The additions of Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill should be welcomed by another pair of Maple Leafs defencemen who similarly are armed with new contracts.
Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle each averaged more than 28 minutes a game in 2005-06, but should carry a lesser burden with Kubina and Gill in the picture.
"The way I look at it, this will give Bryan and Tomas an opportunity to get more involved 5-on-5," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said last night. "It's a matter of getting more value in the minutes they play. (Signing Kubina and Gill) is a great way of fixing a problem we identified."
Kubina averaged more than 22 minutes last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Gill 18 1/2 with the Boston Bruins. Only rookie Ian White, who averaged just more than 19 minutes in 12 games, was behind McCabe and Kaberle with the Leafs.
There are two sides to Gill. He is as durable as they come, missing just 16 games in the past seven seasons and hitting 80 games five times. And though Gill will help kill penalties, speed is not exactly a strong point, something that has left him flat-footed at times in the faster-paced NHL.
"He is not the fastest, but there are few who have his reach," Maurice said of he 6-foot-7 Gill, who could not be reached for comment.
Maurice sees the arrivals of Kubina and Gill as a bonus in another way. Now, he should be able to ease a couple of youngsters into full-time roles. Take your pick of Staffan Kronwall, Carlo Colaiacovo, Andy Wozniewski, White, Jay Harrison and Brendan Bell. Barring trades, all will be in the mix in training camp. So, too, will Wade Belak if he remains on the blue line, but the thinking is Karel Pilar will not be in the picture because of recurring health problems.
"Kubina and Gill will allow us to be younger,"Maurice said. "There's going to be a lot of competition for those two spots."