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Leafs to ‘celebrate our team’s history’ with Legend’s Row

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Hey, remember last summer when incoming MLSE president Tim Leiweke drew fire for, among other things, wanting to tear down the old pictures of championship Toronto Maple Leafs teams outside the current team’s dressing room?

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

Keep that in mind when you read this latest press release from the Leafs:

Next month at the inaugural Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Fest presented by your Toronto area Ford dealers, the team will officially unveil the first three members of ‘Legends Row’, a public statue in Maple Leaf Square that will honour a number of greats who have worn the iconic sweater during the franchise’s 97-year history. The team announced today that Ted Kennedy, along with two other Leaf legends to be named at Fan Fest, will be the first players to be honoured with bronze statues.

Legends Row will feature a 30-foot granite bench, located just outside Gate 5 at Air Canada Centre that will immortalize many of the biggest names in Toronto Maple Leafs history. It will be a multi-phase project that will unveil different players leading into the team’s Centennial season in 2017 and beyond.

“In addition to our focus on building a winning team for today and the future, there is an important responsibility to celebrate our team’s history and to create opportunities for a strong connection between our fans and that tradition,” said Brendan Shanahan, President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Legends Row will be a fitting tribute that honours many of the greatest players to ever wear the Maple Leaf while giving our fans the chance to feel a part of that history. We are thrilled to include Ted Kennedy, a player who always gave everything he had to his team, and two other Leaf greats, as the first three players to be recognized.”

To be fair to Leiweke, he did apologize to those who were offended by his plans to remove the pictures, saying he didn’t mean to “minimize our history.”

“But I think at the end of the day,” he added, “if we want to win a Cup, what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to find a team that wants to be the guys in those pictures as we walk down the hallway.”

Clearly, given Shanahan’s carefully prepared statement, the Leafs now fully recognize the need to both honor the past and try to build a team worth honoring in the future. Because it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Former Flyers goalie Heeter signs with Detroit’s AHL team

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The Red Wings added some goalie depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with journeyman Cal Heeter.

Heeter, 27, broke in with the Flyers organization a while back and made his big-league debut in ’13-14, appearing in one game.

Since then, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL (with the Toronto Marlies) and, last season, split his time between Hamburg of the German League and Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.

By itself, this signing isn’t especially noteworthy, as Heeter projects to be an American League mainstay next year.

But the contract is kind of interesting when looking and the big-picture goalie situation in Detroit. The Wings now have Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Jimmy Howard, Jared Coreau, Eddie Pasquale and Jake Paterson all under contract for next season, which is an awful lot of goalies.

With that in mind, remember that Howard’s name has been in trade talks for quite some time.

 

Ex-NHLers Bellemore, Collins sign with KHL’s Chinese club

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HC Kunlun Red Star, the Beijing-based expansion team that will begin playing in the KHL next season, has added a pair of former NHLers.

Sean Collins, who appeared in a pair of games for the Capitals last season, and Brett Bellemore, a veteran of over 100 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes, have agreed to join the club, per Russian news outlet R-Sport.

Bellemore, 28, was originally drafted by the ‘Canes in 2007 and spent most of his professional career with the organization. He signed on with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence last year, and appeared in 56 games.

Collins, 27, broke in with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Caps last season. He spent the majority of the year in AHL Hershey and fared well — 16 goals and 39 points in 75 games — and scored three times in the playoffs, helping the Bears advance to the Calder Cup final.

 

Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.

Jackets sign d-man Harrington, acquired in Rychel trade

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Scott Harrington #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Upon trading Kerby Rychel to Toronto at the draft for Scott Harrington, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Harrington was “a guy we’ve watched for a while,” and a “steady, smart [and] good defender.”

Which makes today’s move none too surprising.

On Monday, Kekalainen announced Harrington signed a one-year, two-way deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed). The contract comes after Harrington split last season between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies, appearing in 15 NHL contests.

While Kekalainen was high on Harrington, the most noteworthy thing about the acquisition is it ended a long-running saga with Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013. There were repeated rumblings that Rychel wanted out of town, and felt stifled by Columbus’ reluctance to make him a full-time NHLer.

For a while, Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from. But in the end, the decision was made to part ways with the 21-year-old, the son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel.

As for Harrington, he should compete for a spot on the Columbus blueline next season. Right now he projects to be the No. 7 or 8 guy, assuming that super prospect Zach Werenski is primed for a full-time gig in the NHL, firmly entrenched in the Blue Jackets’ top six.

In other news from Columbus today, the club has also agreed to terms with AHL forward Alex Broadhurst.

One of the pieces acquired in last summer’s Brandon Saad blockbuster, Broadhurst was a key contributor to AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship this past spring, finishing second on the club in playoff assists.