manager with the Florida Panthers for a year before he announced in mid-April that he would not return for the 2008-09 season.

The Whitby, Ont., native played 20 NHL seasons from 1986 to 2007 for the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, the Panthers and the Maple Leafs. He won three Stanley Cups in three different decades with Calgary (1989), Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003).

In 1,257 career NHL regular-season games, Nieuwendyk scored 564 goals and added 562 assists (1,126 points). In 158 career playoff games, he totaled 66 goals and 50 assists (116 points).

As a member of the Maple Leafs during the 2003-04 season, Nieuwendyk had 22 goals and 28 assists in 64 games.

Persistent backĀ problems prompted Nieuwendyk to retireĀ from hockey in December 2006.

With files from the Associated Press