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Mike Komisarek will be paid $22.2 million US over five years. ((Elsa/Getty Images))

No sooner had the Toronto Maple Leafs traded veteran defenceman Pavel Kubina than they landed a worthy replacement in unrestricted free agent Mike Komisarek.

Toronto sent Kubina, a noted power-play specialist, and forward Tim Stapleton to the Atlanta Thrashers for defenceman Garnet Exelby and forward Colin Stuart.

Kubina, 32, had one year and $5 million US remaining on his contract with Toronto, for whom he played three seasons, and Stapleton is a minor-league prospect who scored once in four games with the Maple Leafs. 

By comparison, Exelby and Stuart will earn $1.7 millon US and $500,000 US, respectively, next season.

As a result, the Maple Leafs cleared over $2 million US in salary cap space and promptly signed Komisarek to a five-year, $22.5-million US pact.

"We definitely had options," Komisarek said. "I was looking for opportunities to grow.

"Ron Wilson is a good coach and [general manager] Brian Burke is a proven winner. I like the direction the team is going in."

Komisarek, 27, posted two goals and nine assists for 11 points with 121 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season, his sixth in the NHL.

More importantly, he led the Canadiens in hits (191) and blocked shots (207).

Komisarek has compiled 12 goals and 58 points with 496 penalty minutes in 361 NHL games since he was drafted seventh overall by Montreal in 2001.

'You have to give something up'

Exelby is equally abrasive, with 120 penalty minutes in 59 games last season.

The 27-year-old has totalled six goals and 46 points with 511 penalty minutes in 357 games over six NHL seasons with the Thrashers. 

Exelby, from Ste. Anne, Man., was drafted in the eighth round (217th overall) by Atlanta in 1999. 

"It is disappointing to have to trade one of your favorite players," Thrashers GM Don Waddell said. "He did everything we ever asked of him.

"And Stuart started coming into his own last year and was a good player for us. But when you make a deal and when you get a good player back, you have to give something up."

With files from The Canadian Press