Boyd Devereaux has not played a game in the minors since the 1998-99 season but he happily will do so again, possibly as early as this afternoon for the Toronto Marlies.
The Maple Leafs yesterday signed the NHL veteran to a one-year, two-way contract that will pay him $450,000 US in the NHL or $95,000 Cdn if he skates for the Marlies. The lone hitch is waiting to see whether Devereaux, who would start with the Marlies, clears waivers by noon today.
"It's a good opportunity for me to put my head down and get some good minutes and handle the puck," the 6-foot-2, 195-pound centre said in a telephone interview. "I just want to get out there and play. Beyond that, I am not really concerned about anything else right now."
Devereaux, 28, spent last season with the Phoenix Coyotes, registering eight goals and 14 assists in 78 games. The native of Seaforth, Ont., a small town north of London, has played in 509 games and has 131 points and 167 penalty minutes. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers sixth overall in 1996, Devereaux moved on to the Detroit Red Wings in 2000 and won a Cup in 2002. He had suffered a concussion with the Oilers in a game against the Coyotes and was told his career was in jeopardy. The Oilers were scared off and Devereaux became an unrestricted free agent at 22, signing with Detroit.
Devereaux hooked up with the Wings again last month but was released after attending the camp on a tryout basis.
Devereaux thought seriously about offers from Switzerland and was being sought by a number of NHL clubs. But the idea of playing in Toronto, whether he is with the Leafs or Marlies, appealed to him and his wife, Leah.
"It's ideal," Devereaux said. "It's easier on my family (the couple has a 21-month-old daughter, Tessa) and we're close to home."
Both Leafs general manager John Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice said they have not put any expectations on Devereaux. They're in a no-lose situation -- Devereaux will provide desperately needed depth, whether it is being a main cog with the Marlies or a proven callup for the Leafs.
"I want to battle and try to get up to the NHL level again," Devereaux said. "I would be lying if I said it wasn't my goal. I'm excited about the opportunity."