TORONTO – Francois Beauchemin has seen what Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has been able to accomplish so far this summer and feels confident about one thing.
“We should have a decent D here,” the blue-liner said on a conference call after agreeing to a three-year deal with the Maple Leafs.
His contract was announced on a busy Monday for Burke, who also signed first-round pick Nazem Kadri to an entry-level contract, re-signed forwards Ben Ondrus and Ryan Hamilton to one-year contracts and added free-agent forwards Jay Rosehill (two years), Tim Brent (one year) and Richard Greenop (three-year entry level contract).
But Beauchemin is the latest big piece in Burke’s makeover of a club he repeatedly characterized as too soft last season.
He joins a defence bolstered by the additions of fellow free agent signing Mike Komisarek and Grant Exelby, who was acquired as part of the trade that sent Pavel Kubina to Atlanta.
Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle, whose name is a staple in the rumour mill, are among the notable incumbents left from last year’s group.
“They added obviously some size in Komisarek and Exelby so I’ll try to fit in and do what I can to help the team,” said Beauchemin.
“I try to play an aggressive style of game. Solid in the D-zone, I try to contribute offensively when I can, I just try to be hard to play against.”
Burke knows exactly what Beauchemin brings to the table from their days together with the Anaheim Ducks.
The 29-year-old missed 62 games with a knee injury last season but returned to play in the final two regular season games and all 13 post-season games for Anaheim.
He often played with Scott Niedermayer with the Ducks and helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2007.
“Francois will be a welcome addition to our blue-line,” said Burke. “He’s a rock solid, steady defender that will add character to our team.”
Beauchemin had hoped to re-sign with Anaheim but said when he didn’t hear a word from the Ducks, he turned his focus elsewhere.
“My No. 1 choice was to stay in Anaheim,” he said. “They told me back in November they were going to offer me something and the day I got hurt everything kind of changed.
“They didn’t make an offer, they didn’t talk to me all year long and I waited all summer long until Saturday.”
Kadri, the seventh overall pick in the June 26 draft, got a three-year entry level deal. The 18-year-old forward was ninth in the Ontario Hockey League with 53 assists and 15th with 78 points last season.