Berg signs with Finnish club

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

A full-time job on the Maple Leafs blue line officially became open yesterday.

Aki Berg held true to his desire to raise his children in his native Finland, as his hometown club, Turku TPS of the Finnish Elite League, announced it has signed the 28-year-old defenceman.

"As he had said, this was not for monetary reasons, but for culture and family reasons," Berg's agent, Larry Kelly, said.

Berg and his wife, Virve, are the parents of Nicklas, 3 1/2, and Nella, 1. Berg, who made $1.064 million US this season, played for Turku before he moved to North America.

There is no shortage of up-and-comers who could take Berg's spot. Six rookie defencemen played for the Leafs at times, and all of them -- Carlo Colaiacovo, Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski, Ian White, Jay Harrison and Brendan Bell -- showed potential. Each one of that group will have a strong chance to land a job with the Leafs next season.

Not exactly a fan favourite during his time in Toronto, Berg never lived up to the expectations placed at his feet after he was selected third overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1995. Acquired from the Kings in March 2001 for forward Adam Mair and a second-round pick that year (which the Kings used to select Richmond Hill native Mike Cammalleri, who had 55 points in 80 games this season), Berg was never more than an average defenceman for Toronto.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pounder did not score a goal in his final 116 games for the Leafs, with his last NHL goal coming back on Jan. 5, 2004, against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fans often zeroed in on his defensive miscues and he became a target of boobirds at the Air Canada Centre.


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