Hockey

Leafs trade Yushkevich, sign Svehla

After failing to land any marquee free agents so far this summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs have managed to lure defenceman Robert Svehla out of retirement.

But acquiring Svehla meant the Leafs had to give up their own steady blueliner, Dmitry Yushkevich, in return.

"We had him rated a little better than Yushkevich," Leafs coach and GM Pat Quinn said on a conference call from Vancouver.

With Yushkevich looking headed for unrestricted free agency next year, the Leafs set their sights on Svehla, who opted for retirement in June rather than return to the Panthers.

"It was a factor, I'd be fibbing if I didn't acknowledge that," Quinn said of Yushkevich's contract status. "We explored the situation with Yuskevich's agent (Mark Gandler) to see if we could put a longer deal together.

"But the terms and the numbers sent back were frightening, really."

Yushkevich, who missed the second half of the season with a blood clot behind his right knee, wasn't shocked at being traded.

"When we sent our (contract) proposal a couple of days before the (NHL) draft we never got a response from the Maple Leafs organization," he said. "And there wer lots of rumours I heard that they weren't happy with our proposal.

"So in the last couple of days I was expecting something to happen."

The 30-year-old defenceman is continuing to take blood thinners, but said he will be ready to play at the start of the season.

The Panthers said that Svehla was serious about retiring and seemed determined to stay out of the NHL until the Maple Leafs expressed a lot of interest.

"Bill pursued this really aggressively," said Rich Winter, Svehla's agent. "He called and contacted his wife, who is a horse rider, and gave her all kinds of information about equestrian in Toronto.

"Bill did an outstanding job of making Robert, his wife and children fell wanted."

Svehla, 33, agreed to a one-year deal with a series of one-year options.

He had a $3.25 million US option year of his contract picked up by the Panthers, but when he was refused other incentives, he chose to call it a career on June 13.